Q&A: Why can’t I fit into my shoes?

Pregnancy stopping you fitting into your favourite pair of shoes? You may need to prepare for a whole new shoe wardrobe.

I used to wear size 8 shoes before I fell pregnant with my first son 4 years ago. Fast forward to present day 3 children later and size 10 is almost too tight now. I went up a size each pregnancy – I’m assuming this happens to everyone?

Kristen, Mum's Grapevine Group Member

Why do feet get bigger in pregnancy?

Like so many pregnancy symptoms, feet growing larger in pregnancy has everything to do with hormones. In particular, the hormone relaxin, which relaxes and loosens ligaments and joints in pregnancy. The main purpose is to lengthen and soften the cervix and pelvic region ahead of birth so it’s easier for bub to be born. But the side effect is that all of your body’s other joins and ligaments are also loosened, including in your feet. Thanks to your added weight carrying bub, and the relaxin, your feet stretch and spread out.

According to science, pregnancy actually does increase a woman’s foot size, permanently. A study from the University of Iowa found that the shape and size of a pregnant woman’s feet are forever altered.

While many pregnant women get flat feet the study found that the loss of arch height is permanent.

“I had heard women reporting changes in their shoe size with pregnancy, but found nothing about that in medical journals or textbooks,” says Neil Segal, UI associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation. “In order to study this more scientifically, we measured women’s feet at the beginning of their pregnancy and five months after delivery. We found that pregnancy does indeed lead to permanent changes in the feet.”

However, it doesn’t happen to every pregnant woman. Out of the 49 women who took part in the study, around 60 to 70 per cent found their feet became longer and wider.

What can be done to support feet in pregnancy?

The experts recommend a few different ways to keep feet healthy in pregnancy, and possibly prevent an increase in foot size:

  • Wearing orthotics provides extra support for the feet and helps distribute weight evenly
  • Don’t walk around barefoot too much
  • Wear shoes with good arch support (so while they’re comfy, ditch the thongs for a while)
  • Wear shoes that allow for good circulation to the feet
  • Put your feet up if you’re experiencing swelling
  • Massage your feet (or better yet, get someone else to do it!)
  • Get regular, light exercise, such as walking, to promote blood circulation to the feet
  • Try and keep your weight gain down
  • Do foot exercises

What about pregnancy swelling?

Another reason for not fitting into your pre-pregnancy shoes is pregnancy swelling. It’s caused by increased fluid and blood flow and can cause ankles, feet and hands to swell. The good news about pregnancy swelling is that it’s only temporary, so it won’t impact your shoe size permanently.

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