Are high heels bad for your feet?

Foot Care

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Sep 5, 2021

Those killer high heels may make or break an outfit, but they can also wreak havoc on your feet. High heels are the No. 1 culprit of foot pain for women, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association

While you may have no plans to give up your beloved footwear, it’s important to treat your feet right. There is precious cargo in those feet: 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. We are here to help with some of the most common high-heel offenders and tips to avoid and relieve related foot pain after a long day at work or night out.


A bunion, also referred to as hallux valgus, is a bump that usually forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. This progressive disorder occurs after years of pressure on the joint. When the toe begins to lean inward against your smaller toes, it pushes your joint out of alignment

High heels don’t cause bunions, but they can encourage them to form and worsen the condition. Wearing shoes that crowd the toes can exacerbate an underlying structural issue and aggravate the inflamed tissue.

Here’s how to prevent bunions:

  • Give your feet plenty of room. Choose shoes with a wide toe box heels no higher than two inches.
  • Try shoe inserts or an over-the-counter, non-medicated bunion pad to relieve inflammation and reduce friction.
  • Apply a spacer between the big toe and second digit.
  • Place an ice pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, as needed, to soothe the pain and inflammation.

Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body, made up of a tough band of fibrous tissues that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Frequent high heel wearers place the Achilles tendon in an excessively shortened position that may lead to premature tightness of the tendon and puts you at higher risk of tendon injury when you exercise.

When you kick off your shoes, your Achilles tendon has to be re-stretched out for everyday walking, leading to tendonitis.

Here’s how to prevent achilles tendonitis:

  • Calf and Achilles stretching exercises can counteract and limit discomfort.
  • Custom-made orthotics or heel lifts placed inside the shoe may also offer relief.
  • Shoes with good support that fit correctly or backless shoes can help you avoid continual injury to the Achilles tendon. 

Ball of foot pain (forefoot overload)

Wearing high heels is linked to the development of Morton’s Neuroma, a condition that affects the ball of your foot, usually between the third and fourth toes.

With high heels, more pressure is naturally placed through the ball of the foot. For example, with a three-inch heel, there is 76% more weight through the ball of the foot. The forefoot overloads the joints in the front of the foot resulting in inflammation.

You may feel a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot, or your toes may sting, burn or feel numb.

Here’s how to prevent ball of foot pain:

  • Place a silicone pad in your high heel to alleviate excess pressure.
  • Similar to Achilles tendonitis, calf and Achilles stretching exercises can be helpful.

Regularly stretching your feet is a great idea to help foot pain and prevent future problems. Try yoga poses like downward dog, heel stretches, or rolling a soft tennis ball back and forth underneath your foot a couple of times a week. If you don’t want to give up high heels, opt for the shortest possible length of time, and choose a low heel with wider toe boxes.

Your feet will thank you.

Contact an orthopedic specialist to learn more about preventative foot care or treatment for foot conditions.

We make it easy.

Healthcare doesn't have to be difficult. We're constantly finding ways to make it easy so that you can get Better and stay that way.

Better tools make it easier

We all have different healthcare needs. Handle them your way with the MyBSWHealth app. Download the app today and take a hands-on approach to your healthcare.

Text Better to 88408