Cosmetic Foot Surgery:  If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit—Why Try to Wear It?

Cosmetic Foot Surgery:  If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit—Why Try to Wear It?

Cosmetic procedures have become commonplace in our society. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 15.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States in 2013. The Society’s “Quick Facts Chart” breaks this number down into cosmetic surgeries, cosmetic minimally invasive and reconstructive procedures. It appears that a growing number of people are comfortable undergoing elective cosmetic surgeries. 

Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons perform foot surgery to restore function, reconstruct deformities and reduce chronic foot pain. Now we’re hearing more and more about cosmetic foot surgery--as in elective, purely-for-vanity foot surgery—for example, surgery so women can wear high-heeled, pointy-toed stilletos.

I love pretty shoes, and we know they can give women a sexy walk, but healthy feet are vital for mobility and keeping us active. Surgical procedures carry risks, and surgery on the feet can affect the health of a patient’s feet for life. Possible effects from foot surgery include infection, nerve damage, bones that don’t heal, deformity of the toes, and chronic pain.

Should a doctor perform surgery simply to improve the appearance of feet or to enable women to wear fashionable shoes?


Differing Views

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has taken a neutral position, recommending that anyone considering aesthetic foot surgery consult a member of the APMA.The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) is taking a stand and calls this “an ill-advised trend.” The ACFAS put out a press release stating, “Making your foot conform to your shoe comes with serious risks.”

According to Newsweek, women are asking for these “Cinderella” procedures more often. The procedures are named for the story by French author Charles Perrault, reprised by the Brothers Grimm. It really is a grim story in which the evil stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into Cinderella’s tiny glass slippers. You can read it here. Walt Disney used some poetic license for his classic cartoon Cinderella by ignoring this part of the fairytale. Indeed, the term “Cinderella” surgery may derive from the classic cartoon, but research indicates some foot surgeries are indeed more like the Grimms’ version.

Some of the more popular cosmetic foot surgery procedures, along with their “Cinderella” names where appropriate, are described on the next page. 

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