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Doc Offers High-Heel Wearers Tips to Prevent 'Hammertoe'

SATURDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Many women wear high heels because they like the way they look, but these shoes can cause foot problems such as hammertoe, a condition in which the toes painfully bend in on each other, experts warn.

Dr. Tzvi Bar-David, a podiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has some advice for women on how to keep their feet comfortable without sacrificing fashion.

"To prevent hammertoe, it's not necessary to give up on wearing heels entirely, but women should limit the amount of time they spend wearing them," Bar-David said in a hospital news release. "I recommend wearing comfortable shoes for your commute or when you're on your way to a party. Change into your heels when you get there."

When shopping for shoes, look for styles with plenty of room for the toes, a uniform lift (rather than one that's narrow and spiked) and strong arch support. "Don't force yourself into a bad shoe," Bar-David said. "When buying new shoes, try them on for 10 to 15 minutes. Even better, see if you can wear them home and return them later if they aren't a good fit," he added.

If hammertoe develops, there are pads and gel protectors to help treat the condition, but it is a good idea to see a doctor to make sure surgery isn't necessary and to determine whether a condition such as arthritis or diabetes is involved. "In particular, people with diabetes have to be extra careful with hammertoe because the condition can cause infections and other problems," Bar-David explained.

If surgery is needed to realign the bones, recovery may take a couple of weeks. But Bar-David said the modern procedure leads to fewer infections and a quicker recovery time.

More information

The University of Maryland Medical Center has more about hammertoe.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, news release, April 25, 2011

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