60-Second Science

New Moms May Need New Shoes

A study of 49 women bears out a common observation: pregnancy can lengthen and widen a woman's feet. Christopher Intagliata reports

Women might expect to need new clothes after giving birth. But a bigger pair of shoes? Well, yeah. Because pregnancy can actually lengthen and widen a woman's feet. That’s according to a study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that’s probably not a surprise to a lot of women. [Neil A. Segal et al., Pregnancy Leads to Lasting Changes in Foot Structure]

Neil Segal, a rehab doc at the University of Iowa, heard that some local women had to don larger shoes after pregnancy. So he and colleagues measured the feet of 49 women during their first trimester and again five months after childbirth. Indeed, nearly half the women went up a shoe size after childbirth, to accommodate their longer, flatter feet. And multiple pregnancies may add to that effect, Segal says.

Pregnant women produce a hormone called "relaxin," which makes the pelvis more flexible. That's good for childbirth. But the hormone can affect joints and ligaments elsewhere, like in the foot. Adding pregnancy weight to that flexibility can lead to permanent flattening of the foot's arch—associated with knee and hip pain in older women. Segal's now investigating whether custom shoe inserts can protect women against that risk, and help get motherhood off on the right foot.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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