Weight gain and hormonal changes in pregnancy have a huge impact on the body and your feet can often bear the brunt of the major changes which a woman’s body will go through. Many women find they are unable to reach their feet in the later stages of pregnancy and can suffer with swelling, cramps, aching, itchiness and varicose veins on their lower limbs. Foot problems in pregnancy can cause unpleasant discomfort, and Feet for Life month aims to make women more aware of foot health issues and what they can do to help prevent them.
Key foot health issues in pregnancy:
Swollen legs and feet: During pregnancy, the uterus puts pressure on veins in the pelvis, slowing down the return of blood to the heart. Blood vessels in the feet and ankles are among the smallest in the body which can cause fluid from the veins to leak into surrounding tissues of the legs and feet causing swelling and sometimes throbbing. Feet can increase in size and you may need to wear a larger shoe size.
Arch and heel pain: Pain in the arch of the foot, heel and other ligaments can occur due to the changes in the foot shape during pregnancy. Due to the inevitable increase in a mother’s weight, the strain on the feet can lead to a reduction in the arch height. This can be due to changes in the joint, ligament and other soft tissue alignment. Commonly, the heels and ball of the feet are painful.
Varicose veins: During pregnancy, circulation in the lower body becomes sluggish and this can cause blood to pool in your veins. Pregnancy hormones also have an impact, causing the walls of the blood vessels to relax. This in turn causes the walls of the veins to distend and widen and can lead to enlarged blue or purple twisted veins which are visible under the skin.
Increased chance of ligament sprain or trauma: During pregnancy there is an increased level of the ovarian hormone relaxin, which increases the flexibility of collagen, making your ligaments looser so that the pelvis can adapt to childbirth. However, it affects all ligaments, not just those around the pelvis, increasing your chance of sprains or trauma. It is therefore important to wear supportive footwear in order to reduce risk of ankle sprains and other lower limb ligament injuries which could do longer term damage/discomfort.
Top tips for buying footwear for pregnancy:
- Feet tend to swell during the day, so buy shoes later in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest
- Try on both shoes and walk around the shop to check if they pinch or rub
- Make sure there is 1cm between the longest toe and the end of the shoe
- Keep heel heights to about 3cm
- Choose a shoe with a strap to keep it firmly on your foot, avoiding fiddly straps which are difficult to do up – especially in the final trimester of your pregnancy!
- Choose shoes with a toe box that is high enough and wide enough to comfortably fit, either rounded or square shaped, not pointed
- Don’t rush when you’re buying shoes (even when you’ve spotted the ultimate sales bargain!) - take your time and check they fit you properly
- Choose supportive footwear with extra shock absorption, a supportive arch and firm heel.