Are you wearing the wrong shoe size?Are you wearing the wrong shoe size? If you’re like the typical British woman you probably are. Unfortunately, many people and particularly women are trying to shove their feet into a shoe that is too small with the mistaken belief that small feet are more feminine.

Many people keep thinking that their feet should be a perfect size 6, 7 or 8 when the truth is that the average size of a women’s foot has increased by two sizes since the 1970s according to a new study by the College of Podiatry in England.

Twenty-six percent of men and 41 percent of women have increased their shoe size during their adult life. Half of them say that increase in their shoe size is due to an increase in weight. Actually, an increase in height also appears to be responsible.

As we gain weight our feet need to accommodate the additional pressure we place on them. If we don’t provide them with the right support then foot pain can arise through the development of plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions. This condition is particularly prevalent when there is rapid weight gain as in pregnancy.

Tight Shoes Can Cause and Exacerbate All Kinds of Foot Problems

  • Bunions. Tight shoes can cause bunions but they can also make bunions progress more rapidly.
  • Ingrown Toenails. Tight shoes are a risk factor for painful ingrown toenails
  • Diabetic ulcers. People with diabetes have poor circulation. Sore spots and abrasions caused by tight shoes are less likely to heal resulting in life-threatening ulcers.
  • Fungal toenails. Tight shoes can cause pressure on the nail which can lift up from the bed; this puts the nails at risk for infection from dermatophyes, the germs that cause toenail fungus.

Finding the Right Shoe Size

  • Increased awareness. Most people aren’t aware that their feet can get larger over their lifetime and the role weight gain plays in this issue.
  • Get your feet measured. Go to a shoe store that has staff trained to measure feet such as Nordstrom. Your podiatrist’s office also have staff that are trained to measure feet. Make sure you have both the length and width measured. Better shoes come in multiple widths and half sizes.
  • Bring your socks with you. Sock thickness can make a big difference in how shoes fit.
  • Getting function and fashion. Many companies including Naot, Keen, Taos, Aravon, Dansko, Munro, Merrill and Ecco offer comfortable shoes without sacrificing style.
Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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