Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 09:56 UK

Women risk feet in fashion's name

women's shoes
Fashionable shoes can be worn occasionally

Nearly four in 10 women buy shoes knowing they do not fit, a poll of 2,000 reveals.

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists found 37% would wear uncomfortable shoes as long as they were fashionable.

And 17% of men admit buying shoes in the wrong size.

Although 80% of the women said they suffered foot problems like corns or ingrowing nails, only four in ten of the men and women surveyed sought help.

While not all foot problems can be prevented, a large majority of problems do result from incorrect or poor footwear
Lorraine Jones of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

Lorraine Jones, from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said: "Many of us find it hard to resist a bargain and the latest fashion must-have, but it's important to remember that by buying ill-fitting shoes, you're not only going to end up in discomfort, but you are also putting your health at risk."

Importantly, if your feet hurt something is wrong.

Although "killer" high-heels can cause problems, slip-on shoes are one of the worst culprits, as they cause the foot to slide forward and cramp the toes.

Worst of all are court shoes, as they are low-fronted, giving no support to the foot, and tend to be too narrow in the toe.

Ms Jones said many people are wearing the wrong sized shoes on a daily basis without even realising it.

Corns - thick and hard areas of skin caused by repeated rubbing and pressure on the skin
Blisters - caused by friction, usually from ill-fitting shoes
Bunion - a painful swelling on the side of the big toe, partly down to the anatomy of the foot and worsened by ill-fitting shoes
Ingrowing toenails - made worse by tight footwear, tight hosiery and tight socks

Most people in the UK suffer from a foot problem at some point in their lives, and while many are fairly minor, some can be extremely painful and disabling.

"While not all foot problems can be prevented, a large majority of problems do result from incorrect or poor footwear.

"It is important to wear shoes in the correct size that are appropriate for the activity you need them for.

"That's not to say we shouldn't wear fashionable shoes or high heels, but it does mean that we should give our feet a break and see an expert if there is something wrong."

For frequent, everyday wear, women should choose a low-heeled shoe - no higher than 4cm - which has a rounded toe.

We asked whether you would wear uncomfortable shoes as long as they were fashionable. Please find a selection of your comments below.

No, I do not buy shoes because they're fashionable. I buy shoes because they look good, and because they're comfortable. Uncomfortable shoes do not look good, whether they're fashionable or not. Squeezed toes and an inability to walk properly are not attractive in the slightest.
M. Ross, Lancaster, UK

I have always bought shoes that I like regardless of what they do to my feet. My Mum has always tried to warn me of the damage that they can do and until recently I didn't believe her. I had a pedicure a few weeks ago and the beautician commented that I must wear pointed shoes a lot because of the shape of my feet and then I realised that four years ago my feet didn't look like they do now and all that damage has been caused by my choice of shoes. Heed this warning ladies and buy sensible shoes!
Felicity de Chenu, London, England

I was shocked to learn that some employers order their female employees to wear high-heeled, pointed-toed shoes. It is very well known that these things cause a great deal of discomfort, greatly limit mobility, lead to serious accidents and would endanger the life of the wearer in an emergency. If worn regularly for even a moderate amount of time - let alone for eight or more hours every working day, they also cause permanent disablement. Pointed-toed footwear (whatever the height of the heel) is unhealthy and disabling. It is very doubtful whether these items should be called shoes at all. Employers should be banning these items from the workplace - if they insist on them they are likely to have very substantial, and entirely justified, claims for damages brought against them.
Cobbett Rides Again, Malvern, UK

I had an operation to remove my bunions when I was 24. I am now 63. This was congenital and not due to ill-fitting shoes, though my parents often got blamed for it! As such, I have always bought 'sensible' shoes. I don't like the idea of banning shoes but I cannot help noticing over the years how fashions come and go but always seem to feature shoes detrimental to women's feet. Either heels are too high, shoes too narrow or pointed, very flexible slip-ons etc with hardly any support for the feet. I notice women's feet and am horrified at the shape (literally) that some of them are in! I think this is the westernised form of foot-binding, which of course we find abhorrent!
Joan Airey, London, Middx

I always wore high heels to work. When I became pregnant I followed advice and wore flat shoes. What I didn't know was that the tendon at the front of the ankle to the foot would stretch and also lead me to get flat feet causing terrible back problems. Moral: Wear lower heels when pregnant, not flats, to avoid years of terrible pain to say nothing of having to wear clumpy shoes afterwards .
Mabel Grace, Cheshire, UK

I find this article extremely frustrating. I'm sure that women would wear the correct fitting shoe if shoe shops stocked half sizes. Hardly any shoe shops stock half size shoes and they claim that this is due to the lack of storage space. We are having to resort to buying shoes that are too small in order to stop them from slipping off our feet. This is a major issue and something should be done in order to help people that do need that half size. How can we wear correctly fitting shoes if shops do not stock them? We all know that we should wear the correct fitting shoes but shops are not helping the situation at all.
Barbra-Ann Cook, Billericay, Essex

Someone I know (male) developed sores and blisters as a result of a single pair of ill-fitting shoes - these subsequently became infected, resulting in amputated toes and ongoing infection problems - he's come close to having his whole foot amputated on a couple of occasions and spends a lot of time on crutches or in a wheelchair.
Zax, Amersham, UK

