The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Dress Code Blues: How Waitresses Can Save Their Feet, Despite the Heels

Posted by on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


I was a waitress for four years, all through college. Then I was a bartender for another two. Those were the hardest jobs I ever had, but not for the reasons you’d think. I was great at remembering orders, making drinks, keeping customers happy, and carrying eight plates at once. I was a whiz at doing math in my head, knew which wines paired with which meats, and was the fastest table busser this side of Las Vegas. The thing that made those jobs so challenging, that held me perpetually on the brink of throwing in the apron, was the ridiculously inappropriate footwear. I worked in a fancy restaurant, so my shoes were dictated by the dress code. Of course, while the men got to wear sensible black leather dress shoes, the women were expected to race around in three-inch high heels. I think I cried myself to sleep every night of that first week. Then there was a sweet spot, between two weeks and six months, when my feet felt okay. Then came the inevitable slide into misery and pain. If only I’d known then what I know now, I’d have taken some steps to protect myself.


I think the Devil invented high heels. They’re just not good for the feet and can cause all manner of gnarly foot problems, including (to name a few): sesamoiditis, an inflammation of the small bones on the bottom of the foot; stress fractures; metatarsalgia, pain in the ball of the foot; and “pump bump” or Haglund’s syndrome, an aching inflammation of the bursa and tendon on the back of the heel. Each of these is painful. And when your feet hurt, everything hurts. Feet are like weather vanes for the rest of your body. When foot pain strikes, it tends to radiate upwards, through your ankles and shins, to your hips and lower back. Over time, you may develop ankle, knee, and hip injuries that are debilitating in their own right. Taking care of your feet means taking care of your whole body.


Is this injury better yet? Since you’re walking around on those feet every day, any injury, no matter how niggling, will take a while to heal. This goes triple for waitstaff. Irritated tendons and ligaments are particularly troublesome since they’re aggravated by the tiniest movements. So, what do you do? How do you handle wearing the same shoes day after day that caused your injury in the first place?



Take some tips from the pros and take your foot pain seriously. Here are some important steps for protecting the health of your feet.

  1. Add padding to the toe and use band-aids to protect your skin from blisters. Make sure the shoes fit well.
  2. Take your shoes off frequently during your shift to stretch your feet.
  3. Get orthotics insoles to support your arch and, by extension, your back and posture.
  4. Do yoga. Several popular yoga poses are great for strengthening your feet, toes, and ankles, making your feet more resilient to abuse.
  5. Never ignore your foot pain! Foot pain can progress quickly. What started as an annoying twinge can become a debilitating injury overnight. If you’re hurting, visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).

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.