The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Fairer Sex Gets the Short End of the Foot Stick: Women and Foot Pain

Posted by on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012


There are great things about being a woman. You get to be a girl scout; you get to choose between dresses and pants; and you get to have babies, which, despite the difficulties involved, is a pretty amazing human experience. Unfortunately, there are some negatives too. Sexism in all its many manifestations: unfair pay, an inability to play professional football, an inability to be a boy scout (way cooler than being a girl scout, if you ask me), and the cultural inequalities for mothers who are expected to sacrifice careers for raising a family (hey men, you can do that too you know!) Then there’s the topping on the cake: women suffer from foot pain four times as frequently as men do. Ah womanhood, so full of unexpected delights.



Female physiology is a recipe for foot-saster (foot + disaster, I’m a genius). Males have higher foot length to body ratios than females. Females also tend to have slighter statures, so their foot size and length is proportional, but women also have a 20 percent to 25 percent lower volume and surface area in the subtalar, talonavicular, and ankle joints and up to 16 percent thinner cartilage. Over the course of a lifetime, these thinner, slighter feet often begin to degrade.



Women have flatter feet and that means, pronation. Women tend to have flatter feet than men, which can cause a whole host of structural problems. Flatter feet are much more likely to pronate and pronation of the foot can cause the entire leg to compensate. The knee rolls in, the hip joint is stressed and, over time, back, hip, leg, ankle, and foot pain may result.



Pretty please, ladies, ditch the high heels! Many of these foot problems are attributable to ill-fitting shoes, a strange and unhealthy trend our culture continues to reinforce. We’ve already got the deck stacked against us physiologically, why make it worse in the name of fashion? I’ll never understand it. As I’ve discussed before, the science is clear. High heels can cause a host of serious foot problems including bunions, sesamoiditis, metatarsalgia, stress fractures, and the infamous pump bump (to name just a few). Long-term use can shorten calves, causing back pain, hip pain, and, of course, foot pain. Not to mention the fact that women wearing heels walk slower, a difference significant enough to result in a weight gain of five pounds a year!



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.