This problem starts in childhood. One of the largest shoes retailers who claim they can fit everyone with a shoe in fact fail to do this. Manufacturers produce shoes for the masses and if you are unfortunate to fall outside this then tough! If, as children, we are expected to wear ill fitting shoes then, as adults, this will continue as it is what we are used to. My daughter is an adult size 4, c or d width fitting. My son is an adult size 7, e width fitting. Finding shoes to fit my son is extremely hard, adult width shoes do not fit. Finding shoes to fit my daughter is impossible. We have to put up with the best we can find, which do not really fit. We are fortunate to have a fantastic family-run shoe shop who do their very best source shoes that come in a huge range of sizes and fittings. Every year they are finding it more difficult to do this. This year my son was offered only one pair of shoes that would fit and none that my 14 year old daughter would wear, black patent Mary-Janes are not the done thing! Come on shoe manufacturers, get your act together.
Jane Holmes, Lincolnshire

Yes, I have worn shoes that hurt, just because they were beautiful. Gorgeous shoes make you feel better, complete an outfit and give you a special "buzz". It is only afterwards that your feet hurt - badly.
Wildmint, Liverpool

I have bought shoes that are too small for me on many occasions, not because I'm desperate for that must-have pair, but because as a woman with size 10 feet it's almost impossible to find anything in my size. And when I do (always a moment of great excitement!), they invariably cost a fortune - presumably because retailers feel that they are doing those of us with larger feet such a big favour in offering what is usually a small and unappealing range that they can justify bumping up the price.
Kim Eames, Sheffield, UK

I have Morton's Neuroma. Probably caused by narrow shoes. It's horribly painful at times and now that winter is coming back, I dread having to wear closed shoes. I am a shoe addict but am now limited to the kinds of shoes I can wear. My closet of heels and fashion shoes is gathering dust, but I still wear some in the name of beauty when I go out and suffer the consequences... I love high heels and am waiting for a beautiful orthopaedic shoe to come out. Dream on!
Elisabeth Szentkereszty de Zagon, Brussels, Belgium

I've worn uncomfortable shoes for as long as I can remember. As long as they are from a reputable designer who cares if my toes hurt in the morning? I once bought a pair of Fendi shoes for an eye popping amount, when I tried them at the shop they pinched a bit at the sides and I just said to myself they'll open up eventually. I've actually managed to wear those shoes just once for a baby's christening, I wore them out the car and into the church. A painful hour later I hobbled back into the car and thankfully wore a pair of flip flops I found in the trunk; I proceeded to wear that for the rest of the ceremony. Needless to say my Fendi shoes are back in its box and takes pride of place on my shoe shelf at home ready for the next painful event. Bring it on!
jayboogie, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear

As a young disabled women, finding any shoes that actually fit on my feet is a major problem. I would love to wear fashionable footwear, but as the majority of shoes on the high street are so impractical this is merely a dream. Although, there are numerous shoe shops there seems to be very little choice. I'm sure that it is not only disabled people who have this problem and it would be fantastic if a high street retailer attempted to stock good quality, stylish footwear which didn't wreck your feet.
Lucinda, Leeds

I had a pair of bronze winkle pickers in the 60s. They were cool and I wore them everywhere. Time came that I had to reluctantly toss them out - that was years ago but I still have the bunions to remind me I was a slave to fashion.
John Stevenson , Cairns, Australia

At the age of 12, I was taken to the podiatrist with knee pain and they told me I had flat feet, which had set the bones and muscles all wonky. Since then I closely followed their advice, wore the sensible supportive shoes and insoles with no style at all and had reasonably pain-free teenage years. At 20, I decided that a little suffering would be good for the sole (sic) and I have worn whatever shoes I liked, heels and mules and things that were banned for years. I have never felt better! Yes, the odd corn pops up. Yes, I get home from a night out with sore feet. But what value do we put on self-confidence and feeling amazing?
Danielle, Northampton, UK

The problem isn't always on the part of the wearer. My girlfriend has size 9 feet which makes it very difficult - sometimes impossible - to get good quality shoes. She's left with a choice of poor quality shoes for which she still seems to pay a premium (The only places that seem to do size 9 are expensive), or forcing her feet into uncomfortable size 8 shoes that eventually break because they are too small, but are at least fashionable for the time being. I don't know when the rule was written that no woman has bigger than size 8 feet, but it needs to be looked at again!
Nathan, Newport, Wales

My mother and her mother both wore shoes in their youth, that left them with hideously deformed feet - my grandmother's the worse in that her big toes were at a right angle to the straight direction of the foot, and my mother's worse in that she had horrible bunions and bruising. This is something that has always sent a shock of horror through me since l can remember. Consequently, I won't look twice at any woman with deformity of the feet, it's a complete turn off and (to me) enough to stop any potential relationship. Sorry ladies, but that's how it is.
Howard White, Birkenhead, Merseyside

Whenever I find shoes that are a healthy, comfortable fit then I buy several pairs to last a few years. From past experience I know that that style will quickly be discontinued in favour of some narrow, toe-cramping "fashion".
ChrisJK, UK

High heel shoes are an intelligence test. If you wear them, you've failed. Shoes are primarily there to protect your feet, and anyway, only slim, elegant people look slim and elegant in high heels (as they do in wellies).
Adam, Lancaster, UK

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