The Power of High Heels

Tye explains this is due to the accommodative shortening of the calf muscle, meaning shortened calves and Achilles.” No wonder that other doyenne of high heels, Dita von Teese, once said she actually falls over in trainers, because of her high-heel addiction.

So, what’s the solution if you’re not prepared to sacrifice your four-inch shoe habit? And, how do you continue your addiction without excruciating pain? Two words. Foot Facelifts.


In New York, women are undergoing some rather outlandish surgical procedures — the re-shaping of the foot to fit the shoe. Not unlike o age-old Chinese practice of foot binding, we can now reconstruct our feet with foot facelifts and toe tucks.

Echoing the original (and very sinister) Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Cinderella — where the nasty stepsisters hack off parts of their own feet to fit into Cindy’s dainty glass slipper – gory procedures now exist to similarly make the of fit the shoe. Think surgical shortening of Jiang toes; the lengthening of stubby toes; wide feet being narrowed a size or two (shaving lasering of bone); toe cleavage where fat is sided; fat lipo. And, horror of all horrors, the removal of a toe. Why? So that the foot can resemble the shape of the pointy toe of a shoe. Good god! How much is a Louboutin-shaped foot job? I wonder.

But, how many women are actually getting these procedures done? The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) recently surveyed their podiatric surgeon members: 51 per cent reported that their patients were asking for cosmetic foot procedures. In the UK, Harley Cosmetic Clinic in London, also acknowledges that women are queuing up to have fillers injected into the balls of their feet. That extra layer of cushioning can make the difference between being on your four-inch feet for two hours, or all night. In Singapore however, Tye says such procedures are not so in demand as, “Asians are generally a bit more conservative [with their high heels].”

So, I did my own mini poll among Fetish Ferragamo-Wearing Friends, and found that even those never seen without their perilously high heels were aghast at the thought of lopping off a toe (though a few did concede that collagen to cushion the ball of the foot would make walking in five-inchers a more pleasant experience).

But, is putting your feet under the knife to fit the Ferragamo really any different than a tummy tuck to fit into that Valentino number? Yes, say experts. The risks for long-term damage are greater, and the rate of recovery slower, on feet. “Although operations can be done,” says Tye, “the foot also needs to be functional.

“There is no point in having a Cinderella-looking foot if you can’t walk without pain.”

And, this could quite easily happen. Tye cites one unsuccessful case after another, including this: “In a recent New York Times article, a patient had collagen injected into the pads of her feet. However, it resulted in damaged nerves. The patient was quoted saying that she is now unable to wear anything but sneakers and her feet hurt constantly.”

So, what’s the compromise for Louboutin lovers who don’t want to end up with damaged feet? Of course, every podiatrist from Denmark to Dubai would like their clients to wear sensible lace-ups with plenty of support, but as Tye himself acknowledges: “That won’t happen.”

“I wouldn’t be very popular with your readers if I told them to give up [heels),” he says. True. But, is he willing to compromise? Yes, he says. “Wear high heels when you need to and slip them off when they’re not necessary!

“At work, wear them at a meeting and remove at your desk. For an event, wear them to the event and remove when sat for dinner.”

Then we come to height issues. As heels become ever higher, Tye’s suggestion of: ‘The maximum height of heel as one inch with a broad base (not kitten heels),” seems outrageous in the season’s average of five inches.

When asked to convince us to give up our heel habit, Tye quotes Alice in Alice in Wonderland: “Oh my poor feet… but I must be kind to them or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go!” Realising this to be rather a soft approach, he then quotes the late Or Paul Brand (Surgeon General Consultant for the World Health Organistion): “The pressure per square inch that a 50kg lady wearing just 1/4 inch heels is greater than the pressure per square inch that an adult elephant exerts on its four broad foot pads!” Those five-inch Pradas don’t look quite so pretty after all. Or, do they?

It’s hard to live in the future, when you’re firmly planted in the present, staring at a pair of the prettiest peep-toes you’ve ever seen.

So, despite the frightening stats and facts, that seem to guarantee I’ll end my days on a walking frame, I will continue my heel habit.

To those sensible shoe-wearing friends with their feet firmly planted in the noughties (the same ones who feed their babies organic, home-made produce and recycle magazines), I have one thing to say: I may still be in the ’90s but I’m with Carrie Bradshaw on the heel front: “I’ve destroyed my feet, but it was worth it.”

For treatment of bunions, flat feet, heel pain, knee pain, corns and calluses, contact Mr Tye Lee Tze, podiatrist, The Podiatry Centre, Tanglin Place, Tel: 6838 0757.

Originally posted in HARPER’S MAGAZINE, September 2007.