As people become more comfortable with the concept of altering their body through cosmetic surgery, the industry is developing new and innovative procedures to resolve every conceivable body issue. The latest offering is 'Cinderella’ surgery, named after one of the favourite fairy tale princesses. As the name suggests, this procedure is for women seeking to change the size and/or shape of their feet so that they can fit into, or look better in, designer shoes.

To achieve this, some women ask for the removal of bunions while others want their toes to be shortened and straightened so they look better in 'peep-toe' shoes. Increasing the arch in someone's foot in an attempt to make high heels more comfortable is also a popular request. Some women have even opted to have fat inserted into the soles of their feet so they can walk more comfortably in high heels.

Recent headlines claimed that, in advance of her wedding, Kim Kardashian may have undergone a liposuction procedure on her toes to remove 'toebesity'. The procedure is nick-named a 'Loub job' in acknowledgement that it allows people to wear very high Christian Louboutin shoes without their feet hurting.

As well as allowing women to wear designer heels, Cinderella surgery can help to repair the damage caused by wearing high heeled shoes. When you wear high heels, your foot slides forward in your shoe, redistributing your weight and creating unnatural pressure points and misalignment. Over time, problems can develop, particularly if you wear shoes with narrow, pointed toes.

HIGH HEEL PROBLEMS

Some of the problems that can arise from wearing high heels include:

  • Hammer toe – a deformity where a toe curls at the middle joint.  This is caused by high heels because they force the toe against the front of the shoe, causing unnatural bending.
  • Corns and calluses – think hard layers of skin which develop as a result of friction.
  • High heels can cause painful rubbing and uncomfortable pressure points.
  • Bunions and bunionettes - bony bumps that form on the joint at the base of your big toe (bunions) or on the joint of your little toe (bunionettes).  Tight-fitting high heeled shoes do not necessarily cause bunions but can exacerbate an existing problem.
  • Stress fractures - tiny cracks in the bone caused from the pressure that high heels place on your forefoot.
  • Toenail problems – constant pressure can cause in-growing toenails and nail fungus.
  • Joint pain in ball of the foot (metatarsalgia) - high heels put more weight on the ball of your foot which causes increased pressure, and therefore pain, in your forefoot.

TOE SHORTENING AND OTHER TOE CURLING SURGICAL PROCEDURES

Shortening the toe may include shaving off the bone and, because toes help to support people's weight and balance the body, cosmetic surgery can affect people's balance and redistribute their weight. This can lead to complications later in life, such as the development of serious arthritic pain. Surgeons have also warned of months of swelling after foot surgery.

Any shaping of the bones will be subject to swelling and bruising but the feet are even more susceptible. After foot surgery, patients must stay off their feet for several days but many do not have the patience to do this, putting weight on their feet before they have properly healed and injuring themselves. Many people end up with long term issues with their feet even after surgery – with no fault on the part of the surgeon.

This trend for foot surgery goes even further. As people start having all kinds of procedures for purely cosmetic reasons, their judgement of what is reasonable can become distorted and the pursuit of beauty can go too far. It was recently reported that one patient asked her surgeon to amputate her little toes. Thankfully he refused but this highlights concerns that some people will stop at nothing to achieve their cosmetic goals. It is unclear whether this particular patient had ever considered that removing her little toes was likely to significantly affect her ability to balance.

SHOES TO FIT YOUR FEET NOT FEET TO FIT YOUR SHOES

Sarah Gubbins, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: 'While this treatment is biggest in America, it is also available in the UK where it is often referred to as a 'foot face lift'. But before rushing out for Cinderella surgery in the hope that your perfect feet will help you catch your very own Prince Charming, it is important to consider the realities of this type of surgery.