Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

4 Reasons Your Feet Are Getting Bigger (And How to Stop It)

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You may have noticed that your shoes are feeling a little tighter these days. Or, you may have gone up a shoe size or two in the past few years. You’re not alone. In many cases, your feet do get bigger with time. 

There are a few factors that can contribute to bigger feet. For one, as we age, our feet tend to get bigger and wider. Additionally, pregnancy can cause feet to swell and grow due to the added weight and fluid retention. Obesity can also lead to larger feet, as extra weight puts strain on the feet and causes them to spread out.

In this article, we’ll discuss in detail why your feet are getting bigger and what you can do about it. 

Let’s dive in…

elderly woman stretching

1) Your Feet Get Bigger With Age

There are a few reasons why feet tend to get bigger as we age. One is simply that the fatty tissues in our feet break down and dissipate over time, causing our feet to become thinner and longer. 

Additionally, the ligaments and tendons in our feet become less elastic with age, which can also lead to longer, wider feet. Finally, gravity takes its toll on our feet over the years, causing them to flatten out and spread outwards.

All of these factors combine to create larger feet, which can be a problem if you’re still wearing shoes that fit the size of your feet when you were younger. Not only will your shoes feel tighter and more uncomfortable, but they may also start to cause problems like blisters, calluses, and worsening bunions.

That’s why it’s important to have your feet measured regularly and to buy new shoes when your old ones start to feel too tight.

You should buy your shoes from a local shoe store. The Orthotist at the shoe store will measure your feet using a Brannock device. Once you know your proper shoe size, you can try on a variety of shoes to see which ones feel the most comfortable for you. The Orthotist or your Podiatrist can give your recommendations on which shoes would be good for your foot structure. 

If you wear orthotics, make sure to take them to the shoe store with you so you can try them on in your new shoes.

pregnant woman

2) Pregnancy Can Cause Your Feet to Become Bigger

There are a few reasons why your feet might get bigger during pregnancy. First, the extra weight that you’re carrying around can put additional pressure on your feet, causing them to swell. 

Additionally, the hormone relaxin loosens the ligaments in your body in preparation for childbirth, and this can also lead to your feet getting bigger. 

If you’re concerned about your feet getting too big during pregnancy, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize the swelling.

First, try to stay off your feet as much as possible and keep them elevated on two pillows whenever you are seated. Additionally, wear comfortable shoes with plenty of support.

Finally, wearing compression stockings can be immensely helpful in reducing swelling associated with pregnancy. I recommend starting by wearing the Jobst compression stockings strength 15-20mmHg. You can buy it on Amazon. Wear compression stockings every day during the day. Remove the stockings at night. 

To read more about pregnancy and how it affects your feet, check out this supplemental post: Interesting Reasons Why Your Feet Are Swelling During Pregnancy

feet stepping on weight scale

3) Weight Gain Can Cause Your Feet to Become Bigger

When you gain weight, your body composition changes. You might add muscle, but you’re also likely to add fat. This extra fat doesn’t just sit under your skin; it also accumulates around your organs, including your feet. This can lead to changes in the shape and size of your feet over time. 

In addition, the increased weight puts more pressure on your feet, causing them to expand. This can cause problems like bunions, heel pain, and plantar fasciitis. If you already have these problems, they may get worse with weight gain. And if you don’t have any foot problems now, you may be more likely to develop them as you gain weight.

A study done by S. Mueller in PLOS One Journal studied children ages 1-12 and the effects of obesity on the foot. They concluded that obese children had higher overall load placed on the midfoot region and the arch (1). Extra load on the foot in certain areas of the foot can result in foot pain. 

If you are obese, it’s important to speak to your doctor about a healthy diet plan you can implement into your lifestyle. You should also consider wearing orthotics to help rebalance the foot and decrease pressure in the feet.

Custom orthotics can be obtained at your foot doctor’s office. Custom orthotics can be pricey ($300-$600) if they are not covered by your insurance, however, they can last up to 5-10 years. 

If you cannot obtain custom orthotics, over-the-counter inserts can still be helpful. I recommend Powerstep orthotics. They have firm support, can fit many shoes and last 6 months to 1 year. You can find them on Amazon. 

  • For mild to moderate flat feet: I recommend the Powerstep Protech inserts. They have a supportive arch with a deep heel cup that helps with stabilization. 
  • For severe flat feet: I recommend Powerstep Maxx orthotics. They have the same features as the Powerstep orthotics but with an added external wedge to help prevent overpronation. 
  • For high-arched feet: I recommend the Powerstep Pinnacle High Arch inserts. They contour high-arched feet well.
feet with bunions

4) Foot Deformities Can Make Your Feet Bigger Over Time

A bunion is a deformity at the first metatarsal head. When a bunion becomes enlarged, it causes the big toe to point towards the second toe. Bunions can make walking painful and difficult. Bunions are genetic, however, wearing ill-fitted shoes can cause bunions to worsen. 

Generally, bunions do get worse over time and cause your feet to widen. Most bunions can be treated without surgery.

Treatment options include wearing wider shoes and using bunion pads or orthotic devices to help reduce pain and pressure at the bunion site.

If these conservative treatments don’t work, surgery may be necessary to remove the bunion or realign the bones in your foot. 

Flat feet can make your foot longer. Your feet do get flatter with age. When the arch collapses, this results in a longer foot. Flat feet can also cause problems with balance and stability, which can lead to falls and injuries. If you have flat feet, it’s important to obtain orthotics to help elevate the arch and rebalance the foot. 

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References

  1. Mueller S, Carlsohn A, Mueller J, Baur H, Mayer F. Influence of Obesity on Foot Loading Characteristics in Gait for Children Aged 1 to 12 Years. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 25;11(2):e0149924.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4767217/
  2. González-Elena ML, Fernández-Espejo E, Castro-Méndez A, Guerra-Martín MD, Córdoba-Fernández A. A Cross-Sectional Study of Foot Growth and Its Correlation with Anthropometric Parameters in a Representative Cohort of Schoolchildren from Southern Spain. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 12;18(8):4031. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8068955/
  3. Jurca, A., Žabkar, J. & Džeroski, S. Analysis of 1.2 million foot scans from North America, Europe and Asia. Sci Rep 9, 19155 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-55432-zhttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-55432-z#citeas
  4. Bertani M, Soares D, Rocha E, Machado L. Foot Arch Differences in Elderly People at Standing: Considering Gender and Age. Heighpubs J Nov Physiother Rehabil. 2017; 1: 034-038.https://www.heighpubs.org/jnpr/jnpr-aid1005.php
  5. Segal NA, Boyer ER, Teran-Yengle P, Glass NA, Hillstrom HJ, Yack HJ. Pregnancy leads to lasting changes in foot structure. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Mar;92(3):232-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596423/

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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