Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why High Heels are Derailing My Running

I used to live in high heels.  Being only five feet tall, most of my college days and professional life (before having my daughter) was spent in heels three inches or higher DAILY.  I gave tours of campus as an admissions rep in college wearing them.  Every night on the town would involve very high heels that I wouldn't take off even when hurting because I didn't want to be short and my pant length was too long for flats.

Unknowingly, I did TERRIBLE damage to my feet!  I thought foot pain in high heels was normal and just the price you pay for fashion.  Don't all ladies feet hurt at the end of a night out?   I now suffer from something called Morton's Neuroma.  Basically spending so much time with my toes squished together and weight on the balls of feet caused the nerves in my feet to be damaged and thicken.  The nerves in our feet are normal at 1-2 mm wide, an ultrasound of my feet revealed mine are 10mm wide!  

I didn't really notice it affecting me until I started training for my second half marathon.  It started innocently enough, my toes would go numb on long runs or I would feel like my socks were bunching in my shoe and I'd stop to fix it because it was annoying.  Because of this I probably tried five different brands of socks.  Nothing changed.  

Things got worse as my mileage increased.  As I trained for my full marathon.  The annoying feelings changed to pain.  I remember running a ten mile race half way through marathon training and at mile 8, feeling like I had bee stings on the balls of my feet.  My pace slowed considerably those final two miles.  I started doing my own research and found Morton's Neuroma.  Through a recommendation from my running club for a good sports podiatrist I found Dr. Lee Firestone.  He qualified for the Boston Marathon so I knew he'd get the fact that I wasn't going to take stop running as an answer ;-). 

In January, he confirmed it was indeed Morton's Neuroma and that it is much more common in women due to the high heel issue and damage they cause :-(. We did two shots in each foot of cortisone in attempt to atrophy, or kill, the nerves in my feet.  We also put makeshift orthotics in my shoes to lessen the pressure on the toes and balls of my feet.  He also showed me how to tie my shoes to lessen the pressure:
The orthotics gave me terrible blistering so I stopped wearing them.  The pain lessened, but I still had the annoying numbness.  I stopped a few times during my full marathon in March to take off my shoes and rub my feet.

I've been not running any training runs for the past 14 weeks due to a quad/hip injury and during that time my feet have developed pain even when not running.  I was limping through the airport a few weeks back :-(. I tried my first attempts at a training run this week and was literally stopped in my tracks by the foot pain.  I was also trying out a new shoe, the Brooks Pure Flow which I loved when not running, but when running I realized the toe box was too small and causing additional pain.

I made another appointment, got custom orthotics to wear daily to take stress of the nerves and another round if cortisone shots, this time in right foot only since that's the worst one.  I can't do cortisone too much because it can began to atrophy the foot and the skin will begin to dimple :-(. He told me to wait 3 weeks for the cortisone to take full effect and if I'm still in pain we will move to alcohol injections once a week for six weeks.  

My final resort will be surgery to remove the nerves.  I'm trying to avoid that at all costs because the recovery time being off my feet for weeks, including no driving for first week, is just too much.

Basically, it's been a nightmare.  I wish I could go back and shake my 20-something self and say NO HIGH HEELS!  They are not worth it!

If you start to feel tingling or numbness in your toes or balls of feet, go see a podiatrist.  Try to catch it early so they don't continue to grow and get worse!  And stop wearing the high heels ladies :-)


  1. I'm so sorry all of this is happening to you! It's just crazy to think to all the times we did things when we were younger and heard older people talking about "getting older". There wasn't a time that it crossed my mind that it could actually happen to me. Neither you nor I are old by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm definitely already seeing differences. I hope that you're able to solve these issues without the surgery.

  2. That's so horrible. It's too bad that women/young girls aren't more educated about what heels can do. I imagine this would be awful for anyone, but especially a runner or other type of athlete. Hopefully things get better and you don't need surgery!

    1. I never knew how bad they could really be! :-( Know that I know, I want to let everyone know too!

  3. I also have Morton's Neuroma. I was so glad I found your blog. I've had surgery on my left and it has very much changed the composition of my foot. When I run long, I think the scar tissue makes it sore but it's tolerable so far. My right has had injections but I need to have them done again. I'm training for my first half now after several 5K races. I really hope my feet hold up. Your blog has given me hope that it will. Everyone thinks I'm crazy wanting to be a runner with bad feet. Maybe I am but it's a wonderful kind of crazy!;)

  4. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for a "stuff it" bra. So glad I did.. I just finished my first half marathon almost a week ago (2 hrs, 14 min !!) after taking up running for fitness/leisure over the past year or so and throwing in a 5k here and there. I struggle with this very same foot pain!! I am 32, and my "heel days" are pretty much over but I have worn them a lot in the past.

    I have also been wondering how to get faster! Thanks for the tips. I like tips from a real person, not some magazine article or olympian.. Thanks a ton!


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  6. When this happens the plantar fascia or a tissue ligament (which is easier to understand) becomes swollen and irritated. Hence, for such persons it is very important that they wear special shoes that are specifically designed managing this condition.

  7. Hi Guys.I need to know what planter fasciitis is and How to get relief from it by choosing the best shoes for plantar fasciitis? Please advise me to buy shoes in 2016.Thanks for sharing.

  8. Your information is very useful. I think everybody agrees with you. But choose a best shoes for plantar fasciitis was very difficult. Currently on the market there are many different types of shoes for plantar fasciitis. :)


  9. I've got had some small fits regarding heel discomfort (aka plantar fasciitis) in the past, nevertheless commonly nothing to sneeze with. I like that.
    Thank you with regard to discussing.

    plantar fasciitis shoes

  10. High heel shoes look good to wear but they are the reason of pain. Earlier, I had to consult with a doctor because of wearing high heel daily. I did not need any surgery for this. Do you still feel the pain after the surgery?
    shoes for plantar fasciitis

  11. Thanks a lot! I never really realized that my question wasn't very informative, so thanks for spotting that. we should aware of walking shoes for plantar fasciitis. Thank you very much!!

  12. That's not only your problem, but also almost women all around the world. We, ladies, always want to have a perfect appearance when going out. High heels seem to be the best savior helps us look taller and charmer. I used to feel extremely painful when walking on high heel, but i couldn't taken it off because i felt unconfident. So, everytime i needn't

  13. God! So sorry it happened to you. I should wear high heals less and less. I usually wear flat high heels, don't know whether it affects less.

  14. Accidentally, I did TERRIBLE harm to my feet! I thought foot torment in high heels was typical and simply the value you pay for style.

    Kathy N. Kranz

  15. I am so sorry you got injured like that - must've been a terrible experience! I used to have really bad shin splits so had to make a lot of research on the best shoes for shin splints as I get better.