by Martha Cooke | November 01, 2003

If the shoe fits, wear it. Sounds simple enough, but for millions of women, this adage is easier said than done. Many popular styles of women’s shoes constrict the toes, place stress on the ball of the foot and don’t offer enough support.
   Three- or four-inch heels, particularly the thin stiletto styles currently in vogue, can lead to a variety of foot and ankle problems, according to the American Association for Women Podiatrists (, a group that knows firsthand the pain fashionable shoes can bring. Although the best way to nip foot pain in the bud is to wear a low-heeled shoe with a roomy toe box, the AAWP offers these tips for those who can’t bear to be seen kicking up their heels in flats.
" Go lower. Avoid those four-inch spikes, if possible. Higher, more unstable heels can lead to ankle sprains.
" Pad it. Since high heels put pressure on the ball of the foot and toes, add some cushioning with padded inserts, available in most drugstores.
" Stretch and hold. High heels tighten calf muscles, so stretch afterward to keep legs limber.