Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

High Heels and Foot Pain (Actionable Solutions on What to Do)

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Wearing high heels is a fashion choice that many women make, however, there are a lot of people who are required to wear high heel shoes for work. Unfortunately, it can come at a cost. Wearing high heels every day can cause a variety of different foot problems. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help prevent foot pain. 

In this article, we’ll discuss all the different ways high heel shoes can affect the feet and what you can do to keep your feet comfortable. 

Let’s dive in…

Ways High Heels Can Damage Your Feet

woman walking with high heels

1) Wearing High Heels Can Cause Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the Achilles tendon, which is the large tendon located at the back of the ankle. The Achilles tendon helps with walking and assists with plantarflexion motion of the ankle and foot. 

When you wear high heels (stiletto’s, platform heels) your ankle is in plantar flexion. This tightens your Achilles tendon. When you wear high heels every day, the constant contracture of the Achilles tendon can cause Achilles tendonitis. 

The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is a pain in the back of the ankle or heel. This pain may be mild at first and worsen with continued activity. Other symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area. 

If your Achilles tendon is tight, even the back of the high-heel shoes can rub and irritate the skin. 


Achilles tendonitis can be treated with a combination of RICE therapy and stretching. Stretches for Achilles tendonitis should focus on lengthening the calf muscles. These stretches should be done slowly and gently to avoid further irritation.

Check out how to stretch the Achilles tendon properly in this supplemental post.

If you must continue wearing high heels, make sure to wear high heels that are not too high. Aim to wear no more than 1” heels if possible. 


2) Wearing High Heels Can Cause Painful Calluses in the Ball of Your Feet

When you are wearing high heels, you place excess pressure on the ball of your feet when standing and walking. This can lead to painful callus formation along the ball of the feet. 

A callus is an area of thickened skin that forms as a result of repeated friction or pressure. Thick calluses can make walking difficult. 


Use a pumice stone to relieve calluses. Pumice stones can be purchased at most drugstores or online. They typically cost between $5 and $10. If you don’t have a pumice stone, you can also use a foot file. 

First, soak the affected foot in warm water for 5-10 minutes to soften the skin. Dry the skin using a towel. Next, gently rub the pumice stone over the callus in a circular motion. Be sure not to press too hard; you just want to loosen the dead skin cells, not remove healthy skin cells. After a few minutes of rubbing, rinse the area with warm water and apply a moisturizer. 

You can moisturize the calluses using Vaseline or Coconut oil. If you are looking for something stronger to use, I would recommend Urea and Salicylic acid to soften the skin.

Urea is keratolytic that is effective in softening the skin. Salicyclic acid helps to shed dead cells in the skin. You can buy Ebanel cream that contains both on Amazon. 

To prevent calluses from forming, you can apply metatarsal pads directly into your shoes. By applying metatarsal pads in your shoes, you can relieve pressure from the metatarsal heads, thus preventing callus formation. I would recommend buying 1/4″ felt metatarsal pads from Amazon.

Watch this video by Theda Care on how to properly apply a metatarsal pad. 

3) Wearing High Heels Can Cause Painful Corn on the Toes

Corns are small, circular areas of thickened skin that commonly develop on the tops and sides of toes. They can form from repetitive pressure and friction from high heel shoes. Corns can be incredibly painful and can make walking difficult. 

If you have neuropathy (numbness) in your feet, corn can easily turn into ulceration if not treated.


There are a few different ways you can remove corn from your toes. One way is to soak the corn in warm water for 10 minutes. This will soften the skin and make it easier to remove. Another way is to use a pumice stone to rub the corn until it loosens and falls off. 

Avoid using corn pads that have Salicyclic acid in them, as they can cause the skin to soften too much and can turn in corn into ulceration. 

Instead, I would recommend Dr. Jill’s digital corn pads. You can buy them on Amazon. They are adhesive, disposable, and work well to offload corn on the toes. Apply them on your toes before you put on your high heel shoes. This will prevent the shoe from rubbing on the top of your toes. 

high heels heel pain

4) Wearing High Heels Can Cause Plantar Fasciitis

High heels can cause a condition called plantar fasciitis, which is the degeneration of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is often caused by overuse, improper shoes, and a tight Achilles tendon. 

