High heels have glamour -- but it comes at a steep price. Such footwear is a primary reason why women suffer nearly four times more foot problems than men and undergo 90% of the common foot surgeries performed each year. To protect your feet when selecting a dress shoe...
Limit heel height to two inches or less. Anything higher can vastly increase the pressure on the ball of your foot and throw off your body alignment -- and it gets worse the higher you go. A wide heel offers more stability than a stiletto but does not decrease the pressure.
Give toes wiggle room. Look for shoes with a rounded or square toe box. Narrow or pointy-toed shoes can aggravate tendons and also damage toenails, making them more vulnerable to fungal infections.
Choose materials and styles wisely. Look for shoes with cork soles -- cork is a natural shock absorber. Wedges, which distribute the pressure of your body weight more evenly, give the look and height of a heel without injuring feet.
Limit standing time to 45 minutes. If your child is getting married, for example, wear heels for the photographs -- then switch to lower-heeled shoes for dancing and mingling.
Toss worn-out shoes. It is fine to replace plastic "taps" on heels -- but if the main heel itself is worn, the shoes no longer offer adequate support.
Have your shoe size remeasured yearly. Pregnancy (during which hormones loosen ligaments), gaining and losing weight, and normal aging can affect the size and shape of your feet.
Smart idea: Try Insolia -- an insert designed by a podiatrist that helps to redistribute weight from the ball of the foot to the heel. Cost: About $20 at drugstores (877-426-7654, www.insolia.com).