An infographic explaining increase in foot size as posted by The Daily MailIt's no surprise that the average human weight and waist size is on the rise. In fact, it's increased steadily increasing over the last few decades. But now a surprising study reveals that our average shoe size is also creeping up. And that could spell trouble and foot pain. Especially if you're sticking to the shoe size you used to wear.

Rising Shoe Size Study

According to the College of Podiatry in London's research, t British men and women's average shoe size has increased by two sizes since 1970. The study, which surveyed over 2000 UK residents, noted that feet have grown both larger and wider in the past 40 years.

What's more? Yes, our feet larger than those of our generational predecessors. But the study also found that our feet also increase in size during our adult life!

Now, there are gender differences in this area. Over 26% of men and 41% of women noted that their feet got larger after other types of growth stopped. So what's the deal? Are your feet sexist? Let's take a closer look.

Changing Shoe Size and Pregnancy

Sadly, we can blame most of the greater instances of adult foot growth in women on pregnancy. (But your shoe size doesn't have to change after pregnancy, if you know to protect yourself.)

Still, it's already happened to so many women. And, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot Ankle & Society, that's because extra weight and changes in your hormones can stimulate foot growth. They can also flatten your feet, which could make your old shoe feel tight.

Now, I know that you may want to wear cute shoes while you're pregnant. I get that might make up for less than exciting maternity wear. But wearing the right shoe size and style can help keep your feet from swelling, expanding and changing sizes.

Foot Changes to Account for During Pregnancy

You need to boost your shoe's arch support when you're expecting. That's because all the weight of your growing baby puts extra pressure on that part of your foot. So if you don't support them, they may collapse.

For many women, supportive sneakers will do the trick. But if foot pain is hitting you hard during pregnancy, you may need the added support of orthotics.

Now, I know it's hard to get into your shoes, especially later on in your pregnancy. But I don't want you spending too much time walking with bare feet. That can mess up the way your foot absorbs the pressure of your pregnancy. So it can contribute to foot spread.

Shoes that Hurt Pregnant Feet 

While barefeet aren't ideal, some styles of shoe may be just as bad. First, steer clear of clogs. Because they have no backs, they leave your toes gripping the shoes in place. And that can leave you with hammertoes, forcing you to up your shoe size to fit your crooked joints.

Consider high heels a no go too, since they'll throw off your center of gravity. (Which is already impacted by the weight of your growing belly.)

Flip flops are also a no go. Like clogs, they leave your toes gripping. Plus, their soles are flat, so you get zero arch support. And, since their soles are usually rubber and lacking in traction, they increase your risk for slips and falls.

The same is true of other flat sandals. Leave yourself with too low a heel and you may irritate your Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. If that happens, you'll develop inflammation. And heel pain could set in. To avoid these concerns, stick with our favorite shoe types for pregnant women.

The Best Shoes for Pregnant Women

During your pregnancy, you already know to steer clear of flip flops, clogs, heels and flats. And you should probably skip tight boots, too, since they can restrict your feet.

So what the heck can you wear for these 9 months? Look for more supportive versions of your favorite styles. I love Birkenstock sandals; even their backless styles prevent gripping with supportive straps and built-in arch support. I'll always recommend supportive running shoes. And I'm also happy with walking shoes or loafers that have support and stretch. (Just look at the materials, since you want more natural construction to limit sweating.)

Protecting Feet and Choosing the Right Shoe Size

So we've just reviewed how to avoid shoe and foot changes during pregnancy. But not every woman will read this article in time. And as for the men out there? None of the above suggestions will help. Which is a problem since, as the survey suggests, at least 26% of you are wearing old shoes that are likely too small.

Now, the results of the survey may be quite shocking. But the reason behind many men's foot-size increase is not: as people’s weight has gone up, so has their foot size. Why? Extra weight causes our feet to splay out. And that explains both the increase in both foot width and length that researchers noted. (By the way, extra weight can also cause these other foot problems. So try sticking to an exercise routine and healthy diet.)

Back to our shoe size concerns. If you were worried by troubling statistics on increased foot size, check this out. The study also notes that 29% of women and 18% of men reported experiencing DAILY foot pain. And my guess is that could be owed to the fact that their shoe size hasn’t grown with their expanding feet.

Here's my final take on the whole thing. Life is too short to experience foot pain. If your feet hurt and you don’t know why, start by remeasuring your shoe size. Then, for help picking the right shoes, or if you want to discuss the effects of your weight on your foot health, schedule an appointment with our office. Your Houston podiatrist is here to help you start walking more comfortably. 


Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.