Little did I know that squishing my semi-rectangular foot into pointed-toed shoes in the '50s and '60s would eventually produce problems and pain.

My quest was to become Cinderella and find my Prince Charming, not develop bunions and hammer toes.

Back then I had a favorite pair of black Capezio's that tied on with a thin ankle strap. To be honest, they resembled graceful witch's shoes, but they made my calves look great in those newly popular short skirts.

Luckily for my feet, I found my gallant knight and eventually put away those pretty but painful shoes to stay home and stomp about in clogs and sneakers. But it was not soon enough to avoid a corn or two and an introduction to Dr. Scholl's.

We dismiss as barbaric the Chinese practice of binding young girls' feet, leaving them to mince about the rest of their lives. Currently, in the name of fashion, women are volunteering for similar torture. There are reports that some are having surgeons cut off parts of their feet so they can wear 6-inch stiletto heels and drastically pointed shoes. There are 26 bones in each foot that are responsible for carrying whatever weight we put on them.

Foot-care specialists see a disturbing and dangerous trend as women choose cosmetic or reconstructive foot surgery to fit into trendy or fashionable high-heeled shoes.

Operations to shorten toes, collagen injections into the balls of the feet to restore padding lost from years of wearing high heels and "toe cleavage" are some of the procedures being requested by the fashion conscious.

Such vanity is inviting complications — nerve damage, prolonged swelling of toes, infection and chronic pain.

Women as a rule wear shoes that are the most attractive, not the ones that will be kindest to our feet. Narrow toes and high heels often make women's dress shoes uncomfortable.

The rub (pun intended) is a woman's foot looks daintier than it really is with the narrow toe. The higher heel thrusts the body forward and shortens the gait; higher heels also make legs look longer.

Any podiatrist will tell us damage doesn't come from only the height of shoes but often from wearing too narrow of shoes. The rule is if the shoe is uncomfortable when you try it on don't buy it. But most women own a shoe stretcher and exist in a "dream shoe world."

Fortunately, the flats of today are well-designed. The real problems begin when we slog around in flip-flops with no visible means of support or get into heels. Being foolish about such shoes an contribute to knee, pelvic, back, shoulder and even jaw problems.

Independent-thinking women of today have created quite a paradox. In order to be fashionable we have become bag ladies, walking as far as possible in sneakers while carrying our precious cargo to be put on at the last minute, or being dropped off at a destination by the men in our lives to save our feet. We need pampering because of our choices in footwear. How independent is that?

I swore after my earlier acquaintance with uncomfortable shoes in the '50s and '60s that I would never purchase another pair — and this was before heels soared to 6 inches — but I still give in sometimes and come home with sore feet.

Maybe you are smarter than me, but I have a bunch of random shoes in my closet collecting dust that don't fit quite right, yet they are just too nice to give away.

Recently I spent some time wandering through a department store shoe area. The colors and styles were eye-catching, delicious looking and all jazzed up. Many were beautiful and highly irresistible.

Considering women's love affair with shoes, and the temptations now available, even though we know better and our feet are killing us, it is anybody's guess what we will yet sacrifice to attend the ball.

E-mail: [email protected]