The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Mutilated, Mushed, and Mangled: The Abused Feet of Supermodels

Posted by on Friday, January 18th, 2013


Supermodels are some of the most beautiful women on the planet. Their faces are impossibly symmetrical. Their limbs are slim, tanned, and flawless. You never see them mussed or un-coiffed. To the regular person, they are almost cartoonish in their smooth perfection. It’s an impossible standard for the rest of us who struggle with blemishes, stretch marks, and self-doubt. Supermodels are like dolls or mannequins—designed for cameras, runways, and celebrity-packed fashion shows. They’re superhuman. But underneath all that glitz and glamor, beneath those frilly gowns, mile-long legs, and flawless spray tans, there’s a dark secret: completely destroyed feet.


Have you ever seen a supermodel barefoot? Chances are, you haven’t, and it’s not because they’re toes are cold. Even on vacation in St. Barts, supermodels are almost always photographed in heels or shape-obscuring sandals.



During lengthy fashion events like Paris Fashion Week, the same models walk the runways day after day, wearing all manner of sky-high heels, from booties to stilettos, and wedges to peep-toe sandals. What makes their runway walks so damaging isn’t just the shoes, however, it’s the way they have to walk in them. Models aren’t allowed to adjust their gaits to accommodate pain. And while gait adjustment can cause its own problems (knee twists, hip alignment problems, and back pain), not adjusting is problematic too. The sore toes, heels, arches or ankles must simply suffer through the pain. As shoes cut, pinch, crush, or otherwise damage delicate bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, the supermodel keeps on walking… and walking… and walking.


This isn’t an industry in which breaks or days off are tolerated. It’s highly competitive: if you don’t perform, you risk losing your job. Even established supermodels face these pressures. Recently Heidi Klum, infamous for her role on Project Runway, shot a television commercial that involved dancing for several hours on broken toes. Rather than lose the spot, she persevered, potentially causing lasting damage in the process.



We’ve explored the dangers of constricting high heels before. To quickly recap: putting all of your weight on the balls of the feet while your calf muscles are shortened and your toes are compressed can cause: sesamoiditis, stress fractures, pump bump, metatarsalgia, shin splints, and weak ankles. Since heels shorten your stride, you may also gain weight (the difference in calories burned can add up to a gain of five pounds a year). This last point is especially bad news for the supermodel.


So what can supermodels do to protect their feet at work? Well, unfortunately, not a whole lot. Designers aren’t fans of adding orthotics to their fancy shoes, models can’t choose what shoes they wear, and the schedule of runway shows isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. But, if models take extra good care of their feet during downtime, they might stave off some injuries.

  • Never, ever wear heels when you aren’t working.
  • Get plenty of exercise in supportive sneakers. The stronger your feet are, the more resistant they’ll be to injury.
  • Give your tootsies plenty of rest and, if you have pain, visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.