Podiatrist's tips for wearing high heels when you have bunions

There is no underestimating how important proper foot care is, not just to ensure the health of your feet, but also to ensure that they carry you through your life comfortably. This is even more key when you suffer from bunions.

To help you improve your foot health, we have asked SW podiatry's Liam McManus (Podiatry BSc (HONS), MChs, HcPC), a London-based foot specialist with extensive experience for his expert, podiatry opinion on how to properly take care of your feet in the event that you wear high heels for prolonged periods.

High heels are not everyday shoes. The Calla shoe collection includes heels that have been designed to meet a specific need; when you absolutely need to wear a fabulous pair of shoes for a special occasion. Yet, even when high heels are very comfortable, they are still not the ideal shoe for your feet, and with this in mind we have set out to find out what are the best tips for maintaining foot health for high-heel lovers.

You have got years of experience as a Podiatrist. What do you usually advise your patients when they indicate that they have a special occasion, and will be wearing high heels?

Liam McManus: Historically, the podiatry stance on high heels used to be “just don’t wear them!”.  This is very much a historical view and over the years I feel the Podiatry profession has realised that the general public just want to wear heels, regardless of the consequences.

I take a fairly pragmatic stance on my clients wearing heels for work, or perhaps a special occasion, although I do not advocate wearing them consistently. Podiatrists work with people to improve foot health, so if you choose to wear heels, we are here to provide the most appropriate advice for your feet and improve your foot health, regardless of your circumstance and without judgement. Podiatrists specialise in manufacturing insoles / orthotics, padding and cushioning for all types of footwear, including heels. 

It has happened – there was a special occasion, and we’ve worn heels. What are the best ‘homemade’ ways to ensure that our feet recover from the event?

Liam McManus: If your feet are sore then a PediRoller is a great investment, which can be bought from Amazon for around £6-£8.  This is a great tool to self-massage and to ease tired feet by rolling underfoot. It can also be frozen for greater impact, and its ridged design is great for both pain relief and circulation.

Are there any exercises that help maintain foot health after we’ve worn heels?

Liam McManus: This is a very good question. I would recommend being proactive rather than reactive. Exercises are a very proactive way of maintaining strength, stability and function of your feet to avoid foot pain. 

We are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the smaller intrinsic muscles of the feet in the management of pain. I would recommend spending some time on a few gentle exercises daily. These can be done in a seated position, which makes them easy to fit in to your routine without needing to take time out to do them. With your feet on the ground, try to splay the toes and then lightly grip the floor with your toes.  The arch should raise a little.  I would also recommend stretching out your calf muscles which can be easily achieved by dropping your heels down off a step.  Keeping the feet and knees straight, hold this position for between 15-20 seconds, then repeat. 

Should bunion sufferers take any additional steps to ensure that their feet recover from prolonged periods of wearing high heels?

Liam McManus: Yes, certainly! For mild bunions, bunion protectors or gel bunion protectors can be useful to prevent rubbing on the bump.  Insoles and padding can be helpful and if the second toe becomes prominent, gel toe caps are very useful to prevent blisters and corns. 

Your podiatrist is able to provide advice regarding the most appropriate options for your severity of bunion which we grade on a scale from 1-4, 1 being mild and 4 being severe. 

bunions feet severity scale from small to big

How much rest for the feet would you recommend as a minimum between the periods of wearing high heels?

Liam McManus: There isn’t an ideal timeframe here, but in general, it takes around two to three days for soft tissue to ease after prolonged stress on your feet.  Everyone is different though, and so I would suggest limiting your time in high heels and use your own body as a guide.  When individuals need specific guidance, assessment or support, find a podiatrist to assist you further. 



Liam McManus (Podiatry BSc (HONS), MChs, HcPC) is an Extended Scope Podiatrist with South West Podiatry, operating from Wimbledon, Earlsfield and Maidenhead. 

You can find Liam on SWpodiatry.co.uk


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