Jeremy Laurance: Hammer toes and bunions

The surgery

Totttering round on your toes all day, feet crammed into a narrow box... studies show that a three-inch heel increases pressure on the forefoot by 76 per cent.

Then there are the medical consequences: hammer toes, Morton's neuroma (pain and numbness from tissue thickening around nerves between the third and fourth toes), bunions (bony growth) and Haglund's deformity (bony enlargement on the heel caused by overtight strap or rigid back).

The wise woman ensures her shoes are well-fitting; does not subject her feet to heels every day; and takes comfort from studies which have failed to conclusively link heels with arthritis and back pain.