As stylish as they may be, high heels and shoes that squeeze the feet are linked to a host of foot problems. Painful bunions, which are misaligned toe joints, are much more common in women than men. Poorly fitting shoes don't cause bunions, but can aggravate existing ones.
Some people with bunions can eliminate pain with conservative approaches such as wearing bunion pads, avoiding high heels, and buying comfortable shoes that are shaped like their feet and that provide more toe room.
Other common problems from tight shoes include nerve growths called neuromas, corns, calluses, blisters, and hammertoes, a condition in which the toes are bent like a claw.
"Shoes should be comfortable right when you buy them," says Jane Andersen, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Chapel Hill, N.C. "You should be able to wiggle your toes. And shoes should have a strong sole that flexes at the ball of your foot."
Consumers also should make sure that they're wearing the right size. "Most adults don't have their feet measured when they buy new shoes," Andersen says, "but your shoe size can change as you get older because the feet can spread and lengthen."
Buch says one way to ensure that you get the right shoe size is to stand on a blank piece of paper and trace the outline of your feet on the paper with a pen at home. "Your shoe choice should completely cover the outline of your foot," Buch says, "with no lines showing outside the shoe when the shoe is placed on top of the outline you traced."