It's a new discovery that might leave stiletto fans feeling a little flat - sky-high heels could be to blame for flat feet.
Scientists claim that high heels are the reason women are more likely to develop the agonising condition than men, and say their risk is increased further if they spend a lot of time standing up.
But resigning to a lifetime of sensible footwear, the researchers also say they're close to finding a cure.
The scientists, from the University of East Anglia, believe flat feet come about when tendons are weakened by proteins that occur naturally in the body. This causes the arch of the foot to fall, leading to excruciating pain and difficulties walking. They say their discovery could lead to the development of new drugs to combat these proteins and stop them weakening the tendons. The condition is more common in women over 40, but it also runs in families and many sufferers are born with it.
Graham Riley, who carried out the study, said high heels don't properly support the feet, causing the tendons to weaken. He also warns that women who wear heels are particularly at risk if they spend a lot of time standing up.
High heels alter posture and increase pressure on the ball of the foot. Repeated wear is already known to strain the hips, knees and thighs, as well as increasing the risk of conditions like osteoarthritis, hammer toe, back problems, bunions and corns.
At the moment, flat feet can be treated by wearing insoles or supportive devices inside the shoe. In some cases, patients have surgery to reshape their feet.
Despite the recent breakthrough, scientists say it will be at least a decade before drugs for the condition are available. But they claim that in future, treatments could be developed for other common conditions of the feet such as Achilles tendonitis, which causes heel pain.
- DAILY MAIL