Nine out of 10 American women wear shoes too small for their feet - and 80 percent of them pay for their vanity with pain, bunions, corns and other problems, experts say.

"In general, women are wearing an 8B when they should be wearing 8C," said a member of the Women's Footwear Committee of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society."Shoes have long been identified as the main cause of foot problems in women," added Dr. Carol Frey, chief of foot and ankle surgery at the University of Southern California, whose committee measured the shoes and feet of 356 women aged 20 to 60.

"But often the blame has been placed on high heels, not the width of the shoe."

In her study group of women, 72 percent found their work shoes comfortable. Nineteen percent of them wore sneakers, 27 percent high heels and 54 percent flats.

The other 28 percent said their work shoes hurt. Four percent of them wore sneakers, 62 percent heels and 34 percent flats. "Clearly, high heels were implicated as a culprit in foot pain but not the only cause of problems," said Frey.

Frey's committee had some suggestions for women with aching feet.

-Try on your shoes standing up and at the end of the day, because feet swell slightly by that time.

-Pick a shoe with a rounded rather than pointed front.

-Be sure your toes can stretch out.

-Choose soft shoe materials like suede and glove leather.