Cinderella Surgery

Cinderella Surgery

Stiletto surgery – We step into the so-called 'fairytale of feet'

How far would you go to have smaller, more attractive feet that fit into that ‘to-die-for’ pair of killer heels?

While this is simply a dream for some, there are women who are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve fairytale feet through a procedure that has recently gained immense popularity, known as Cinderella or Stiletto surgery.

This new surgical craze, which was originally known as a bunionectomy due to the fact that the surgery involved the shaving down of bunions, is taking the aesthetics of feet to a whole new level, reshaping them and adjusting the length of the toes to not only eliminate chronic pain and deformities, but also to enable the patient to fit into and walk more easily in high fashion heels.

X-ray of feet in heels

Medically, the procedure is referred to as hallux valgus correction with osteotomy and screw fixation – quite the mouthful, hence the term Cinderella surgery.

Now, we all know that not every woman can easily slip into a pair of high heel glass slippers and prance around a ball with her Prince Charming all night. In fact, the reality is that it can be a struggle for some to just wear open-toed shoes due to the discomfort or embarrassment caused by the appearance of their feet, let alone stilettos made of glass or any of the other trendy textiles available these days.

In addition, many women, aside from not liking the look of their feet, also suffer from chronic conditions such as bunions or toe deformities (don’t worry, we will explain what these are later on) that cause chronic pain.

Cinderella surgery addresses these concerns, with the goal being two-fold, firstly eliminating the sources of chronic pain or deformity and secondly, reshaping the feet for aesthetic appeal, often resulting in smaller, slimmer feet with a reduced shoe size.  These procedures provide support to the foot through the lengthening or shortening of the toes, shaving off bunions or excess bone, removing bumps and lumps and possibly even liposuction to slim the toes or feet.

A foot tuck, otherwise known as a fat pad augmentation can also be done alongside the Cinderella surgery. A foot tuck helps rid the patient of foot pain through injecting fat into the soles of the feet.  

So, if you are wanting to step into a fairytale for your feet because you can’t stand the look of them, or if you experience pain from bunions and are tired of wearing ‘grandma sandals’ or just want to be able to fit into that amazing pair of stiletto heels, then this article is for you. We will take you through what you need to know about the surgery, what can go wrong and whether you’re a viable candidate for it or not.

Woman with sore feet from heels

What is Cinderella surgery?

We have briefly touched on what Cinderella surgery entails, but to give you a little more information on it and to break it down for you in a more simplistic way, we have made a list of the different procedures the surgery can consist of, depending on your specific anatomy and aesthetic desires:

  • Toe-shortening – This involves removing a piece of the bone at the joint of contraction in the toe and then realigning the toe. The surgeon may place a metal pin in the toe to keep it straight for the recovery period. This can decrease one’s shoe size by one or even two sizes. Allowing you to buy that pair of shoes you have had your eye on and not have to lug around in your loafers.
  • Fat-injections – Fat is taken from another part of the body, most likely the back, and is then injected into the soles of the feet. This creates a ‘cushion’ at the base of the feet to make wearing heels more comfortable. Many women have said that after having this done, they could walk in heels for hours with no pain whatsoever.
  • Foot shaving (osteotomy) – Painful bunions are removed through a foot shaving method that involves cutting the joint of the big toe and realigning it or removing it in order to achieve a smoother appearance to the feet. Small screws, wires or plates are often used to keep the bones in place.
  • The Perfect 10! – This procedure is very similar to Cinderella surgery and the two are often used interchangeably, allowing the toes to have a more aesthetic appeal through toe-shortening (mentioned above) and the use of Botox injections into the feet to remove wrinkles and prevent fungal growth. Botox also stops the feet from sweating. The foot is also narrowed in this surgery through shifting the bones closer together.

When undergoing Cinderella surgery, local anaesthesia will be administered. This means you will be awake but will be given an anaesthetic so as to not feel any pain. Many patients say that hearing their bones being broken for toe-shortening or the sound of a saw filing down their bunions can be a very traumatic experience. And let’s be honest, no one really wants to see their feet being operated on... Do they?

Foot surgery

What are some the abnormalities/deformities that Cinderella surgery addresses?

Cinderella surgery is not purely a cosmetic surgery, it can also be effective in addressing actual medical issues in the form of abnormalities and deformities of the feet as follows:


Feet with bunions

Bunions are bone abnormalities of the big toe. A bunion forms when the big toe leans in towards the other toes instead of pointing straight due to prolonged, abnormal motion and pressure on the joint in question. This angle creates the bunion that looks like a bump on the side of the big toe. When bunions first form they are often painless, however pain often starts to develop as the bunions progress.

The pain is caused from the toes crowding together which then results in a deformity and affects the way one walk on their toes.

Bunions are thought to be genetic or the result of wearing uncomfortable shoes for a long period of time. Many women who have worn heels for a number of years due to their career or personal preferences are known to develop bunions. Uncomfortable shoes will also aggravate bunions once they have formed.

Both men and women develop bunions but women tend to develop them far more often than men. Having bunions results in both men and women experiencing difficulties in finding shoes that fit them and do not cause discomfort.

Recovery from a bunionectomy (and when it’s done as part of Cinderella surgery) is roughly eight weeks.

Bunion diagram

Hammer/claw/mallet toes

These are toes that are bent into a strange or odd position. They often look deformed in appearance. These toe issues occur in the smaller toes, whereas bunions occur in the big toes.

The three toe deformities are explained as follows:

  • Hammer toes bend down towards the floor, this bend begins at the middle toe joint. The result is a rise in the middle toe joint. Hammer toes are known to occur with bunions.
  • Claw toes affect the four smaller toes simultaneously. The toes begin to bend up from the joint where the foot and the toes meet and then bend down at the joints near the tips of the toes and at the middle joint. The result looks very similar to that of a claw.
  • Mallet toes bend down at the top joint of the toe. This normally affects the second toe, however, the other small toes may also be affected.

