Your parents knew your feet would grow as you got taller, which is why they took you back to the shoe store year after year for new shoes, sandals, or sneakers. Once you reached your teens, though, you figured your feet had found their shape and you were locked into a size for life. But now your favorite shoes don’t fit, and — when you find a shoe store that still measures feet — you realize “your” size doesn’t match your feet anymore.
Why are your feet bigger, and what can you do about it? Dr. Gary M. Kazmer, a top-rated Chicago area podiatrist, shares some of the most common reasons your feet change size, and how you can adjust to keep your tootsies comfy.
When you were pregnant, you may have noticed that your feet swelled and thus switched to wider and more comfortable shoes to accommodate the change. But even after delivering your baby, your feet can remain bigger.
Gaining the 25-35 extra pounds during pregnancy as recommended by the American College of Gynecology puts a lot of extra weight on your feet. Over several months, that can flatten your arches. Your body also releases a hormone called relaxin that relaxes the ligaments all over your body — including those in your feet.
With less support overall from your ligaments, your feet can flatten and lengthen. Losing weight after pregnancy won’t undo the changes, either. The best solution? New shoes that fit and custom orthotics to support your arches.
Ironically, beautiful shoes can create ugly feet. One of the most common results of wearing shoes that have a tight or narrow toe box are unsightly, bulging bunions.
A bunion a deformation of the lower big-toe joint that occurs when the big toe is squeezed too tightly against your other toes. The joint is thrown out of alignment and bulges outward. Bunions are your feet’s way of telling you that your shoes are too tight.
Your bunions may resolve on their own if you listen to your feet and start wearing shoes with sufficient toe room (that means a wider toe box). Dr. Kazmer also recommends custom orthotics to support your toe in proper alignment, stretching exercises, and special splints when necessary. Bunions that don’t respond to conservative measures may need surgery.
Pregnancy isn’t the only weight change that may cause you to head online or to the mall for new shoes. If you gain a significant amount of weight, your feet can flatten just as they do during a pregnancy.
Losing weight can cause you to drop a shoe size or two in length or width, too. That’s another bonus to getting fit.
Even if you maintain a stable weight and have always worn sensible shoes, your feet may still swell in size over time. Just the pressure of taking up to 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day can gradually flatten your feet.
It’s not just gravity and weight exerting themselves on your feet. As you age, your ligaments and tendons lose their strength and don’t support your arches or foot bones as well.
Adding in other age-related conditions, such as arthritis or gout — a type of arthritis that affects your feet — and your feet may swell and grow significantly. Your feet also lose protective fat pads on the soles, which may make them less able to absorb shocks.
Solutions for aging feet include custom orthotics, new shoes, massage, and physical therapy. If you have underlying conditions that contribute to your foot-size change, Dr. Kazmer refers you to a specialist.
To avoid complications such as hammer toes, bunions, fallen arches, and plantar fasciitis, it’s important to listen to the messages your feet send you. If your shoes are tight, or if your feet start to hurt, don’t soldier through the pain. Find shoes that fit and, if need be, get custom orthotics to compensate for foot-size changes that cause you discomfort.
Regular trips to the podiatrist assure that your feet are healthy, comfortable, and able to support your weight. Dr. Kazmer also checks your feet for signs of health conditions such as diabetes and circulatory disorders. When your feet are telling you it’s time for a change, contact Kazmer Foot & Ankle Centers.