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The Podiatrist Wears Stilettos

Sitting down with Jacqueline Sutera, D.P.M.

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Are feet the first thing you notice about someone?
Yes. Without even realizing it, I basically give biomechanical exams on everyone, which means evaluating the way their skeleton acts in motion.

What problems are most common?
Bunions, hammertoes, and heel pain. It’s very glamorous.

What’s with all the ads for cosmetic foot surgery posted in the subway?
I get four or five cosmetic inquiries a day. People are just very self-conscious about their feet. And here, women have pressure to wear certain types of high heels.

Do you wear heels?
Yes, and I own about 50 pairs. When I travel, instead of buying a magnet or snow globes, I’ll buy shoes.

How do you keep from wrecking your feet, then?
If you wear a four-inch heel today, wear a different heel height tomorrow. Shoes with non–Lady Gaga platforms are good, too. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends two-inch heels or lower, which is a little unrealistic, especially for my ladies in New York. But when you start getting into three- and four- and five-inch heels, the damage begins because of the angle that your feet are forced into.

Ever get pedicures?
Every so often I’ll get one done at Townhouse Spa. They have a filtration system built into their basins, and they’re nice when you bring your own tools. I recommend making a kit from the drugstore and taking it with you; I like Tweezerman stainless-steel tools wiped with an antiseptic. Also, don’t shave your legs: Exfoliating the skin makes it more susceptible to infection. I see this all the time.

Are you ever disgusted by patients’ feet?
Some infections give off a really bad odor. But it’s just the smell that grosses me out, not the appearance.

Are men or women more hesitant to see a podiatrist?
A lot of men wait to come until their wives or girlfriends make them. The women are so appalled that the guys won’t be allowed to shower with them or sleep in the same bed. I’ve been told I’ve saved a lot of marriages.

What makes a beautiful foot?
You want to have an average arch height, and the second toe shorter than the big toe.

How about your own feet?
They’re very pretty.

Do strangers ask you to look at their feet when they find out you’re a podiatrist?
All the time! I’m always on the clock. I was at a barbecue this weekend and had to pull off a little kid’s toenail because it was just hanging by a thread.

Is there a stigma to being a podiatrist?
People think I have a foot fetish, but that’s so not true.

Myth or fact: Arches can fall.
They can. If you gain a lot of weight, for example, feet tend to flatten. It’s not common, but it’s possible.

Myth or fact: Men with big feet also have big …
I wouldn’t really know—that’s not part of my examination! They must have glossed over that part in school. But if I had to guess, I would say there is some truth because a bigger-framed person tends to have bigger everything.

Interview by Melanie Barnes.


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