Thursday 16 August 2018

Dear Dr Nina: My teenage daughter is embarrassed by her toes. Can anything help?

Now that it's summer, she won't wear sandals. Photo: Deposit photos
Now that it's summer, she won't wear sandals. Photo: Deposit photos

Nina Byrnes

Q. My teenage daughter is embarrassed by her toes, which point upwards. They've been like this since she was little. Now it's summer she won't wear sandals. Can anything help?

Dr Nina's reply: It is difficult to ascertain exactly what the issue is without having actually seen your daughter's feet. A high arch or "cavus foot" can sometimes lead to the appearance of toes pointing upwards. This isn't an actual problem with the foot, just simply the shape of it. I think a good place to start with your daughter would be a podiatrist who can fully examine the foot and explain any structural issues. Simple stretching exercises and treatment may help loosen any tight ligaments and tendons. Occasionally, insoles can help support the foot, helping with discomfort that may arise.

If there is a question that the shape and structure of the foot are causing problems getting appropriate footwear then an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in foot and ankle issues can advise you as to whether any intervention may help.

Shoes with a narrow toe push the toes together and over time can damage the structure of the toes. High-heeled shoes push a lot of weight and strain onto the ball of the foot and are a major cause of foot change. Obesity, poor posture or balance can alter the body's centre of gravity leading to pressure through the feet.

High intensity exercise that involves jumping or running also puts a strain on the structures of the foot. It's important to wear appropriate footwear to avoid further problems and protect your daughter's adult feet.

If the shape of your daughter's toes is causing her undue concern, it is also very important to assess the source of this. Many teenage girls can become fixated on a certain part of their body when underlying issues such as poor self-esteem or anxiety are at play. It would be equally important to address any psychological distress.

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