September 1, 2022

Should You Use Numbing Spray To Wear Uncomfortable Shoes?

Dulling feeling in your feet could cause problems

Person applying a bandaid to their heel in a shoe

The perfect shoes for tonight’s outfit sit in your closet. There’s only one problem: That fancy footwear means torture for your feet. Those shoes don’t just hurt to wear. They really, really hurt.

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But thanks to the fine folks sharing health hacks on TikTok, you may have heard about a way to ease the agony of uncomfortable shoes such as heals. All it takes is an over-the-counter numbing spray or lotion laced with lidocaine, an anesthetic that can be applied to your skin.

But is it a good idea to temporarily eliminate the feeling in your feet in the name of fashion? Let’s find out from podiatrist Nicole Nicolosi, DPM.

Should you numb your feet before wearing shoes?

Nobody likes pain ­… but it does serve a purpose. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something’s not quite right. Consider it a warning system of sorts.

So, let’s look at the idea of numbing your foot in order to cram on a shoe that doesn’t make your tootsies happy. All you’re really doing in that situation is unplugging your body’s natural alarm system.

“Let’s say your shoe is rubbing wrong and creating a blister,” says Dr. Nicolosi. “Normally, you’d stop what you were doing if you felt it happening. But if you numbed your foot, that signal is off — and you might end up making a small problem worse. It’s not a good idea.”

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And repeatedly numbing your feet to mask the pain from ill-fitting shoes also could open the door to long-term foot issues such as:

What about using numbing spray afterward?

The story changes once your shoes come off. “If you’re sitting around after a long day or night and your feet are really hurting, a topical pain relieving cream or spray can help,” says Dr. Nicolosi.

Is lidocaine safe?

In general, the answer is yes. However, that doesn’t mean you should spread lidocaine around your body as if it’s soap. Avoid using the anesthetic on skin with any open cuts or infections, for instance.

Also, talk to your healthcare provider before using lidocaine if you’re:

  • Dealing with heart problems.
  • Pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  • Breastfeeding (chestfeeding).

Caution also should be taken if you have had an unusual or allergic reaction to lidocaine, other medicines, foods, dyes or preservatives.

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Other ways to treat foot pain

If you’re not a fan of numbing products but want to make your feet feel better, you can also:

  • Soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath. The centuries-old remedy is said to relieve muscle soreness and inflammation.
  • Massage your feet. Some hands-on TLC can reduce stiffness and tension that may be causing your pain. Plus, it’s pretty relaxing.
  • Do some stretching. Point and curl your toes. Rotate your ankles in circles in both directions. Stand up and do some heel-to-toe rocking on your feet. These simple movements can help loosen your feet.
  • Wear compression socks. The gentle squeeze from compression socks can boost circulation and aid the body’s natural healing process.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory drug. Times like these are why you keep that aspirin or ibuprofen in the cabinet.

Help out your feet

There’s a simple way to avoid foot pain from uncomfortable shoes: Buy shoes that fit right and feel good. (Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of shoe shopping.)

“When it comes to shoes, it’s best to focus on comfort and then style,” advises Dr. Nicolosi. “And if that’s not possible — and we know sometimes that’s the reality — make sure it’s the exception rather than the rule.”

To hear more from Dr. Nicolosi on this topic, listen to the Health Essentials Podcast episode, “Talking Foot Health and Shoes.” New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast are available every Wednesday.

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