The INSIDER Summary:
• A viral hack claims binding your third and fourth toes will make high heels less painful.
• The hack didn’t work, and a podiatric surgeon explained why.
Standing up as straight as I can, I’m around 5’4”.
I’m not upset with my height — it is, after all, the national average for women — but with much taller friends comes the desire to wear much taller shoes.
While I have a number of sensible flats and sneakers, I usually reach for something taller when I have an important meeting or am going out. Needless to say, this can really take a toll on my feet and I’m always on the look out for shoe inserts and accessories that can make my feet hurt less.
So imagine my surprise when a recent contributor article touted a “genius hack” that will let the user “wear high heels all day long.” The secret? Taping your third and fourth toes — from the big toes outwards — together.
Here, Bustle writer Ione Gamble explains how the trick came to be:
This technique was pioneered by Marie Helvin, the ’70s supermodel, muse, and former wife of British photographer David Bailey, who spent countless days and nights during her formative years on the catwalk and red carpet in sky-high shoes.
The piece went on to say that “Helvin outlined some sketchy science in her explanation to The Daily Mail in 2014, noting that by taping your middle toes together, the muscles in your feet align, thus taking the pressure off the balls of your feet.”
It sounded a little weird, but I was sold. Emboldened by the hack, I bragged to colleagues that I would be wearing high heels every day for a week to test it out.
I tried out the tip in some of my favourite pairs of heels that were all over three inches, some with big block heels and others with tiny stilleto heels. I’ll spare readers pictures of my feet, but I dutifully binded my third and fourth toes first with tape and later (at the suggestion of the Bustle writer) with bandaids before slipping into my shoes.
As a New Yorker, I walk a lot. To get to and from the subway, I walk about two miles daily, if Google Maps is to be believed. Before I even got to work on Monday, the familiar pain in the balls of my feet was there. By the end of Tuesday, both feet were sore from wearing heels two days in a row. By lunch on Wednesday, I had slipped back into flats, plummeting three inches back to earth.
Devastated that the hack hadn’t worked for me, I reached out to Dr. Hillary Brenner, a podiatric surgeon in New York City, to ask her if this trick had any credibility.
“I don’t see how taping the third and fourth toes together can help,” she told INSIDER in an email. “The only thing buddy splints (i.e. tapping toes together) help with are toe fractures and if you have hammer toes that are rubbing on top of the shoes that would help decrease the friction and in turn make it less painful.”
Ouch. So not the high heel hack I was hoping for. Dr. Brenner did tell me, however, her favourite tips for making high heels less painful.
“I always suggest wearing a custom orthotic that is made specifically for high heels such as a cobra style orthotic,” she said. “Make sure the toe box bends upward you don’t want to bend the shoe in half and make sure to have the heel as wide and chunky as possible plus a platform style in the toe box to aide in more shock absorption.”
My biggest takeaway is no shoe is worth this much toe-binding effort, and I will likely be keeping my super high heels in my closet only for special events.
Perhaps someday I’ll try a hack that actually makes high heels painless, but for now I’ll remember my mother’s advice and try not to buy shoes unless they’re immediately comfortable.
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