What Happens To Your Feet During Pregnancy?

How feet change during pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about a ton of changes to your body, including your feet. You may notice that your shoes are feeling tighter or your gait is different. That's because pregnancy can impact everything from your shoe size to your arch height. While some of these changes are temporary, others aren't. 

THE BASICS ---

  • Like the rest of your body, your feet can change during your pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones contribute to the loosening of your foot ligaments, causing your feet to grow, your feet and ankles to swell, and your arches to flatten. 
  • While you're pregnant, help your feet feel better by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding high heels, and choosing supportive, comfortable shoes.
  • Foot growth during pregnancy is common and can increase your shoe size and width while lowering your arch height. Orthotic insoles will support your feet while stabilizing your heel, preventing overpronation.
  • For more comfortable feet during pregnancy, we recommend adding supportive Ramble insoles to your footwear.

SHOP INSOLES

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ---

Why Do Feet Change During Pregnancy?

Along with the rest of your body, your feet can go through changes during your pregnancy. Your body produces the pregnancy hormone relaxin in order to loosen up your joints and ligaments, including the ones in your feet.

In addition to pregnancy hormones changing your feet, pregnancy weight also plays a factor. As the joints and ligaments in your feet are loosening, the additional weight adds pressure, which compounds the changes.

Another factor adding to the changes your feet undergo during pregnancy is the increase in blood volume in your body. Carolyn Appel of PROnatal Fitness explains, "Additional fluid in the body, coupled with the more difficult job of the veins to recirculate that fluid from the feet upwards, can create pooling of that fluid in the feet." This results in pedal edema. 

If you're noticing your feet are different than they were a few months ago, you're not alone. One study showed that 60-70% of the pregnant women who participated noticed changes to their feet after childbirth. 

Do Feet Grow During During Pregnancy?

The hormones your body produces during pregnancy are meant to relax your joints and pelvis, making delivery possible. But they also cause your feet to expand, which can mean swollen feet and ankles, flattened arches, and an increase in your shoe size.

You might have noticed, especially if you're a runner, these changes to your feet can impact your gait, leading to overpronation. As Parents Magazine notes, "As your center of gravity changes throughout pregnancy, you could wind up collapsing more on the insides of your feet." Visiting a running store for a gait analysis and a new pair of sneakers can help.

Shoe Size

For so many women, the combination of pregnancy hormones and weight gain result in larger feet. One study found that by week 38 of pregnancy, women's foot size had increased by about 12 percent.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, "increased weight puts more pressure on the foot, the arch flattens a bit, and the foot elongates. Just a quarter-inch increase in foot length is enough to prompt a change in shoe size.”

 

During pregnancy be prepared for this shoe size increase with comfortable, supportive shoes that are a half size larger than you normally wear. One silver lining is that changes to your arches and foot size usually only occur during your first pregnancy, so you likely won't increase another shoe size during subsequent pregnancies.

Shoe Width

Your feet can also swell during the later stages of pregnancy as your body is retaining more water and fluid. This fluid winds up at your feet, causing the swelling, and increasing pressure on your veins impedes the flow of blood back to your heart. All this adds up to swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet.

To help prevent swollen feet during pregnancy:

  • Stay active – Take a walk down the street or around the mall. Ride an exercise bike if you can. This type of exercise gets circulation moving in your feet and decreases swelling.
  • Stay hydrated – Despite water and fluid retention, your body needs increased fluids while pregnant. The National Institutes of Medicine recommends about 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluids a day during pregnancy.
  • Get in the water – Visiting a pool to stand or walk around in will help you to increase circulation and also help you to cool off, which is tough to do while pregnant, especially in the summer months.
  • Sleep on your side or with pillows – Sleep with a body pillow between your knees on your left side and you'll take pressure off your inferior vena cava – the vein in your body that takes blood from the lower half of your body to your heart.
  • Wear compression stockings – While they're not the most stylish wardrobe addition, compression socks can help reduce swelling. 

Arch Height

Thanks to pregnancy hormones, your arch height will decrease during pregnancy. In fact, your lowered arch height could be permanent. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that during a woman’s first pregnancy, her arch lowers in height more than during any following pregnancy.

As your arch height decreases, you can develop flat feet, a condition in which the arch of your foot basically touches the ground instead of being moderately elevated. Flat feet/low arch is a known cause of the following issues:

Are Pregnancy Foot Changes Permanent?

Flattened arches can prove to be an enduring problem that develops during pregnancy. But this is also one of the most common foot problems after pregnancy, even after you lose weight. Scientific research has proven that “pregnancy appears to be associated with a persistent loss of arch height and rigidity as well as greater arch drop and foot lengthening,” particularly during the first pregnancy.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found “changes in the feet could potentially contribute to the increased risk for subsequent musculoskeletal disorders in women,” such as increased pronation and excessive stress on the hips and knees. They also noted that “the use of inexpensive, well-tolerated and widely available arch supporting orthoses during pregnancy could potentially protect the long-term musculoskeletal health of women.” 

How To Take Care Of Your Feet When You're Pregnant 

Some of the changes to your feet during pregnancy can cause added discomfort, so it's important to make sure you're treating your feet right. To best take care of your feet while you're pregnant: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Because your weight adds to the pressure on your feet, it can cause your arches to flatten out, resulting in your feet gaining width or length of up to half a shoe size. A healthy weight will reduce the impact on your feet.
  • Avoid high heels. High heels will put more pressure on your feet. Wearing low heels (1 or 2 inches in height) or flats will keep your feet much more comfortable.
  • Choose shoes with cushioning. Stretchy ballet flats and loose-fitting flip flops are tempting because they give some immediate relief, but they lack the support your feet need to get your through the day. Shoes with a thicker sole provide the extra cushion your feet are aching for.
  • Support your arches. Giving your arches the support they need by adding insoles to your shoes will keep your feet comfortable as they change during your pregnancy. 

How To Reduce Swollen Feet During Pregnancy

If your feet and ankles are swollen during pregnancy, there are some steps to follow that can relieve swelling apart from using supportive shoes and insoles:

  • If possible, avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Rest your feet as much as possible. Physicians recommend resting with your feet above your heart for an hour a day.
  • Ice your ankles and feet.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Do foot exercises including bending, stretching and rotating your feet.

    If you're worried about the swelling in your feet or it becomes severe, you'll want to contact your doctor. Severe swelling in your feet and ankles that moves toward your upper extremities can be a sign of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, which definitely warrants a trip to your doctor.

    Pregnant Yoga

      How Do Insoles Help During Pregnancy?

      During pregnancy, your weight increases, shifting your sense of balance as well as increasing pressure on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet as you walk. With the help of orthotic insoles, you can give your arches the support they need.

      Insoles will give your growing, expanding, and potentially flatter feet arch support and heel stability, which will prevent overpronation while giving you firm, comfortable support. If you wore insoles before your pregnancy, you may find that you need new ones to accommodate the changes to your foot's length, width and arch height.

      Finding ways to be comfortable is high priority when you're pregnant and orthotic insoles are one way to keep your feet happy as they help you carry your baby and for long after.

      SHOP INSOLES

       

       

      Questions? Drop us a line at hello@treadlabs.com. We're here to help.

      Mark Paigen
      Mark Paigen

      Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.



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