A New York podiatrist is tackling cosmetic surgery by slimming down fat toes.
Dr. Oliver Zong, the surgical director at NYC FootCare has spent the past decade specializing in cases that he coins “toe-besity.”
“When people first started asking, I said ‘What?’” said Zong. “We were mostly doing toe shortenings in the beginning.”
Zong said that more and more people have the desire to change the details of their feet. Patients like E.R. find it embarrassing to have a strange-looking toe.
“I always had issues with it,” said E.R., who chose to stay anonymous. “It was one of those things that you’re not just comfortable with and try to hide it.”
E.R. said the toe also caused him some pain.
“The bone was pushing the nail up, and the nail curved up a little bit, so it was hitting the shoe,” he said.
In addition to having some fat and bone shaved down on the toe, Dr. Zong also fixed E.R.’s second toe which was a hammertoe.
“I already see improvement, and I feel so much more confident now,” E.R. said.
Many insurance companies consider this type of surgery as elective and will not cover the costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the details of the procedure.
Other podiatrists find cosmetic foot surgery to be a waste of time and risk.
“I don’t think it’s ethical unless you’re having pain,” said Dr. Hillary Brenner, a podiatric surgeon in New York and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
“You’re undergoing risks—there’s the risk of anesthesia, infection, deformity of the toe if the surgery is not done right, a risk of reoccurrence and the risk of surgery in general, “ Brenner said. “It’s trauma to the foot.”
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that most surgical procedures are performed for medical reasons, not cosmetic.
“Surgical procedures of the foot and ankle are generally performed for relief of pain, restoration of function, and reconstruction of deformities. They may have the additional benefit of improved appearance," the association said in a statement.
Brenner admitted that she’s received requests from female patients about having their pinky toes removed to fit into smaller shoes. But, she always turns them down.
“Why fix something that’s not broken?” she said.
Dr. Zong, on the other hand, does not see the harm in providing procedures as long as they are safe and a there is a problem to fix.
“I think it's the same as if you would ask for any kind of cosmetic surgery," he said. "They're very embarrassed by the situation and afterward, they gain self-esteem and feel more confident. Some people have said they're so embarrassed that their boyfriends have never seen their feet."
E.R. is pleased with his procedure and is looking forward to wearing summer footwear in confidence.
“My goal is to wear flip-flops,” E.R. said.