Are your shoes feeling tighter than usual? If you’re over 40, then you’re probably not alone. Many people find that as they get older, they need to wear wide fitting footwear. That’s because as we age, the tendons and ligaments that link the tiny bones in our feet lose elasticity. This allows the toes to spread out and the arch of the foot to flatten causing our feet to become longer and wider. In fact, by some estimates, feet can grow as much as a half size every decade after the age of 40.
Increased weight gain can also cause feet to lengthen and widen. As we gain weight it places more pressure on our feet causing them to splay. Pregnancy can also cause feet to get bigger. During pregnancy the same hormones that relax the ligaments of the birth canal also relax the ligaments in the rest of your body including the feet. Since the feet are carrying extra load during pregnancy due to normal weight gain, the feet will often flatten leading to lengthening and widening of the feet.
Lorraine Jones, from the College of Podiatry, the research arm of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, says: "Feet are getting bigger because as a nation we are becoming taller and we're increasing in weight.
"Increased weight gain places more pressure on the feet and means ligaments and joints need to work harder to maintain the foot's structure and keep you mobile.
"Over time if someone is gaining weight, the feet splay to try and accommodate the increased pressure, which can cause pain, lead to mobility issues and increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis in the lower limb joints.”
In addition to getting bigger, your feet can develop deformities such as bunions and hammer toes when you reach middle age. This can happen when tendons and ligaments in the feet get tighter or looser depending on the area of the foot in which they’re located.