Flatgate: Controversy Over High Heels & Health

A battle over shoes and health stepped out onto the red carpet at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Hollywood insiders used the term “flatgate” to describe the controversy that broke out in May when organizers of the Cannes Film Festival banned women from wearing flat shoes to red-carpet film screenings.

“Multiple guests, some older with medical conditions, were denied access to the anticipated world premiere screening for wearing rhinestone flats,” according to ScreenDaily, the online edition of Screen International, a film industry publication.

On the heels of flatgate, several Hollywood stars spoke out against the ban on flat heels. Supporters of flat shoes have a valid point, according to medical experts.

“High heels, especially stilettos, force your feet into an unnatural position, leaving your toes to carry the full burden of your entire weight. Overloading the forefoot (the toe area) and bones on the bottom of your feet can, over time, lead to deformed toes, bunions and foot pain,” says Christopher Hodgkins, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute. “If you don’t listen to pain’s message, it could pay you back with toe deformities and possibly other injuries.”

Foot Injuries and Conditions

Foot problems can take different forms and cause pain. Here are a few:

Bunions: That bulge at the base of your big toe could be a bunion, which occurs when the tissue or bone in that area becomes inflamed at the joint. The bulge protrudes outward, and the deformity can cause your big toe to turn inward. It’s a hereditary condition, but poorly fitting shoes can be a factor, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Deformed toes: When you’re in high heels, you’re placing extra pressure on the ligaments around your toes. When the ligaments are weakened, your toes can drift and become deformed, Dr. Hodgkins says. Deformities include:

  • Crossover toes: Damaged ligaments enable toes to drift out of position and cross over or under another toe. Typically, the second toe overlaps the big toe.
  • Hammer toes: Problem shoes or poorly fitting footwear can distress toe muscles and lead to a deformity in the middle joint of your second, third or fourth toe. The deformed toe looks like a hammer.
  • Arthritis: In the U.S., the top cause of disability is arthritis, which occurs when you have pain or inflammation in the joints, including those in the foot or ankle, according to AAOS.

    Bone and heel spurs: Bony outgrowths on joints or on the edges of bones in the feet can cause pain or inflammation in the surrounding tissue.

    “If the pain does not subside after a few days, consult a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon. Keep in mind that there are many different causes of foot pain. An orthopedic surgeon will target the source of the pain and recommend various treatments, with surgery as the last resort,” Dr. Hodgkins says.

    Even kitten or modest heels should come with a warning, Dr. Hodgkins says.

    “Anything with a heel is a high heel. Even a small one-inch heel places more stress on the front of the foot. Of course, the higher the heel, the greater the problem,” he says.

    Wear With Caution

    Still hooked on high heels? Here are a few guidelines:

    • Wear high heels in moderation, and save them for special occasions.
    • Avoid walking great distances in high heels.
    • Slide into sensible shoes or sneakers, and carry your heels while walking to the car or party.

    “When your foot hurts, that’s when you are wearing high heels too much,” Dr. Hodgkins says.

    Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

    Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

    I want to see the site in English

    Continue In English

    Quiero ver el sitio en Español

    Continuar en español