Medieval fashion for pointy shoes linked to rise in bunions

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From waist-squeezing corsets to crinoline skirts, fashion has rarely been about comfort – or safety. Now researchers have revealed that even in medieval times, men and women could become martyrs to fashion, linking a trend in pointy shoes to a rise in the prevalence of bunions.

Bunions – or hallux valgus– are bulges that appear on the side of the foot as the big toe leans in towards the other toes and the first metatarsal bone points outwards. Studies suggest factors such as genetics probably predispose some people to the condition, but it is thought high heels and pointy shoes may exacerbate the problem or speed up its development.

New research reveals that medieval fashionistas may have discovered this the hard way. “We were quite fortunate that we happened to be studying a time period where there was a clear change in shoe fashion somewhere in the middle of our sample,” said Dr Piers Mitchell, of the University of Cambridge, a co-author of the study. “People really did wear ridiculously long, pointy shoes, just like they did in Blackadder.”

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