Additionally, when you are wearing high heels, you place a tremendous amount of pressure on the heel when standing and walking. This in itself can irritate the plantar fascia and cause pain. 


While plantar fasciitis can be painful, it is usually treatable with RICE therapy and over-the-counter pain medication like Motrin. Voltaren 1% gel can also be beneficial in helping treat heel pain. You can buy it on Amazon. 

Stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis can be incredibly beneficial. Make sure you stretch your plantar fascia and calf muscles for 15 minutes daily, 3 times a day. 

You can check out how to perform stretching exercises properly in this supplemental post.

Orthotics can be beneficial in treating plantar fasciitis. You can obtain custom dress shoe orthotics from your foot doctor. They can be placed directly into your orthotics to help support your feet when wearing high heels.

In some cases, plantar fasciitis can become chronic and require more aggressive treatment. Visit your local foot doctor if your pain is constant.

Read this supplemental post: Do Cortisone Shots Work For Plantar Fasciitis?

red high heels

5) Wearing High Heels Can Cause a Morton’s Neuroma

A Morton’s neuroma is a condition that affects the nerve endings in your feet. It can cause sharp, shooting pain in the balls of your feet or your toes. Some people also describe the sensation as feeling like they’re walking on pebbles or marbles.

Wearing high heels can compress the nerve between your toe bones, which can lead to the development of Morton’s neuroma. If you already have Morton’s neuroma, wearing high heels can make the condition worse.


The best way to prevent Morton’s neuroma is to wear comfortable wide shoes with low heels. If you must wear high heels, try to limit the amount of time you spend wearing them. Take breaks often to give your feet a rest. 

You can also obtain a metatarsal pad (as mentioned previously) on Amazon and place them in your shoes to prevent excess pressure in the ball of your feet and thus prevent nerve compression. 

If the pain is constant, visit your local foot doctor. Your doctor may recommend orthotics to redistribute pressure in the feet or a steroid injection. 

woman switching shoes

How Do You Stop High Heels From Hurting Your Feet?

1. Wear the Right Size of the Shoe.

One of the most common causes of high heels foot pain is wearing shoes that are too small. When your shoes are too small, they put pressure on your toes and can cause all sorts of problems, including bunions and hammertoes. To avoid this, make sure you’re buying shoes that fit properly. 

You should go to a shoe store to buy shoes. The orthotist at the store will measure your feet length and width using a Brannock device and will recommend shoes that would suit your foot structure. 

2. Choose a Shoe With a Wide-Toe Box.

Another common cause of foot pain is wearing high heel shoes with a narrow toe box. This can cause your toes to cramp up and can also lead to ingrown toenails. To avoid this, make sure you choose a shoe with a wide-toe box. This will give your toes plenty of room to move and will help prevent problems like cramping and nail damage.

3. Avoid Wearing High Heels for Extended Periods.

If you must wear high heels, try to avoid doing so for extended periods. Prolonged wear can lead to problems. If you must wear high heels for an extended period, make sure you take breaks often and try to keep your feet elevated when possible.

Do you suffer from foot pain from high heel shoes? What has helped relieve the pain? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!

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  1. Barnish MS, Barnish J. High-heeled shoes and musculoskeletal injuries: a narrative systematic review. BMJ Open. 2016 Jan 13;6(1):e010053. .https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735171/
  2. Yolanda, A. F., Wicaksono, S. & Nasution, A. A. (2020). Foot Pain in High Heels Woman users: Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis. OnLine Journal of Biological Sciences20(4), 201-206.https://thescipub.com/abstract/ojbsci.2020.201.206
  3. Borchgrevink GE, Viset AT, Witsø E, Schei B, Foss OA. Does the use of high-heeled shoes lead to fore-foot pathology? A controlled cohort study comprising 197 women. Foot Ankle Surg. 2016 Dec;22(4):239-243. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810021/

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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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