Toe defomaties

If you notice that your toes look odd or if you experience any pain in your toes, then it is best that you speak to your doctor. Some toe deformities can be fixed through physical therapy and do not require surgical treatment.

The cause of these types of toe deformities is often from wearing shoes that are too tight for you. Tight shoes force the toes to stay in place for a long period of time and this causes the muscles to tighten and the tendons to contract or shorten, making it difficult to straighten your toes. Eventually, you may not be able to straighten your toes at all.

These toe issues tend to affect more women than men as women wear tighter, narrower shoes – the high heel kind of course. So, just when you thought beauty couldn’t get any more painful, if you’re looking to undo years of damage or simply make your feet more attractive, then it can, and that’s where Cinderella surgery comes in.

How much does it cost?

Cinderella surgery often comes with a hefty price tag. However, in some cases where women suffer from chronic pain conditions of the feet, private medical insurance will often cover the costs. If you are looking to have the surgery for cosmetic reasons, you are likely to have to start saving, and we mean right now.

Surgery generally ranges upward from £2,000, depending on the complexity of the surgery. A woman in London recently paid £4,500 to have four of her toes shortened to fit into a smaller size shoe and not appear as though she had feet that were too big for her body. Now, if that is the price to just have some toes shortened, then you can only begin to imagine what you are going to pay for the whole nine-yards – bunion shaving and all.

Who performs the surgery and is it safe?

An orthopaedic surgeon or a reconstructive foot surgeon is likely to perform the Cinderella surgery. However, most surgeons will warn that the risks of such a surgery are extremely high as it can be a very invasive procedure. Some women who have had it done, granted they may have chosen surgeons who were more focused on the aesthetic appeal of the feet after surgery as opposed to the actual functionality, have been unable to ever wear heels again due to the joint pain they experienced after surgery.

Some surgeons will only perform the procedure if it is to correct a deformity such as bunions or hammer toes or to relieve chronic pain as many say that undergoing the procedure purely for cosmetic reasons can be an expensive risk too great to take. Another risk in more extreme cases is that of life-threatening blood clots.

The Foot and Ankle Society, which is the regulatory body for procedures such as these, suggests only performing foot surgery in order to correct deformities such as clawed toes or severe bunions or to relieve chronic pain.

Regardless of the reason you elect to have the surgery, it is vital that you choose a surgeon who is accredited and board certified. Speak to other women who may have had it done and do your research before you step foot into a surgeon’s office. The success of this surgery is purely dependent on the surgeon’s skill set.

What is recovery like after surgery?

Depending on the extent of your surgery, what you have had done and who performed it, your feet will likely be bandaged straight after surgery and you will have to wear protective shoes, which, aesthetically, are far from the stilettos you have in mind.

Your recovery will be about four to six weeks, after which some surgeons say you can go back to wearing heels – cue the mandatory jump for joy. However, this is completely dependent on your surgeon and how invasive the surgery was. It is always advised that you speak to your surgeon about your recovery period and what you can do to speed it up.

Who is a viable candidate for Cinderella surgery?

As stated, undergoing such an intensive surgery purely for cosmetic reasons is generally not advised.

However, should you suffer from bunions, hammer toes/clawed toes and/or chronic pain in your feet or other foot deformities – this could be a viable option for you.

It is important to note that Cinderella surgery is a combination of foot surgeries. Cinderella surgery is the term that was coined by women who utilised and viewed the procedure as one that purely for cosmetic reasons. Keep in mind, however, that the surgery has many positive attributes for men and women alike who suffer from chronic foot pain and abnormalities in their feet which hinder their walking and take a toll on their everyday lives.

Women who experienced chronic pain from bunions are often unable to run or even walk comfortably. These women find it hard to wear closed shoes in general, let alone slip into a pair of heels. After undergoing Cinderella surgery, they are able to walk and run again without pain. In cases such as these, the surgery is life changing.

The verdict

Bunions and not being able to fit into certain shoes, as well as certain toe deformities, are a harsh reality for many women. Bunions can eventually wear down and even lead to arthritis. So, not only will the sufferer have chronic pain from the bunions (not to mention odd looking feet), they may also develop another chronic condition because of them. So, let’s just get this straight - women wear heels to look beautiful but in turn, potentially end up with a less attractive body part because of this? Now, how is this fair?

Before we start on a tangent of the conformities of gender, let’s get back to the point. Painful foot conditions can be corrected and eliminated during a Cinderella procedure. This can be a very effective means of treatment for women who suffer from these sorts of ailments. It is often the case where these women will also opt for toe-shortening or other aesthetic means of surgery in order to also improve the overall appearance of their feet.

However, should you ‘just not like the look of your feet’, this may not be a strong enough reason to splurge on foot surgery.

If you can afford it and feel you have a legitimate reason to risk surgery (and yes, there is always a risk no matter how simple the procedure), then it may be something to consider. However, if you are questioning if it will be worth it and currently experience no pain in your feet, then it is best to first speak to your doctor about undergoing the surgery and see whether or not you will considered a viable candidate.

A number of surgeons are implementing cutting-edge techniques in toe-shortening whereby a screw that does not have to be removed is used and can speed up the recovery process by two weeks or more. Nevertheless, you are likely to pay even more for more advanced techniques.

The final verdict is this, Cinderella surgery has the ability to give women the ‘happy feet’ ending they desire in walking away with beautiful, pain-free feet, but it is not a procedure that should be considered without the input of a board certified podiatric or orthopaedic surgeon.

Silver high heels

Disclaimer - is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or illness or act as a substitute for professional medical advice.