Monday, May 20, 2024
Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

Foot Pain From High Heels: Causes & Solutions for Painful Feet From Wearing Heels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read full Disclosure here.

High-heeled shoes, while often chosen as a fashionable accessory, are a necessity for many individuals in their professional lives. This choice, though stylish, can lead to a host of foot problems when the heels are worn on a daily basis. Fortunately, solutions are available to prevent or alleviate the discomfort. 

In this  article, the various ways in which high-heeled shoes can impact the feet will be explored, along with the measures that can be taken to maintain comfort and well-being.

woman walking with high heels

Causes of Foot Pain From Wearing High Heels

1) Forefoot Pain

Metatarsalgia Pain and Calluses Can Occur From Wearing High Shoes

Metatarsalgia, a condition marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, is often brought on by the wearing of high heels. These shoes place additional pressure on the ball of the foot during standing and walking, which can lead to persistent discomfort. 

Wearing insoles with metatarsal pads help to offload pressure on the ball of the feet. 

Continuous pressure in this area may also result in the formation of painful calluses. A callus, characterized by a thickened area of skin, develops due to repetitive friction or pressure. 

These thick calluses can be painful. However, there are effective solutions to this problem. 

Utilizing a pumice stone to treat calluses or incorporating metatarsal pads directly into the shoes can diminish pressure, thereby preventing or alleviating callus formation.

Morton’s Neuroma

A Morton’s neuroma is a condition that affects the nerve endings in the feet, causing sharp, shooting pain in the balls of the feet and toes.

Wearing high heels can compress the nerve between the toe bones, leading to the development or exacerbation of Morton’s neuroma. 

The condition has been likened to walking on pebbles or marbles. Prevention strategies include wearing comfortable wide shoes with low heels and limiting the time spent in high heels. 

Metatarsal pads and medical interventions like orthotics or steroid injections may also be recommended by a healthcare provider.

Toe Nail Injuries

Toe nail injuries can result from wearing high heels, particularly when they are tight or ill-fitting. The pressure and friction exerted on the toenails may lead to bruising, splintering, or even complete loss of a toenail. 

This can be painful and take a long time to heal. To minimize the risk of toenail injuries, individuals should ensure that they choose well-fitting high heels and allow the feet adequate rest and space.


Corns are small, circular areas of thickened skin that commonly develop on the tops and sides of toes as a result of wearing high heels. These formations can be incredibly painful and make walking difficult.

Corns can easily turn into ulceration if not treated, especially for individuals with neuropathy (numbness) in the feet. 

Remedies such as soaking the corn in warm water and using specific corn pads can help manage the condition. 

Avoid products with Salicyclic acid, as they can over-soften the skin and worsen the corn’s condition.

high heels heel pain

2) Heel Pain and Arch Pain

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a degenerative condition of the connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot, and it can be triggered by wearing high heels. The overuse of high heels, improper shoes, and a tight Achilles tendon can contribute to the development of this painful condition. 

When wearing high heels, an individual places tremendous pressure on the heel, thus irritating the plantar fascia and causing pain. 

Solutions for this issue may include RICE therapy, over-the-counter pain medication like Motrin, Voltaren 1% gel, stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis, and dress shoe orthotics. 

In chronic cases, visiting a foot doctor may become necessary.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the large tendon located at the back of the ankle, and it can be caused by the constant wearing of high heels such as stilettos or platform heels.

 When an individual wears these types of heels, the ankle remains in plantar flexion, leading to the tightening of the Achilles tendon. Continuous contracture of this tendon may result in Achilles tendonitis. 

Symptoms include pain in the back of the ankle or heel, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area. Even the back of the high-heel shoes may rub and irritate the skin if the Achilles tendon is tight. 

Solutions to alleviate this condition include RICE therapy, specific stretching focused on lengthening the calf muscles, and wearing heels no higher than 1 inch if possible.

3) Sprained Ankle

When one wears high heels, the natural posture and alignment of the foot are altered and increases the chance of straining or spraining the ankle, particularly the lateral ankle ligaments. 

These ligaments, responsible for stabilizing the outer side of the ankle, can stretch or tear when subjected to such strain, leading to pain, swelling, and limited mobility.  

4) Gait Problems

High heels can alter the natural walking pattern of an individual. When high heels are worn, there’s a shift of body weight onto the balls of the feet. This not only reduces the foot’s natural shock-absorbing capabilities but also forces wearers to take shorter steps and bend their knees more. 

The hips and spine may also adjust to compensate for the changed center of gravity, potentially leading to an exaggerated lumbar curve. 

Over time, these unnatural postural changes can result in muscle overuse, strain, and an imbalanced gait.

Proper Shoe Care

1. Wear the Right Size of the Shoes.

One prevalent reason individuals experience foot pain when wearing high heels is the choice of an incorrect shoe size. Ill-fitting shoes, especially those too small, can place undue pressure on the toes, leading to issues such as bunions and hammertoes. 

To prevent these complications, it’s important to ensure that one’s shoes are the perfect fit. Rather than guessing one’s size, it’s wise to visit a reputable shoe store where a professional orthotist can employ tools like the Brannock device to accurately measure both the length and width of the foot. 

Armed with this information, they can then recommend shoes that fit the individual’s unique foot structure.

2. Choose Shoes With a Wide-Toe Box.

One frequent culprit behind foot discomfort is the constricted space offered by high heels with a narrow toe box. Such tight confines can result in cramped toes and even the unpleasantness of ingrown toenails. 

To sidestep these issues, it’s important to select heels that feature a broad toe box. By doing so, one ensures ample room for the toes to breathe and move freely. This reduces  the likelihood of cramps and nail injuries.

3. Choose a Lower Heel.

Elevated heels, while stylish, can place excessive strain on the feet and lead to discomfort or even long-term complications. By selecting a lower heel, one can significantly reduce the pressure exerted on the ball of the foot, promoting a more natural foot position and gait. 

This choice not only offers immediate relief from potential pain but also diminishes the long-term risk of foot and posture-related issues. 

4. Avoid Wearing High Heels for Extended Periods.

Continual wear of high heels places sustained pressure on specific foot regions, potentially leading to discomfort or other complications. If one finds themselves needing to wear high heels for longer spans, it’s important to intersperse periods of wear with breaks. 

During these intervals, elevating the feet can provide relief and reduce the risk of swelling or other issues.  

5. Wear Padding.

To counteract the discomfort that high heels might induce, consider integrating additional padding into the shoes. There are various cushioning products available, such as gel inserts or felt pads, specifically designed to alleviate the pressure on the ball of the foot or the heel. 

These additions can provide a buffer, absorbing shock and distributing weight more evenly. By strategically placing these pads in areas of high pressure or friction, one can enhance the comfort level of their heels, making prolonged wear more bearable and reducing the risk of foot fatigue or soreness.

red high heels


In conclusion, the attention to shoe care can significantly prevent a number of adverse effects of prolonged high heel usage, especially among women in the workplace. A commitment to a wide fit, combined with measures to limit the percent wear time in high heels, offers a promising approach to preventing foot health issues. 

Incorporating preventative measures like padding can minimize the risks of corns and calluses, heel pain, and injuries associated with poor posture. Furthermore, in instances of persistent discomfort, it’s important for individuals to consult with medical professionals or even seek guidance via phone consultations. 

For those looking to blend style with comfort, it’s beneficial to opt for a lower heel, striking a balance that prioritizes both aesthetics and well-being.


woman switching shoes

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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