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How to Manage Pain from Wearing High Heels

If you’re experiencing pain when you wear high heels, here are 4 tips to help you choose and wear heels that are more comfortable.

1) Opt for a lower heel in order to:

  • Reduce the stress on the ball of your foot.
  • Lessen the pressure on your toes and toenails.
  • Improve stability and alignment.
  • Reduce the angle between the ball of your foot and your heel for better weight distribution
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2) Choose a shoe with a wider toe box, such as a round or square toe, in order to:

  • Avoid toe compression.
  • Prevent your toenails from rubbing against your shoe.
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3) Reduce the amount of time you wear heels in order to:

  • Prevent your calf muscles from becoming overly tight and sore.
  • Reduce the risk of injury to your toes and toenails.
  • Lessen pressure on your back, hips and knees.
image of woman taking her heels off and putting sneakers on

4) Choose shoes with a thicker heel in order to improve stability.

image of women's legs with fashion sandals

Below are some helpful treatment and prevention tips for specific issues caused or accentuated by wearing high heels:


Frequently Asked Questions
How to wear high heels without pain

While there’s no guaranteed way to avoid pain altogether when wearing high heels, there are ways to reduce the risk of pain with heels. Consider these tips:

Opt for a friendlier heel — Choose a lower heel height. 4-inch heels come with a much higher risk of pain than 2-inch heels. The higher the heel, the higher the risk of pain. In addition to choosing a lower heel, opt for a style with a thicker, wider heel for increased stability. This can reduce the risk of pain. You can also choose heels that have a wide toe box or an open toe to avoid pain from toe crowding.

Find the right fit — Try on shoes at the end of the day when your feet are a bit swollen. This can help you avoid purchasing high heels that are too tight and cause painful rubbing and crowding of the toes. 

Use insoles — Wear insoles designed for high heels. Dr. Scholl’s® Stylish Step® Invisible Cushioning Insoles for High Heels help improve weight distribution, easing pressure on the ball of the foot and providing extra cushioning for improved comfort. You can also consider Dr. Scholl’s® Stylish Step® High Heel Relief Insoles.

Wear heels in moderation — Avoid walking or standing in heels for long periods. Try to reserve your heels for times when you know you won’t be on your feet for too long. When you do wear heels all day, take regular sitting breaks.

Address foot issues right away — If your heels cause discomfort, address the problem right away. 

·       If you develop blisters, cover them immediately with a blister treatment such as Dr. Scholl’s® Blister Treatment Cushions with DURAGEL® technology. These blister treatment cushions help heal blisters while protecting delicate skin from pressure and friction. They’re designed to stay in place all day long. You can even use them to prevent blisters.
·       If pressure and friction from your heels lead to painful corns, consider using corn cushions such as Dr. Scholl’s® Corn Cushions with DURAGEL® Technology. These cushions soften corns while providing instant pain relief.
·       While it’s not understood if wearing high heels contributes directly to the development of bunions, it is clear that tight shoes can aggravate bunions. If your heels put pressure on your bunions, protect them with bunion cushions such as Dr. Scholl’s® Bunion Cushions with DURAGEL® technology. These cushions reduce painful friction and pressure, and they prevent rubbing.
·       If your shoes are rubbing against the heels of your feet, consider using heel liners such as those found in Dr. Scholl’s® Stylish Step® Gel Heel Liners Variety Pack. Heel liners help prevent rubbing and slipping around the heel, reducing friction and the risk of blisters.
·       High heels shift weight forward, putting excess pressure on the ball of the foot. This can lead to ball of foot pain. You can place Dr. Scholl’s® Stylish Step® Ball of Foot Cushions for High Heels directly into your shoes to alleviate ball of foot pain. The soft gel inserts provide extra cushioning. They also prevent the foot from sliding forward, easing toe crowding.

Can high arches cause heel pain?

High arches can lead to heel pain in some cases. High arches increase the risk of plantar fasciitis, which is a major source of heel pain.

Can high heels cause back pain?

Wearing high heels can lead to back pain in some people. High heels cause a shift in weight distribution, which can put added pressure on certain areas of the body, including the back. Some people also have a tendency to arch their backs when they’re wearing heels in order to compensate for the center of gravity being pushed forward. This can cause muscles strain in the back, potentially contributing to pain.

Can high heels cause hip pain?

It’s not clear whether wearing high heels is a direct cause of hip pain. However, high heels can change the way people walk, which in turn can put extra pressure on all areas of the lower body, including the hips. Also, because of all of the connections between different structures of the lower body, any issues stemming from wearing high heels can have a domino effect, leading to pain in the hips as well as other lower body parts.

Can high heels cause knee pain?

The correlation between high heels and knee pain is not entirely clear. Some studies suggest that wearing high heels can contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis. Some studies have also shown that people who have osteoarthritis and wear heels experience more pain than those who wear flat shoes. High heels can cause body weight to shift and change a person’s gait, or the way they move. Changes in gait can lead to excessive pressure on various parts of the lower body, which could potentially contribute to knee pain and degeneration. Also, because high heels can impact balance, wearing heels can increase the risk of twisting the knee. Balance changes can also increase the risk of a fall, which could result in a knee injury.

Are high heels painful?

Wearing high heels can be painful for some people. The pain from wearing heels may be felt in a number of places. 

·       Wearing high heels causes body weight to shift weight forward. This forward shift can cram the toes into tight spaces, which can lead to painful foot conditions such as hammertoe and ingrown toenails. Wearing high heels that are tight on the feet can also cause friction, which can lead to painful corns and blisters.
·       Because wearing high heels shifts body weight forward, the ball of the foot is subjected to excess pressure, which can lead to ball of foot pain. High heels can also increase the risk of plantar fasciitis, a leading cause of heel pain.
·       Wearing high heels changes the way you move. This can lead to unnatural distribution of body weight that could possibly contribute to pain in the neck, back, hips and knees.

Can high heels cause lower back pain?

Yes, high heels can cause lower back pain in some cases. When people wear high heels, the pelvic area has a natural tendency to tilt forward, exaggerating the natural curve of the lower back. This action can put pressure on the lower back, contributing to muscle strain and pain.

Can wearing heels cause leg pain?

Wearing heels can cause leg pain in some cases. Some people experience pain in the calves and knees from wearing heels. High heels can cause tightness and discomfort in the calf muscles. High heels also upset body weight balance, which can change the way someone walks. The shift in weight distribution can result in excess pressure on the knees, which could lead to pain.