Do High Heels cause Bunions?

This is a very common question amongst patients and the real answer is: it depends. The largest determining factor in the development of bunions and hammertoes is genetic inheritance of a foot type. Like many other health conditions, a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the overall severity of a disease or disorder and bunions and hammertoes are no exception.

An excellent analogy is smoking cigarettes. While we know that cigarettes increase the risk of lung cancer, not everyone who smokes will get lung cancer in their life. And there are those who do not smoke at all that get lung cancer, which is due to genetic inheritance. However, those who have an increased risk for lung cancer will further increase that risk by smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke. In the same way, those who have an increased risk for bunions and hammertoes can greatly increase their risk by wearing poorly supportive shoes, and high heels fall into this category.

The most common foot type that makes a person prone for bunions and hammertoes is a hyperflexible or hypermobile foot type. In this foot type a person has an arch when they are not standing but the arch collapses with weight bearing causing what is called a flexible flat foot (or collapsing pes valgus). When the arch collapses, it causes instability in the foot which changes the way the foot pushes the body forward in space, causing the person to push more off the side of the foot than from the front. This pressure puts the joints where the foot meets the toes (or metatarso-phalangeal joints) at a mechanical disadvantage and causes bunions and hammertoes.

The best way to counteract the process of a collapsing arch is with proper arch support, which consists of prefabricated and custom types. Prefabricated orthotics are pre-made and shaped with an average foot type in mind. This type can work well for many people. However, arches that collapse severely usually require custom orthotics for proper support. Custom orthotics are made by taking an exact mold of the person’s foot and placing prescription changes into the orthotic to improve the person’s mechanics.

The doctors at Advanced Foot and Ankle Center have specialized experience and training to treat all types of foot and ankle conditions and are very well versed in all types of orthotic inserts. Call for an appointment today to have your feet evaluated.


Dr. Eric Silvers, DPM

Dr. Dustin Lloyd, DPM

Dr. Christopher Witt, DPM