Pregnancy brings a host of bodily changes, so naturally your wardrobe will change with it. Along with some comfy maternity leggings and jeans, you’ll probably also want to buy a new pair of walking shoes. This is because your feet are also subject to all sorts of changes during pregnancy. You don’t have to give up your daily walks, but you should find a good pair of shoes to accommodate your tired, aching feet, as they deserve all the support they can get during this time.
Why do your feet change during pregnancy?
Depending on the person, pregnancy can cause the feet to flatten, widen, or increase in size. This is partly due to fluctuations in the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, Madison Tincher, TPD, a physical therapist with Holston Medical Group in Kingsport, Tennessee, tells SELF. She explains that the main purpose of relaxin is, well, to relax the ligaments and muscles around your pelvis, but the loosening effect is not limited to one part of the body. It can happen anywhere, including your feet. When the ligaments in your feet are relaxed and you put pressure on them by walking and standing, your arches can droop, and thus flatten your feet, Jeffrey DeLott, DPMa foot and ankle surgeon certified by Connecticut Orthopedics, says SELF.
Dr. DeLott says certain cardiovascular changes during pregnancy can be another key factor in the condition of your feet. Blood volume increases in the body to support a growing fetus, which can put extra pressure on your veins in general, he says. And as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus grows, the pressure on your veins will increase dramatically in your legs, making it harder for blood to return to your heart. This can cause fluid to build up in your ankles and feet, which often leads to uncomfortable swelling, says Dr. DeLott.
How can pregnancy affect your feet over time?
Unfortunately, these changes can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. Dr. Tincher says your body will likely compensate for fallen arches by changing your gait: « The small muscles have to do more work and the big muscles burn out, so they’re not as active. » For example, your knees may turn inward, which may also cause your hips to turn inward; this can lead to an uncomfortable pinching sensation in that area and back pain. Flat feet can also contribute to plantar fasciitis (one of the most common causes of heel pain) and Achilles tendonitis, which refers to inflammation at the back of the heel and ankle , says Dr. DeLott.
If you experience swelling, your feet in general will likely hurt. (You can try to ease the pain of swollen feet by elevating them and wearing compression socks.) Another common effect of pregnancy is that it changes your center of gravity, which means it can be harder to maintain your sense of balance when your body changes, which can make it difficult to walk comfortably and confidently, says Dr. DeLott.