High heels
Wearing high heels can cause painful foot conditionReuters

High heels have been blamed for the rise in women suffering from a condition that causes agonising foot pain.

The number of people suffering from Morton's neuroma has more than doubled in the past 10 years, with four times as many women as men being admitted into hospital last year, according to the Times.

The condition – which has been compared to "walking on razor blades" – occurs when the nerve becomes squeezed in the gap between the bones, causing severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes, according to the NHS website.

The exact cause of the irritation was unknown, but research presented to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh shows the link between wearing high-heeled shoes over 5cm and the condition.

Andrew Craig, an orthopaedic research fellow at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who presented research into treatment for the condition.

He said: "We have known for a long time that the condition seems to predominantly affect females of a middling age, with speculation that high heels and other such tightly fitting and unnatural footwear – despite looking fabulous, I'm sure – may play a role.

"Increasing awareness of Morton's neuroma can only be a good thing, not least because numbness in the foot could be a sign of other, potentially life-altering conditions, such as diabetes."

Treatment involves reducing the pressure on the metatarsal heads by using a padded insert in the shoes, such as a metatarsal pad or bar, which relieves the pressure so that the bruised and inflamed tissues get a chance to heal.

Persistent conditions usually require surgery which involves decompressing the nerve by cutting between the affected toes and removing the nerve, leaving the patient without feeling in that area.

Craig's research looked at how effective treatments for the condition worked, including using insoles and steroid injections, finding that 55% of patients required surgery.