Pregnancy and Footwear

Pregnancy Footwear

Since pregnancy can be hard on your feet, finding comfortable supportive footwear should be a priority.

It’s partially the rapid weight gain that is so punishing for your feet. Gaining 20 to 30 pounds—or more—in a matter of months is a significant amount of extra weight for your hard working feet to suddenly carry, so it’s not surprising that many pregnant women complain of sore feet and opt for more supportive footwear.

Hormonal fluctuations are also to blame. Hormonal changes loosen ligaments in the foot, widening or lengthening feet, as well as flattening arches. When arches flatten, feet tend to roll inward while walking, which can stress or inflame foot tissues.

Changes in circulation can also affect your feet. The dramatic increase in blood and body fluids required during pregnancy—and new priorities in circulation—may  lead to swollen feet and ankles. Not only does your body’s blood volume increase by as much as 50% but as the baby grows, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the pelvic veins, which slows down the return of blood to your heart. That extra fluid  can lead to swollen feet.

Many pregnant women find they must temporarily forego high heels because pregnancy affects their sense of balance. Loosening ligaments in the pelvic area can alter a woman’s posture and the way she walks, causing her to feel unsteady. When this unsteadiness is combined with a gravity-shifting weight gain, a woman may feel clumsier and be more accident-prone.

Before you gain a significant amount of weight, research some comfortable and supportive footwear. Fortunately, there are plenty of stylish shoe options available. These footwear shopping hints can help:

  • Have your feet measured. Don’t assume you are the same size you were before you became pregnant. Hormonally-induced loosened ligaments widen and lengthen feet, so they may change your shoe size. For some women this change is temporary, while for others shoe size can increase permanently by up to a full size.
  • When shopping for pregnancy footwear, don’t try shoes on later in the day as your feet may already be swollen. Shop early in the day.
  • Take a break from high heels. Heels add stress to your knees, feet and ankles while increasing the risk of falls. Some women experience dizziness during pregnancy, so it’s proactive to wear shoes with a substantial foundation. Pregnancy also softens the ankle muscles, making it easier to twist your ankle. If you prefer a shoe with a little height, opt for low wedges which have a wider base.
  • Think flats. Choose shoes such as ballet flats and moccasins, which are comfortable and fashionable. Sneakers are also a practical supportive option. Sandals are suitable in the summer but make sure that sandals—or any flat you choose—has good arch support.
  • Walks are recommended exercise during pregnancy, so invest in a well-made exercise shoe that supports your arches.
  • Shopping for boots? Stick to boots with flat soles. Also, choose short boots rather than knee-high boots that are tight at the top and may cut off When shopping for winter boots, make sure the soles have plenty of traction to keep you from slipping.
  • Pregnancy footwear should also be easy to put on and take off. Consider slip-on shoes which make life easier during the last trimester, when it becomes more difficult to reach your feet.
  • For the same reason, avoid shoes with laces or buckles. You will have to bend over to tie or buckle them in your third trimester.
  • Choose shoes in breathable fabrics.
  • Consider orthotics. Some women find benefit from wearing orthotics during pregnancy as they provide support. If you are experiencing constant foot pain, talk to your doctor about whether orthotics might alleviate that pain.
  • You may also want to have supportive footwear at home, so consider a pair of comfortable slippers.

Some ankle swelling may be inevitable, no matter how comfortable or supportive your shoes are. To minimize swelling, avoid standing for long periods of time and lie down for a while every day with your legs elevated. Avoid wearing tight socks or stockings that might cut off your circulation.

Choosing the right footwear can help pamper your hardworking feet and prevent accidents during pregnancy.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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