Shoes don't fit? Try a toe tuck

British women are hot on the heels of their American counterparts when it comes to designing their feet to match their fashions. Rachel Shields reports

Forget zapping frown lines, slimming noses, or plumping lips, breasts and bottoms. In their endless pursuit of perfection, plastic surgeons have now turned their gaze south – down to the imperfect "toe cascades", "cankles" and hammer toes that are blighting unwitting British women.

Fuelled by the current vogue for statement shoes – from the gun-shaped Chanel heels Madonna stepped out in after announcing her impending divorce, to the skyscraper platforms and studded stilettos spotted on high streets around the country – increasing numbers of women are having their feet chiselled, chopped and filed into submission.

Surgeons at the Harley Medical Group, the UK's biggest provider of cosmetic surgery, have seen a 9 per cent increase in patients requesting liposuction in the past year, a rise due in part to the thousands of women now opting to have fat sucked out of the ankle, in the hope of correcting shapeless "cankles" – calves that appear to go straight into the foot.

Slimming down the ankle is just one of many procedures that are becoming more popular in the UK, which has seen an average 54 per cent year-on-year increase in the cosmetic surgery market since 2005.

Specialist London clinics such as Cosmetic Foot Surgery UK are seeing a rising demand for procedures correcting bunions, lumps and bumps, bent "hammer toes" and flat feet, with patients admitting to feeling embarrassed revealing their deformed feet to the world.

"Some patients come through with short toes that they would like lengthened, or they want to have their 'toe cascades' [curve at the end of the foot, from the big toe down to the little toe] improved, so that when they wear strappy sandals their toes don't look out of place," said Nigel Mercer, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).

Indeed, this season's shoes are designed to highlight the foot, with peep-toes making a comeback on the catwalks courtesy of Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen. Cold weather doesn't offer its usual respite, with new trend "bandals" – the love child of boots and sandals – revealing more of the foot than traditional winter offerings.

Most procedures are imports from the US, where there is a much bigger market for cosmetic podiatry. "We do whatever patients ask for – toe straightening, toe shortening, toe lengthening," said Oliver Zong, director of surgery at New York clinic NYC Footcare. "A lot of people come in who have wide feet that they want narrowed so that they can wear fashionable shoes. There is no easy way to do this – you have to do both bone and soft tissue procedures. Patients have to be completely off their feet for a week, and they won't be healed for two months."

Patients at Dr Zong's clinic – 99 per cent of whom are women – pay from $1,500 (£750) to have a single toe shortened, to $15,000 (£7,500) to have both feet transformed into picture-perfect tootsies; a lengthy process which could involve narrowing the foot, raising the arch of the foot and straightening out, shortening or lengthening toes. "I get quite a lot of patients from the UK, and we're looking into setting up over there. These procedures are growing in popularity in the UK; vanity isn't something that the US owns," Dr Zong said.

Ironically, many of the women opting for this painful and expensive foot surgery are doing so because they have damaged their feet wearing high heels or shoes with pointed toes. "Lots of operations to make feet look good in high heels are done because of the damage done by high heels in the first place. Bunions can be caused by pushing the foot into a narrow shoe, or toes can also start to 'claw' because of wearing high heels," Mr Mercer said.

Earlier this month a study commissioned by fitness-shoe firm MBT showed that surgery to correct damage done by high heels cost the UK £29m a year, with even celebrities falling prey to such accessory-induced injuries. Victoria Beckham's passion for gravity-defying stilettos has reportedly left her with chronic bunions.

"In the 1980s and early 1990s there was a fashion for wearing flatter shoes. Now that the fashion for really high heels has come back, we are sure to see a rise in incidences of this kind of surgery," Mr Mercer said.

Corrective foot surgery is notoriously painful, and the results are not always permanent: if women wear high heels again after surgery to remove bunions, they can reappear. This is not enough to persuade many women to give up their high-heel habit. "Shoes for a lot of women border on the fetish. It is not sexual, but they are so covetable," said Hannah Teare, fashion editor of Tatler magazine.

"For some women, having beautiful feet is part of that, but for me surgery is definitely too far. It is slightly barbaric to cut your feet up, plus, having an operation means that you won't be able to wear your beautiful shoes for ages."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little