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Building a Better Shoe
Doctors and Designers Aim to Save Women's Feet, With Style

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Aug. 26, 2001 -- For many women, the simple act of walking is an argument between what's sensible and what's stylish. Studies show that 88 percent of American women cram their feet into shoes that are too small, too narrow, too pointy, too tight, with heels too high.

Lisa Simeone tries on a pair of Taryn Rose shoes
Lisa Simeone tries on a pair of low-rise heels at Taryn Rose's boutique in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Photo: Weekend All Things Considered

It's no accident, then, that women suffer painful foot conditions like bunions, hammertoes and neuromas much more than men. In fact, more than 90 percent of foot surgeries in America are performed on women.

Dr. Christine Dyal, an orthopedic surgeon with the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, is trying to get the message out to women: Take care of your feet by wearing sensible shoes.

"People are very emotional about shoes and shoe sizes," Dyal told NPR's Lisa Simeone, the host of Weekend All Things Considered. "They're as defensive about their shoe size as they are about their suit size or their dress size."

"People are very emotional about shoes and shoe sizes."

Dr. Christine Dyal, an orthopedic surgeon with the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society

Web Extra Audio:

 Dyal says shoe manufacturers are making a better effort to design shoes that look and feel good.

 Dyal explains how our feet change with age.

One woman has seen first-hand the damage done to women's feet in the name of fashion, and decided to do something about it. Taryn Rose created her own line of shoes that try to resolve the argument between sensible and stylish. Colorful, pretty and very feminine, the shoes on display at Rose's Beverly Hills boutique are also anatomically correct.

Rose came to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee when she was 8, and decided to follow her father's footsteps and become a doctor, specializing in orthopedic surgery.

Years later, she forged a new career, creating shoes that women like but wouldn't injure their feet.

Rose told Simeone that the decision to start a business designing and selling shoes came from her own personal experience.

Rose and Simeone discuss shoes
Taryn Rose explains the finer points of her anatomically correct shoes to NPR's Lisa Simeone
Photo: Weekend All Things Considered

"I wanted shoes that were fashionable, and comfortable enough to wear 14 hours a day during my job as a surgeon," she said.

Rose teamed up with a shoe designer in Italy, aiming to find a balance between comfort and style. Most of her shoes are flat or have only a slight rise, and most of her heels are only one inch high.

Dr. Dyal advises women to measure their feet the next time they go to buy shoes, walk around in the shoe before purchasing, and most importantly, listen to your feet.

"The truth is, you can wear shoes and be completely pain-free - and that should be the goal," Dyal said.

Other Resources:

Taryn Rose shoe boutique Web site

Foot fitness quiz from Dr. Foot

American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society Web site

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Web site