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Taking The “Killer” Out Of High Heels

3 September 2013    

If you’re a female with a passion for killer heels, check out your grandmother’s or mother’s feet first before investing in another pair, advises SPORTSMED•SA foot and ankle surgeon, Dr James Clayton.

“If your mother had bunions, you probably will too and wearing heels and narrow, pointy shoes can be painful and make the condition worse,’’ Dr Clayton said.

A bunion is a deformity of the big toe where it bends towards the smaller toes. A bony prominence appears on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe. This prominence often rubs on shoes causing inflammation and pain.

“The condition does affect men,’’ Dr Clayton said. “But bunions are more prevalent among women and certain styles of footwear can make things worse and many people end up needing surgery.’’

He said the condition affects about one in three people and while Dr Clayton has treated patients in their teens, about 90 per cent of his patients are women, including amateur and professional athletes, aged in their 20s and upwards.

SPORTSMED•SA  has recently become South Australia’s first and only hospital to introduce a new form of minimally invasive bunion surgery which, because of its results is popular with orthopedic surgeons and patients in Europe and the UK and is becoming a more widely used technique in the eastern states.

Dr Clayton is a leader in minimally invasive and arthroscopic surgery in Australia and this has seen approached to care for several elite sporting teams, including Netball Australia and several AFL teams.

“Minimally invasive surgical techniques have gained popularity in many areas of surgery in recent years,’’ he said.

“Traditional bunion surgery involves a large cut on the inside of the foot, and a smaller cut in the first webspace between the big and second toes. With the new keyhole bunion surgery techniques, several small 3mm cuts are made instead, similar to that used with arthroscopy. Very fine burrs which rotate at high speed, instead of traditional saw blades, are used to make tiny precise cuts of the bone.’’

Once the big toe is in the corrected position, screws are placed to fix the bone in position. The screws are designed to be buried within the bone without causing pain or being able to be felt under the skin.

Keyhole surgery results in less soft tissue damage during the operation.

“Overall, when compared with traditional open bunion surgery, patients can expect less wound problems, decreased incidence of infection, less stiffness and ongoing pain, reduced scarring, faster healing a more predictable recovery. The procedure is done as day surgery, rather than needing an overnight stay.

“Patients can get back to sport much faster – and yes, they are a lot more likely to get back into high heels again!”

Bunion symptoms
The main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes. The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it up out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot.

SPORTSMED•SA Marketing Manager Lauren Kilsby on 0410 557 441

Catherine Bauer, phone 8412 4100 or 0420 529 027