According to a recent study, researchers measured the arch height and foot length of 49 women during their pregnancy and five months after they had given birth. On average, the women’s arch height decreased, and their foot length increased between 2 and 10 millimeters (about 0.1 to 0.4 inches).
Overall, about 60-70% of the women had shorter arches and longer feet after childbirth.
“I heard so many women talking about having to go buy new shoes after pregnancy,” said study researcher Neil Segal, an associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the University of Iowa.
The change in foot size may be due to the extra weight women carry around during pregnancy, which puts greater stress on the feet, and, thus, may flatten the arch, the researchers said. As the arches flatten out, the foot lengthens. Also, if you are carrying extra weight, you are going to carry extra fat everywhere on your body, including around your feet.
In addition, during pregnancy, women produce hormones that increase the looseness of the joints and ligaments. The same hormones that relax the ligaments of the birth canal also relax the ligaments in the rest of your body including the feet, possibly making the foot structure more malleable. Since the feet are carrying extra load during pregnancy due to normal weight gain, the arches will often flatten, leading to lengthening and widening of the feet.
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Often times, during the pregnancy women’s feet will become swollen, making it difficult to fit into shoes. Many women resort to wearing flip flops and ballet flats. These shoes have a bit more space for the swollen foot, however, they don’t tend to have any arch support.
Is This Something To Be Concerned With?
A flattened foot can strain the ligaments in the foot’s sole, causing changes in gait that put extra strain on the knees. Changes in the feet during pregnancy may also explain why women have increased risk for arthritis in their feet, knees, hips and spine than men.
Most of the women involved in the new study who experienced changes in their foot length and arch height were first-time mothers. Women who had given birth to two or more times did not experience as significant changes.
Your entire body relies upon your feet, so why not give them a little bit more attention during this time. Many people believe that foot pain is normal and you’re just supposed to ignore the pain. However it is important to know that having bad feet can also affect your ankles, knees, hips and back. When the arches in your feet collapse, your tibia and fibula rotate outward, changing the alignment in you knees, hips and back.
How Do I Stop My Feet from Getting Larger After Childbirth?
There may not be a way to completely stop your feet from getting bigger during the pregnancy. However, there are things you can do to help prevent your arches from collapsing and having a permanent change in foot size after pregnancy. Below are our best suggestions of what you can do to combat the flattening of the foot that occurs with pregnancy.
- Use arch supports in your shoes
By using arch supports you will be able to help stop the flattening of the arches that leads to the feet getting bigger. The key is to get an arch support that conforms very close to the arch of foot. The closer it grabs your arch, the better it will be at stopping your foot from flattening and splaying.
With swollen feet during pregnancy, it might already be difficult to fit your feet into your tennis shoes, so, most conventional full length insoles will take up too much space. The best solution is an insole that will provide sufficient support without crowding the shoe. We recommend the Soul Insole Shoe Bubble, a re-usable gel insole that sits solely in the midfoot section of the shoe. It can easily be moved from your tennis shoes to your ballet flats to your flip flops.
- Wear arch support from the time you get out of bed
While pregnant, the extra weight is extra stress on your feet. It is important to protect the arches at all times to prevent collapsing arches, and micro-tears in the plantar fascia (a band of tissue that runs all along the bottom of your feet). Plantar fasciitis can happen from chronic stress on the feet or in one quick “acute” moment of higher stress. It is particularly important to wear additional support if you are standing on hard, flat surfaces such as hardwood floors. Keeping a pair of slippers or flip flops with arch support by your bedside will help make it easy to remember to prevent the flattening and splaying of your feet.
- Do Foot Strengthening Exercises
There are many exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles in your feet, which will help to support and protect your arches. You will also enjoy the benefits of improved posture and alignment. Balancing exercises, pointing and flexing your toes and a deep tissue foot massage will help to keep you healthy and active. Foot strengthening exercises will help build muscle in your feet. Increasing the muscles in your feet will help to protect the arch and prevent the arch from collapsing. Even if your feet have been flat since childhood, you can build an arch into your feet. It’s life changing to have good foot health! Here you can find a link to some great foot strengthening exercises: bit.ly/FootHealthExercises