The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Female Lawyers VS. Ingrown Toenails: The Case Against High Heels

Posted by on Thursday, December 27th, 2012


The legal world seems so glamorous from the outside: High-powered attorneys with their polished suits, clicking heels, and expensive leather brief cases trying criminal cases before our cities’ most influential judges. It’s further glamorized on television and in the movies where whip-smart partners finagle acquittals or multi-million dollar class action suits with creativity and flair. But there is an insidious problem lurking right beneath the surface: ingrown toenails.


On television, you never see a female lawyer in sensible flats. It’s largely the same in the real world. Heels make many professional women feel powerful and polished. They are a cultural mainstay—one that has persisted since the 1920s. And, as new research suggests, since that time heels have been causing ingrown toenails in astonishing numbers. In fact, they are the number one cause of ingrown toenails, according to a group of Chicago area podiatrists. Pointy toed heels are the worst offenders.

Alongside this research is a growing trend in law firms to encourage female employees to wear heels. While they have always been part of the corporate wardrobe, firms in a tough economy are trying to “smarten up” their lawyers. Firms like Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer whose new guidelines recommend that women wear high heels with skirts instead of trousers to “embrace their femininity.” These firms are also hiring image consultants like Lucinda Slater (founder of Best Foot Forward) who reinforce these recommendations. Slater says heels “[help] them stand better and give them height. ”In a job where competition with male colleagues is fierce, being taller and more imposing makes a real difference. But at what cost?



Ingrown toenails are painful, may require surgery, and may cause permanent damage to the toe. Infection is common. If a person has poor circulation (from diabetes, heart disease, or another vascular condition) infection can be serious, leading to amputation or even death. If you are a lawyer and absolutely must wear heels for work, try these tips to protect your toes:

  • Make a cardboard cut-out of your foot and try fitting it into your shoe. If it doesn’t fit, the shoe is too small or the toe is too narrow.
  • Avoid wearing tight hosiery which can further compress the toes.
  • Trim toenails straight across the top, never down into the corners.
  • If you notice an ingrown toenail developing, soak feet in a warm bath of epsom salts and, once dry, insert a small piece of cotton under the toenail to encourage proper growth.
  • If your ingrown toenail isn’t responding to soaking and rest, visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).



Of course, high heels can cause a host of other problems too, from bunions to pump bump. But this is the first research I’ve seen that systematically studies the role of high heels in the development of a single, very preventable condition. Lawyers take note.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.