The strangeness of pregnancy strikes again. Yes, your feet can actually get bigger during pregnancy—and yes, it’s often permanent. But it doesn’t happen to everyone. Here's why it happens, what to do if your feet get bigger, and how can you help prevent foot growth during pregnancy.
Why Do Feet Grow During Pregnancy?
Feet can grow for a few reasons. The foot is made up of 26 bones and more than 30 joints that are held together by a network of ligaments. During pregnancy, there’s a relaxation, or loosening, of the ligaments throughout your whole body. It’s your body’s way of preparing the pelvic joints for childbirth, and your fluctuating hormonal levels are believed to be what causes it.
Bigger Feet—Or Just Swollen Feet?
Can’t tell whether your feet are just swollen or if they’re truly growing? Look for longevity. In other words, foot growth will last—your shoes that feel tight on Monday at 10 a.m. will still feel tight on Thursday at 5 p.m.—while swelling is bound to fluctuate. Usually, feet are more swollen at night than in the morning, and certain activities and positions and even your diet can cause them to swell more or less.
Compression stockings, regular massage and cardiovascular exercise (as long as your doctor has okayed it) can all help control foot swelling. You should also elevate your feet at the end of the day. While they’re elevated, point and flex at the ankles—up to 50 times!—to help bring excess fluid up from the feet and legs.
If your feet do grow, the good news is that it won’t hurt. The only reasons you’d have pain would be if you kept wearing shoes that were too small or if you had another foot problem caused by altered joint function (and if you did, that would be treatable!).
You’ll probably have to go up a half to a whole shoe size, and even though you may not want to give up those cute old Louboutins, it’s important to wear a shoe that fits you well (even after pregnancy) to prevent foot problems. There are a few pre-pregnancy shoes you may be able to get away with, like a soft leather moccasin that has some stretch, but sorry, nothing stiff. Use this as a great excuse to do some shoe shopping.
How To Prevent Foot Growth During Pregnancy
If you’re freaked out about growing out of your favorite shoes, the good news is that there are a few ways you can reduce your chances that your feet will get bigger:
• Wear supportive shoes. Be sure you have shoes that support your arches (think: sneakers, not floppy ballet flats) and shoes that don’t squeeze or pinch anywhere (stay away from those pointy-toe numbers that don’t give you any wiggle room).
• Try compression socks or stockings. These can help control lower-extremity swelling.
• Avoid excessive weight gain. Do your best to stay within the recommended weight gain range for your body type to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your feet.
• Try supportive insoles. These can be particularly effective if you already have low arches (“flat feet”). Ask your doctor or physical therapist if they might be right for you.
• Do foot-muscle exercises. These moves can help strengthen the muscles that help support the foot: Stand on one leg, pick up marbles with your toes, scrunch a towel with your toes, stand or sit and raise up onto your tiptoes and then back on your heels (the tiptoe/heel exercise can help with swelling too!).
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