(CNN) -- Despite sprains, foot pains and blisters, towering footwear has legions of loyal female fans.
Among them are pop stars who dance intricate choreography wearing colossal shoes. Lady Gaga wore a pair of staggering 12-inch Alexander McQueen heels in her music video "Bad Romance." The theatrical shoes she wore were unveiled by the late British designer McQueen last fall, prompting some models to decline to walk the runway for him.
"We have entered a moment of heightened impracticality in footwear," said Elizabeth Semmelhack, author of "Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe." Heels tend to get higher during economic recessions, she added.
During the Great Depression in 1930s, the oil crisis in the 1970s, and the dotcom bust heels went higher. Although she's not sure why, Semmelhack said, "it could also be sort of a greater need for escapism."
While high heels elongate legs and make women feel skinnier and taller, they also mean ankle injuries, hammertoes and pain, podiatrists warn.
Doctors know their patients will wear the torturous footwear anyway.
"It's partly why we have a job," said Dr. Martin Alongi, a podiatrist at Beverly Hills Podiatrist in California.
"I just figure women in their 20s are going to do it. If they take care of their feet all the other time, most people can get away with it. There's going to be an occasional person who injures themselves."
There are way to lower the pain quotient on fashion.
Being fashionable doesn't mean wearing the highest heels, said Hal Rubenstein, InStyle Magazine's fashion director. Women have a lot of options this season with platforms, wedges, solid heels and jeweled sandals.