Written By Michelle Castillo
(CBS) After Dr. Hillary Brenner completed a toe shortening procedure for a patient who was constantly in pain, she noticed an influx of women asking her to provide toe shortening services for themselves -- for completely cosmetic purposes. She's turned them all down.
"I only do surgeries for people having pain," Brenner, a podiatric surgeon with Tribeca Private Medical Group and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association, said to CBSNews.com. "If you're not, you don't have surgery."
Despite the risks, women are increasingly requesting cosmetic foot procedures -- including shortening their toes, adding collagen to their heels and even removing their pinky toe -- in order to fit into those sky-high stilettos. Others opt to lop parts off in order to fit into a smaller size.
One woman who had foot surgery done, Susan Deming told FoxNews.com that she had her toe shortening procedure done on her left foot because she was constantly forming calluses on some toes that were so long she had to buy her left shoe one size larger than her right. She could no longer find a comfortable pair of shoes due to the rubbing. The surgery cut off a centimeter from her second toe.
"I've never felt this good about something I've done," she added. "If it's vain, it's vain."
There are some acceptable reasons that women would opt to get cosmetic surgery on their feet, including painful bunions or deformities, Dr. William Spielfogel, the head of podiatry at Lennox Hill Hospital in New York and a member of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, said to CBSNews.com In Brenner's patient's case, the especially elongated toe cwas causing corns and ulcers that could get infected. Both doctors said when they decide to take on foot surgery patients it is because there is a medical need.
Any kind of surgery can cause complications, from adverse anesthesia reactions to chronic pain years after the procedure is done. Painful scars, prolonged swelling and post-operative infections are all possibilities, especially on the feet, which are constantly needed to function. And, removing a toe could completely affect your balance, making you even more unstable on those high heels.
"(Surgery) like getting your foot run over by your car," Brenner explained. "It's controlled trauma, but it's still trauma."
Unlike getting a procedure done on your hand where you can wear your arm in a sling, you need your feet to stay mobile. Having surgery done requires some time off your toes. Brenner normally recommends at least a week without much moving.
Another added worry about these procedures is that your foot is constantly having pressure put on it. Injecting collagen may add a "pillow" layer on your foot to make shoes feel more comfortable, but because your entire weight is supported on your feet the collagen could shift inside your foot, Brenner pointed out. Even though you don't have any negative reactions to collagen on your face, you could be looking at a lifetime of foot deformities.
There are plenty of other things you can do besides undergoing surgery. Spielfogel advocated taking some anti-inflammatory medications before you wear a painful pair of heels and icing your feet as soon as you are done wearing your shoes. Having your shoes stretched if they are too small may also be an option.
Brenner said using things like foot petals, cushions for your heel, work the same way as the collagen injections do without putting something in your body.
She also said that wearing shoes is like counting calories in a diet: We should set a time limit to how long we should endure the pain. Brenner suggested give or take two hours for heels, three hours for flats, six hours for boots and all day for sneakers.
Both doctors suggest that you should always bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes to switch into. But, most of all, remember that not all shoes are meant to be worn by everyone.
"A lot of people want to fit a square peg into a round hole, and it just doesn't work," Spielfogel said. "Sometimes you have to be somewhat realistic."