Is Cosmetic Foot Surgery Safe? Or Are You Starting Off on the Wrong Foot?

Though it may be in vogue in some circles, podiatry professionals frown on the idea of surgery for the sole purpose of changing the appearance of your feet or fitting into specific shoes.

Some patients ask their doctors to correct the superficial appearance of an otherwise healthy and functional foot; using cosmetic surgery on the feet so they can slip into the latest fashionable shoes (usually high heels).

Some call this “the Cinderella surgery” — after the more traditional version of Cinderella where the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to better fit the glass slipper. However, reputable surgeons recognize that this approach is expensive and potentially dangerous.

Yet a handful of cosmetic foot surgeons across the country still claim foot or toe plastic surgery is no different than revising the nose or breasts.

Cosmetic Foot Surgery

What is cosmetic surgery for the feet?

As the name implies, cosmetic foot surgery adjusts the appearance of the feet. Corrective cosmetic foot surgery, however, does more than just make the feet look nicer. Corrective surgery can improve both the form and function of the feet, often correcting foot deformities.

Our foot doctors do not recommend undergoing surgical treatment for purely cosmetic reasons. Cosmetic foot surgeries may include:

  • toe shortening or lengthening
  • slimming toes
  • correcting toe deformities or alignment
  • improving the fat pad (for comfort in high heels)
  • big toe alignment

Another prime example is avoidable brachymetatarsia surgery for cosmetic reasons only. Brachymetatarsia is a condition where one or more of the metatarsal (toe) bones is significantly shorter than the others. This is a rare condition that is usually present from birth.

But brachymetatarsia is often corrected for patients when there is no pain nor any mechanical problems in the patient’s daily activities. They have surgery just for aesthetic reasons. At Univeristy Foot and Ankle Institute (UFAI), we advise patients that the difference will be minor and not worth the risk of surgery.

We, as a practice, always remind our patients that surgery is not something to be taken lightly. As with any surgery, there are risks; many surgeons do not stress this enough.

What is corrective foot surgery?

As previously mentioned, foot surgery can sometimes be cosmetic while also resolving foot problems. Bunion correction and hammertoe surgery are some of the most common foot surgeries. But surgical intervention can also treat troublesome corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, and neuromas.

What professional orthopedic organizations are saying

The American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) is outspoken regarding cosmetic foot surgery.

“Foot and ankle surgery can have many benefits, including relieving pain and improving the way you walk, but when the goal is solely to change how your feet look, the risks of surgery outweigh the advantages.”

The American Podiatric Medical Association echoes the AOFAS’s sentiment: “Surgical procedures of the foot and ankle are generally performed to relieve pain, restore function, and reconstruct deformities. They may have the additional benefit of improved appearance. Surgical procedures performed solely for aesthetic purposes carry the same risks as those performed for medical reasons.”

What’s the difference between cosmetic foot surgery and traditional plastic surgery?

Unlike plastic surgery on the face or body, plastic surgery on the feet changes the function, not just the form. Our feet bear all our weight for our entire life.

The foot is a complex organization of numerous bones, ligaments, and tendons designed for weight-bearing during walking and exercise. When this mechanism is disrupted, the patient’s ability to walk comfortably may be damaged — even with a minor procedure.

This means that a seemingly minor, 20-minute procedure to improve your foot’s appearance may cause considerable pain or loss of function for the rest of your life.

Cosmetic foot surgery is not the only option

If you want to improve the appearance of your feet without elective surgery, there are plenty of nonsurgical options.

  • Abandon high heels and tight-fitting shoes (it might sound crazy, but it works).
  • Physical therapy can often reduce swelling and pain and increase the foot’s motion.
  • Our doctors can prescribe orthotics (inserts worn in the shoes) to assist with mechanical defects and help redistribute your weight across your feet.
  • Highly focused cortisone injections can resolve some foot problems. These are highly effective in healing conditions such as Achilles tendonitis, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, and heel and midfoot pain.

Elective cosmetic surgery should only be considered after conservative measures have been exhausted. For example, a painful condition, such as bunion surgery, should only be considered if the patient is in considerable pain. The exception is if the bunion itself is not painful but still causes discomfort in the second toe or the ball of the foot.

Final words from UFAI

There’s a vital difference between elective and necessary surgery. Your face does not have to support your entire body weight. Your feet do. This makes them a critical component in almost everything you do daily.  So even a minor negative surgical outcome can result in much pain and consistent difficulty throughout life.

Why trust UFAI with your feet?

Our DPMs are sought after to participate in leading-edge research throughout North America and Europe. This experience, combined with UFAI’s personalized approach to foot care and the newest surgical techniques, helps you and your doctor select your best treatment plan. 

We take great pride in furthering the quality of foot and ankle care for everyone. Our doctors have trained more Southern California podiatrists on the latest procedures and modalities than anyone else. Our foot and ankle surgeons have also lectured in almost every state in the country and worldwide.

We’ve published hundreds of articles and case studies in scientific and surgical journals. We also regularly lecture worldwide on the latest techniques. As a teaching institution, other doctors periodically visit our offices or enroll in our fellowship program to learn from our experts. 

Our locations throughout Los Angeles are affiliated with Southern California’s most modern surgical centers. Health care is a team effort, and having a direct partnership with a surgery center puts us in a position to ensure you get the best care.

Above all, our top priority is to get our patients back to their normal activities with the highest level of function in the least amount of time, using the least invasive treatments possible.

For a consultation please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our podiatrists and foot and ankle surgeons are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, the San Fernando Valley, Manhattan Beach, the South Bay, LAX, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Santa Barbara.

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