Are Your Designer Shoes Causing You Pain?

High heels look fabulous, but they could be the cause of unwanted pain, and worse – bunions.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

High heels look fabulous, but they could be the cause of unwanted pain, and worse – bunions.

Wearing fabulous footwear sometimes causes excruciating pain as it may encourage bunions to form. But thanks to a new, minimally invasive technique, you’ll soon be up and strutting your stuff again. 

If your toes are feeling squashed in those stilettos or there’s a little red bump forming inside those pumps, it’s time to make a trip to the clinic.

Bunions are bony deformities that normally form on the joint at the base of your big toe because of ill-fitting shoes, but they can also be hereditary. If your mother or grandmother had bunions, there’s a chance you may have them too. If left untreated, bunions will cause pain and difficulty in wearing shoes, affecting your mobility in terms of walking and sporting activities. In severe cases, the other toes can overlap.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. If you do develop a large and painful bunion, minimally invasive surgery makes it possible to have you out of the operating theatre in less than two hours. 

What’s even better is that the operation leaves little to no scarring compared with the invasive techniques of old that would result in a 5-8cm scar as well as potential keloid scarring. 

However, not all bunions are suitable for treatment using this new, minimally invasive technique. Late-stage, severe bunions are still best treated with traditional open surgery, which makes seeking early medical attention from the appropriate specialist even more important. 

“Keyhole surgery” for early-stage or mild/moderate bunions has been shown to be less painful, and has fewer wound complications, compared with the traditional method. The tiny cuts are less than 4mm each – almost unnoticeable on feet. 

“I normally see 80 to 120 women of working age in my clinic each month, and perform between 12 to 15 bunion surgeries a month,” says Dr Kevin Koo, a consultant at Singapore General Hospital’s department of orthopaedic surgery. 

Dr Koo is one of two doctors in Singapore who routinely performs this innovative technique. 

You will have to wear a special post-op slipper for six weeks – strictly no heels – but for smooth, bunion-free feet, it’s worth the wait. If you do feel discomfort, get it checked out quickly, so you can get back to wearing those beautiful shoes.

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Dr Kevin Koo is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and the Director of Foot & Ankle Service at the Singapore General Hospital. Call 6326-6420 or e-mail for enquiries.