Happy Feet: Plastic Surgery for Best Foot Forward

Foot Plastic Surgery Is All the Rage, but Is It Safe?

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 20, 2012 (New York City) -- Are toes really the new nose?

Media reports of an uptick in toe and foot plastic surgery suggest that there is nothing that we won't do to put our best feet forward (and of course, sport sexy, strappy, and often pricey shoes). This includes getting our toes shortened, liposuctioned, or removed altogether.

Liposuction may help slim toes so they fit in pointy stiletto toe boxes, and some women opt to shorten a toe or remove one altogether so that they are less snug in the toe box.

Others still are signing up for laser treatments to zap away foot fungus and/or permanently remove hair on their toes and feet. There is also a surge in what are being called "Loub jobs," a plastic surgery procedure that allows women to wear their pricey Christian Louboutin shoes without pain.

"Foot beautification is definitely a trend," says Wendy Lewis. She is a New York City-based beauty consultant and author of several books, including Plastic Makes Perfect. "Many of these foot concerns are directly related to the shoes we wear."

Not everyone is on board. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society is against cosmetic foot surgery of any kind. According to the group, foot complications, including permanent nerve damage, infection, bleeding, scarring, and chronic pain when walking, may occur. According to this group, "Cosmetic foot surgery should not be considered in any circumstances."

Feet Don't Fail Me Now!

Cheryl Burgess, MD, is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her foray into the world of foot plastic surgery involved treating people with HIV. These individuals tend to lose fat in their faces and other parts of their body due to the cocktail of medications they must take.

Word got out, and soon Burgess was injecting fat or other fillers such as Sculptra into the feet of women who wanted to wear Christian Louboutin shoes.This treatment has been dubbed a "Loub job."

According to Burgess, another popular foot fix is Botox injections to treat hammer toes. With hammertoes, there is a bend in the middle joint. She also uses Botox to curb excessive and often smelly sweating of the feet. It is already approved to treat excessive underarm sweating.

Many doctors are also offering lasers to eradicate toe nail fungus (onychomycosis) in one session. "This could be a game changer, but you have to keep in mind that the damaged part of the nail needs time to grow out," she says. "This doesn't happen overnight and can take 9-12 months."

Lewis and Burgess spoke to WebMD at a media briefing held at the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery / Anti-Aging Medicine: The Next Generation Symposium in New York City.

Fancy Feet

"You should treat your feet like you do your face," says New York City-based podiatrist Suzanne Levine, DPM. "You would never think of not washing your face or brushing your teeth before bed, but does anyone really pumice their feet?"

The things that people do to care for their feet may actually do more harm than good. "Many people think they are taking care of their feet by going for a pedicure and submerging their feet in water that no one should ever submerge their feet in," she says.

The result? Fungal infections.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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SOURCES: Wendy Lewis, New York City-based beauty consultant; author, Plastic Makes Perfect: The Complete Cosmetic Beauty Guide, Orion Publishing, 2008. Cheryl Burgess, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, Georgetown University and George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Suzanne Levine, DPM, New York City-based podiatrist. News release, The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. The Aesthetic Plastic Surgery / Anti-Aging Medicine: The Next Generation Symposium, New York City, July 20-22, 2012.

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