It’s not what fashion-conscious women want to hear – another warning about high heels.
It’s not what fashion magazines will tell you, either. But pump-style shoes often cause significant pain by irritating a common bony deformity on the back of the heel called ‘pump bump.’ In many cases, it can lead to bursitis or Achilles tendonitis if left untreated.
“Pump bump is common in young women who wear high heels almost every day,” says Tej Sahota. “The rigid back of a pump-style shoe can create pressure that aggravates the heel bone when walking.”
A member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) and the College of Chiropodists of Ontario, Tej, who has offices in Markham, also works with the Canadian Wound Care Association in a faculty role.
According to the ACFAS consumer website, FootHealthFacts.org, the bump or bony protrusion is a hereditary deformity that can cause Achilles tendonitis or bursitis due to constant irritation from pump-style shoes. Those with high arches or tight Achilles tendons are especially vulnerable to developing pump bump if they work in high heels.
The medical term for the disorder is Haglund’s deformity. In addition to the noticeable bump, symptoms include pain where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel, swelling in the back of the heel and redness in the area.
For most women, doctors can prescribe medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. This does not, however, get rid of the bony protrusion. Sahota says icing the back of the heel reduces swelling, and stretching exercises can relieve tension in the Achilles. Long-term, it’s best to avoid wearing high heels, if possible.
“When the dress code requires high heels, I tell my female patients to try heel lifts to decrease pressure on the heel," says Sahota, "or I recommend dress shoes that have soft backs or are backless.”
Ignoring the problem long-term can lead to more severe issues with the Achilles tendon and predisposition to arthritis of the ankle or other foot joints. While some severe cases may need surgical correction, various conservative treatment options developed in the last decade allow the patient to return to a full activity lifestyle in a much shorter time.