Fancy footwork: Give bunions the boot

Meghan may have had surgery to remove her bony bumps but before you go under the knife there are simpler and cheaper options to consider, writes Deirdre Reynolds.

SHE may have the world at her feet, but it seems even Meghan Markle can’t escape bunions.

Rumours are afoot that the Duchess of the Sussex may have gone under the knife in pursuit of perfect feet. Mum-to-be Meghan ditched her Manolos to go barefoot at a traditional Maori ceremony in New Zealand earlier this month.

And a tiny scar on the 37-year-old’s pedicured left foot didn’t go unnoticed by experts.

“Meghan’s scar is 100% due to open bunion surgery,” claims Kumar Kunasingam, consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon for BMI Shirley Oaks Hospital in Surrey.

Harry and Meghan during their royal trip to Fraser Island, Queensland last month. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth

“It’s nice that Meghan can humanise the condition and show even royalty can get them. Otherwise people suffer in silence and it can be debilitating both physically and mentally.”

With a designer shoe collection to make Carrie Bradshaw weep, already the ‘Markle effect’ has seen a pair of €287 Stella McCartney sneakers and €216 Sarah Flint sandals worn by the royal influencer sell out. The Markle Sparkle could trigger a rise in so-called Cinderella surgery among women too.

Contrary to popular belief, wearing skyscrapers doesn’t necessarily cause the conditions, but can exacerbate them, while surgical advancements mean women no longer have to hang up their heels afterwards either.

“Our approach to bunion surgery is to maintain flexibility of the big toe joint as this allows patients to wear a wider range of shoes,” explains consultant podiatric surgeon Claire O’Kane. “86% of patients can return to wearing high heels following surgery.

“In the past, the big toe joint was often fused in order to correct the bunion which may limit the height [of heel] that the patient could wear.

“The biggest advancement has been the development of internal fixation (screws), which means that patients do not need to be put in plaster of paris after surgery. Patients need to rest for two weeks, but most can return to driving and wearing runner-type shoes after this.”

Botox to stop the feet from sweating and swelling and plumping fillers to prevent pain in the balls of the feet are among the more extreme options for dancing queens this party season.

Simply stuffing the toe of your shoe with cotton wool, removing it later on in the night when your feet start to swell, is perhaps a less eye-watering — and cheaper — trick of the trade.

It could certainly explain why expectant mum Meghan appeared to be wearing a pair of navy Manolo Blahniks that were too big for her at Princess Eugenie’s wedding recently.

After developing a bunion, London-based businesswoman Lisa Kay went one step further, creating Sole Bliss (solebliss.com), a range of footwear especially for ladies with bunions and wide feet.

“Women with bunions can wear heels if they wear the right type,” she advises. “Get rid of the shoes you know are too narrow and cut across painful foot joints, instead opting for styles that offer a lot of room at the front of the shoe so that your bunions can ‘breathe’.

“All of our shoes are cut high up on the topline to avoid aggravating painful joints, and they all have a deceptively wide and deep toe box for maximum comfort, whilst still holding the heel in place securely. The demand from Ireland has been phenomenal.

“We have everything from young women in their early 20s who have already developed bunions through to more mature ladies who are looking for something elegant to wear to their grandchildren’s weddings.”

With LBD season well and truly under way, elsewhere at Achilles Foot Clinic in Cork, corns, calluses and ingrown toenails are some of the most common complaints among heel-loving ladies. Yet brogues, ankle boots, and ballet flats are equally on-trend this season, with Kendall Jenner and Bella and Gigi Hadid all stepping out in flats lately.

Inspired by the ongoing athleisure phenomenon, sales of high heels fell 12%, according to US market researchers the NPD Group, while women’s sneaker sales went up by 37%.

“Footwear is a huge factor [in foot health],” says podiatrist Lorcan O’Donaile (achillesclinic.ie). “Women tend to prioritise, understandably, fashion over comfort, and that doesn’t always play out well in the long term.

“At the same time, we’re realistic with patients — we don’t expect them to wear runners all the time, so what we do is we compromise. Short term, we get them to wear footwear that gives [the foot a chance to recover]; once we get them educated on what to do long-term, there’s no reason why people can’t go back to wearing fashionable shoes.

“The key thing is to make sure the sizing is appropriate,” he advises. “And replace your footwear when it gets worn. When you’re cutting your toenails, follow the curve of the nail like you would with your fingernails, rather than cutting them straight across.”

At home, regularly scrubbing and moisturising is the secret to doing your best Strictly impression on the dancefloor this Christmas, according to Emma Murphy of Polish Hand and Foot Spa in Dublin (polishspa.ie).

“Our most popular foot treatment is the OPI Pedicure (€50), which includes hard skin removal, scrub, and a massage,” says the beauty therapist. “If somebody has corns, bunions, or specific areas of hard skin, then we’d recommend the callus peel pedicure (€65) or MediPedi (€90).

“Usually when somebody comes in getting a pedicure, we assess why they have hard skin in the first place. It could be genetic, [that they] have areas of bone that create friction in their shoes, no matter what shoes they wear, or they could be wearing the wrong footwear or on their feet all day.

“If you’re looking for an effective treatment, the important thing is to have hard skin removed, good cuticle work, [with] the cuticles pushed back and clipped, and a perfect paint. When you’re doing your own treatments at home, I would recommend using a nice scrub and particularly a moisturiser. I wouldn’t recommend hard skin removal using a pumice or a file yourself at home because a lot of times you can create a problem if you’re filing an area that doesn’t need to be filed — it stimulates hard skin to grow.”

Above all O’Donaile urged fashionistas to put their best foot forward this winter. “One of the best things to do is to maintain your general health,” he explains.

“Put on good footwear, get out, keep mobile and flexible. Do yoga, do Tai Chi, do dancing, but if something is troubling you, or you’re at all concerned, go and see your local podiatrist.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t wear nice shoes — of course you can. Our goal, at the end of the day, is to help patients have a quality of life, and part of that is that they look nice and feel nice.”

BODY & SOUL: FIVE OF THE BEST FOOT-FRIENDLY HEELS

1. Evans Extra Wide Fit Black Sequin Heel Sandals, €40

2. Sole Bliss ‘Brooke’ Red Ankle Boots, €225

3. Joe Browns Dance ‘til Dawn Velvet Slingbacks, €53.95

4. Dorothy Perkins Wide Fit Sequin Block Heel Sandals, €35

5. Sole Bliss ‘Piper’ Snake Print Courts, €179


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