She is often called to film sets and hotel rooms to administer her injections. “I can’t tell you who I’ve treated, but I can tell you women I admire,” she said coyly. “Liz Smith is one, Cindy Adams, Barbara Walters. I’m not saying I’ve treated them. I’m just saying I admire them and maybe I have seen their feet.”
Dr. Levine’s services have become increasingly popular as fashionable footwear has grown as much as 6 or 8 inches from the ground. One can only imagine the injuries to be suffered from this season’s designated It shoe, the YSL cage bootie, which looks more like an S&M device than a walking apparatus. Or the damage that might be done by Nina Ricci’s heel-less, gravity-defying platform boot. Or Burberry’s sling-back, peep-toe, lace-up Oxfords.
“This season it’s just outrageous,” said Dr. Levine, who owns about 300 pairs of designer shoes and is organizing a mini-museum of shoes from different eras in history at the institute. Currently, some 30 pairs are on display. “The average person cannot walk in them—they’re limousine shoes,” she said. “I myself have a pair that I can only wear for about three seconds. … When you’re at a restaurant and you’re going to the ladies room, you need someone to escort you because it is super-dangerous to walk up and down stairs alone.”
Critics might argue that Dr. Levine’s apparent advocacy of treacherous heel heights is medically irresponsible. “The key is moderation,” she argued. “You can wear heels but not to the extremes of 6 inches. If you are going to wear them, keep in mind that they’re not shoes to walk around in.”
A young nurse wandered in.
“She’s allergic to codeine, what should I give her?” she asked, referring to a patient in one of the operating rooms recovering from a hammertoe procedure.
“Give her some Vicodin,” the podiatrist replied, before reconsidering. “Actually, do Darvocet. Always Darvocet when they’re allergic, O.K.?”
A different patient, 64-year-old hairstylist Raven Dolling, who had come in for the toe-shortening procedure and a bunionectomy, ducked her head in on her way out. “She’s the best!” she said, seemingly still a little woozy on pain meds, before waving her frail hand and making her way to the reception area.
“She wants to look young and what better way to do than to keep her heels on,” explained Dr. Levine when Ms. Dolling was out of sight. “So I made the foot look aesthetically pleasing so she can wear Louboutins, which are her favorite.”
On the way out, Ms. Dolling bought one of Dr. Levine’s self-designed kitschy surgical boots, decorated in zebra print and Pocahontas-type fringe, or Swarovski crystals.
“People stopped me on the street and asked me where I got them! Aren’t they just fabulous?” said Dr. Levine, who test-drove one when she sprained her ankle. “I’m showing it to André [Leon Talley] tonight because I’d love for Vogue to have it. I guess I do things that are out of the box. Most people would think I’m a total lunatic, but who cares.”
Lunatic or not, Dr. Levine’s following has recently earned her an invitation from a relative of the royal family in Dubai to extend her practice to the booming city, where most of the social set seems to be partying these days, but she said she’s too busy on Park Avenue to think about new locations just yet.
“Surprisingly, we’re fine,” she said, referring to the gloomy financial mood that has washed over the Upper East Side. “People are walking more for health reasons, to not spend money on gyms and to cut down on taxis. They still need their feet!”
Dr. Levine does have her limits. She marveled at some of the masochistic requests of some clients, who “come in and say, ‘My foot is too wide, can you make it narrow and chop the bones?’ Or, ‘I want my foot to be dainty, I want it to go from a size eight and a half to a six.’”
And she refuses to do liposuction on the toes, which some patients have requested lately.
Said Dr. Levine: “I tell them they have to see a psychiatrist.”