Do foot size and width change over time? Yes, here's why

As we age, they might spread out a bit, subtly altering our shoe size along the way.

15 Jun 2024 08:11am
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Have you ever noticed that your favourite pair of shoes don't fit quite the same way they used to?

From childhood to adulthood, our feet are on a remarkable journey of growth and adaptation.

When we're young, they're busy expanding and forming, but as we age, they might spread out a bit, subtly altering our shoe size along the way.


According to Healthline, there isn’t a specific age when everyone's feet stop growing, but it typically happens by the early 20s.

Foot growth usually slows down around the age of 14-16, while for boys, it typically decreases around the age of 12-13. However, feet can continue growing slightly into the early 20s.

The timing also depends on when an individual starts puberty, with those who begin puberty earlier often seeing their feet stop growing sooner. Growth rates vary for everyone and are influenced by genetics and overall growth patterns.

While some people might notice continued foot growth slightly beyond these ages, significant changes are rare after the late teenage years.

Foot growth can be influenced by various factors such as weight gain, loose ligaments, and other physical changes that occur as people age.

Growth patterns differ between males and females, with feet generally stopping growth at different ages due to variations in their growth spurts.


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Healthline reported that feet may increase in size due to reduced elasticity. Over years of use, tendons and ligaments lose elasticity, causing feet to become longer and wider.

Weight gain in later years can add pressure on the pads of the feet, leading to spreading.

Additionally, increased body weight can stress ligaments, further contributing to foot expansion.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Clinic reported that the constant impact of walking causes the body to bear two to three times its weight due to gravity.

This continuous stress can alter the shape of feet over time. It added that the ligaments and tendons supporting the arch gradually wear down, leading to a flattening of the arch and a slight increase in foot length or width.

Weight changes can also affect walking mechanics, adding extra stress to the feet and contributing to changes in their shape. Moreover, changes in how the body stores fat as people age can influence the appearance and comfort of the feet.

Since weight gain can affect foot size and mechanics, aim to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

This can help reduce pressure on your feet and lessen the risk of structural changes.


As people age, physical deformities such as bunions and hammertoes become more common, requiring larger shoe sizes for comfortable wear.

According to Healthline, bunions are protrusions that develop on the outside of the big toe, often necessitating wider shoes.

Additional foot deformities like hammertoes, where toe joints point upwards, require footwear with wider and deeper toe boxes to alleviate pressure.

It's essential to choose footwear with a wide toe box to reduce pressure and friction on affected areas, thereby minimising discomfort and preventing further aggravation of these conditions.

Regularly inspect your feet for any signs of irritation or changes in shape and maintain good foot hygiene to prevent complications such as corns or calluses.

If foot deformities persist or worsen, seeking advice from a podiatrist can provide personalised treatment options to manage symptoms effectively and maintain mobility as you age.

Image for illustrative purposes only. - 123RF
Image for illustrative purposes only. - 123RF


During pregnancy, it's common for feet to enlarge due to various factors. Hormonal changes, it said specifically the production of relaxing by the placenta can loosen ligaments in the feet, potentially leading to an increase in size.

Additionally, the growing uterus exerts pressure on surrounding blood vessels, causing Edema or swelling in the feet and ankles.

Increased fluid retention during pregnancy further contributes to larger feet temporarily.

To alleviate swelling during pregnancy, Healthline recommends light daily physical activity, wearing compression socks, and loose clothing, avoiding prolonged standing, sleeping on your left side, and elevating your legs.

While swelling typically subsides after childbirth, in some cases, the enlargement of feet may become permanent due to the loosening of ligaments.

The relaxin hormone, named for its role in relaxing and increasing the elasticity of ligaments, primarily benefits the pelvis and cervix to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth. However, it also affects the ligaments throughout the body, including those in the feet.

According to them, the increased levels of relaxin can relax the ligaments in the feet, causing the arches to flatten.

As a result, feet may become longer and wider during pregnancy. Studies indicate that these changes in foot size can often be permanent.

This hormonal effect highlights the comprehensive impact of pregnancy on the body, including significant changes in foot structure due to increased ligament elasticity.


Regularly checking the health of your feet is crucial for maintaining overall well-being, especially as you age.

Start by examining your feet for any signs of swelling, redness, or changes in skin texture. Look for cuts, sores, or blisters, particularly if you have diabetes or reduced sensation in your feet.

Healthline recommends regularly getting fitted for new shoes to ensure they fit properly. It emphasised that feet could change over time, so it's important not to assume they won't. As people age, an annual foot health check is crucial.

Doctors may diagnose conditions such as diabetes or circulatory issues by examining the feet, and they can also provide treatment for common foot problems like corn, cracked skin, and ingrown toenails.

Regular foot check-ups help maintain overall foot health and catch any issues early.

Check your toenails for proper trimming and cleanliness to prevent ingrown nails or fungal infections.

Ensure your shoes fit well and provide adequate support, especially if you have conditions like bunions or hammertoes.

If you notice any abnormalities or persistent discomfort, don't hesitate to consult a podiatrist for professional advice and treatment. Taking proactive steps to care for your feet can prevent complications and promote mobility and comfort throughout life.