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Still Think High Heels Are Worth It?

It’s not what fashion-conscious women want to hear—another warning about high heels. But wearing pump-style shoes often causes significant pain by irritating a common bony deformity on the back of the heel, called "pump bump."  If left untreated, it can lead to bursitis or Achilles tendonitis.

What Is Pump Bump?

Pump bump is common in young women who wear high heels almost every day. The rigid back of a pump-style shoe can create pressure that aggravates the heel bone when walking. 

The bony enlargement 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. 
     

Treating Pump Bump

In the large majority of cases, pump bump is treated nonsurgically by reducing inflammation, but this does not get rid of the bony enlargement. Pain relief is the primary treatment goal, so anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. Icing the back of the heel reduces swelling, and stretching exercises can relieve tension in the Achilles. Long-term, however, it’s best to avoid wearing high heels, if possible. 

If your job requires wearing high-heeled shoes and you’re experiencing symptoms of pump bump, heel lifts placed inside the shoes may offer some relief. Wearing backless shoes or those with soft backs may also help decrease pressure on the area.

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