Still Think High Heels are Worth It?

High HeelsIt’s not what fashion-conscious women want to hear—another warning about high heels. But wearing pump-style shoes often causes significant pain by irritating a common bony deformity on the back of the heel, called ‘pump bump.’  If left untreated, it can lead to bursitis or Achilles tendonitis.

What is Pump Bump?

Pump bump is common in young women who wear high heels almost every day. The rigid back of a pump-style shoe can create pressure that aggravates the heel bone when walking. 

The bony enlargement can cause Achilles tendonitis or bursitis due to constant irritation from pump-style shoes.  Those with high arches or tight Achilles tendons are especially vulnerable to developing pump bump if they work in high heels.

Pump BumpThe medical term for the disorder is Haglund’s deformity.  In addition to the noticeable bump, symptoms include:

  1. pain where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel,

  2. swelling in the back of the heel, and

  3. redness in the area.

Treating Pump Bump

In the large majority of cases, pump bump is treated non-surgically by reducing inflammation, but this does not get rid of the bony enlargement. Pain relief is the primary treatment goal, so anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed.  Icing the back of the heel reduces swelling, and stretching exercises can relieve tension in the Achilles.  Long-term, however, it’s best to avoid wearing high heels, if possible.

If your job requires wearing high-heeled shoes and you’re experiencing symptoms of pump bump, heel lifts placed inside the shoes may offer some relief. Wearing backless shoes or those with soft backs may also help decrease pressure on the area.

In Women’s Shoes, Pain does not Equal Gain

High heeled shoes can cause pain, deformities and damage to the feet that can last a lifetime. But doctors say there are steps women can take to reduce high heel-related foot problems.

  1. Avoid shoes with pointed toes.

  2. Avoid heels taller than two inches.

  3. Recognize foot pain is a warning sign.

High heeled shoes crowd the toes, force the body’s weight onto the ball of the foot and disrupt the body’s alignment. They can lead to a laundry list of problems for women and their feet.


High heels do not cause bunions. Most women who develop bunions can blame their ancestors for passing down a faulty foot structure. But over time, wearing pointed-toe high heels can make bunions worse. Only surgery can correct this often painful deformity.


High heeled shoes that crowd the toes together can contribute to hammertoes. This deformity occurs when the second, third, fourth or fifth toes become bent, like a claw. This can cause constant shoe friction, leading to painful corns. Severe hammertoes may require surgery to relieve pain.


Corns usually form from repeated pressure on the skin. Women with foot deformities, such as hammertoes, often suffer from corns because the tops of the bent toes rub against the tops or sides of shoes.

Haglund’s deformity, or “pump bump”
Pump-style shoes often cause significant pain by irritating a bony deformity some women have on the back of their heel, called a “pump bump.” This problem is common in young women who wear high heels almost every day. In many cases it can lead to blisters, bursitis or Achilles tendonitis.


Pointed-toe and high heeled shoes are the most common reasons women develop painful neuromas. High heeled shoes can cause the toes to be forced into the toe box, which can compress and swell nerves in the foot, especially between the third and fourth toes. Neuroma symptoms appear gradually and include tingling, burning, numbness or pain. Without treatment, a neuroma can lead to permanent nerve damage, making it difficult to walk without severe, shooting pain.

Ankle sprains

High heels increase the risk for ankle sprains. Sprains occur when ligaments that connect bones together are stretched or torn. Left untreated, sprains can lead to chronic ankle instability and potential arthritis.

Back pain

High heels force women to stand and walk unnaturally, affecting the alignment of the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.

Woman and foot and ankle surgeon talkingFoot and ankle surgeons say the majority of their patients are women. But not all foot problems related to wearing high heels require surgery. Luckily, many of these conditions can be treated non-surgically with changes in shoe wear, padding, orthotic (shoe inserts), pain medications and other measures.

Women’s high heeled shoes aren’t going out of style anytime soon. But by recognizing pain as a warning sign, wearing high heels in moderation and seeking medical care when problems are in their early stages, women can stay fabulous on their feet.

High-Heeled Boots Can be Dangerous

This winter’s fashionable high-heeled boots put women at risk for slips, falls, and injuries on ice and snow, warn experts with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). These popular boots typically feature tall, spiked heels and narrow, pointed toes.

Wearing high-heels makes you more unstable when walking or standing on dry surfaces, let alone slippery ones like ice or snow.  A stylish low-heeled winter boot is a lot more fashionable than a cast and crutches.

Women should scuff-up the soles of new boots, or purchase adhesive rubber soles, much the same as we do for children as they learn to walk in shoes,  to provide greater traction.

Falls from high-heeled winter boots can lead to a number of injuries, depending on how the woman loses her balance. If her ankles roll inward or outward, she can break her ankles. If her ankle twists, ligaments can be stretched or torn, causing an ankle sprain. “This time of year I see a variety of broken bones occurring in patients who have slipped on the ice.

The doctors at New Age Foot & Ankle Surgery urge women that get hurt from slips and falls in high-heeled winter boots to see a foot and ankle surgeon for prompt evaluation and treatment. In the meantime, immediately use the “R.I.C.E.” method – rest, ice, compression and elevation – to help reduce swelling, pain and further injury.

“Delaying treatment can result in long-term complications such as chronic ankle instability and pain, arthritis, or deformity. “Even if you’re able to walk on the injured foot, pain, swelling, or bruising indicates a serious injury.”