Can't squeeze into your shoes? Feel like something's just off with your running form? While you might lose sight of your feet as your bump grows, pregnancy brings about a bunch of changes to them, says Ami Sheth, D.P.M. a podiatrist based in Los Gatos, CA and a spokesperson for The American Podiatric Medical Association.
In fact, research suggests having a baby-on-the-way can impact everything from shoe size and arch height to gait and even your risk of nagging foot issues such as plantar fasciitis and swelling (thank added weight plus a new cocktail of hormones flowing through your body!).
Don't worry, though — there's hope for your bottom-most parts. Here, how your feet might change during and after pregnancy, plus, what you can do to feel better, stat. (Hint: It might be time to take a load off — doctor's orders!)
You Could Swell Up a Bit
Feel like your feet are ballooning up? They could be. "One foot-related issue during pregnancy is swelling to the very large increase in blood volume during pregnancy to help nourish the growing baby," explains Carolyn Appel, C.S.C.S., director of training for PROnatal Fitness, a prenatal and postpartum personal training and group fitness company. It's called pedal edema. "That additional fluid in the body, coupled with the more difficult job of the veins to recirculate that fluid from the feet upwards, can create pooling of that fluid in the feet." Sometimes, swelling can irritate the nerve that goes from your ankle to your foot, causing cramping, too.
If you have preeclampsia, a.k.a. high blood pressure during pregnancy (and, in turn, reduced blood flow), you might have even more swelling, adds Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School.
But while swelling stinks (buh-bye, heels), it tends to go away post-pregnancy. Lying with your feet up or on your side and drinking lots of water can help with the symptoms, says Dr. Minkin. And if you're worried about your swelling, call your doc.
Your Feet Might Grow
As you grow, your feet might get bigger, too: One small study out of Taiwan found that by week 38 of pregnancy, women's foot size had increased by about 12 percent. What's going on? "Relaxin, a hormone that tells the soft tissues (i.e. ligaments) to relax and loosen," says Appel. This happens a lot in the pelvic region (to, well, allow your baby to pass through more easily!) but your feet are also filled with soft tissues, she says. "They can feel the softening effects of relaxin, too, creating more length in them which, when compounded with the additional weight of pregnancy, can cause lasting shoe size increases postpartum." If these changes do occur and you notice your feet are still notably larger post-baby, you probably won't go back to your smaller feet, says Dr. Minkin. Sneaker shopping, anyone?
You Might Need a Little Bit More Support
Some women also notice that their arches drop with a baby on the way. Think of it as a springy mechanical issue, says Dr. Sheth. The arch can go down and pop back up — but with extra weight and a little bit more looseness, that 'spring back' isn't quite as good and can lead the structures on the bottom of your foot to stretch. Feel like you're digging into the front of your shoes (a longer foot could signal a dropping arch) or notice heel or arch pain? Consider a shoe with a little more arch support (or an insert), Dr. Sheth suggests.
Your Gait Might Change
If you're a runner, you likely know all about overpronation — when your arches roll a bit inward, leading you to put more pressure on the inside of your foot. And as your center of gravity changes throughout pregnancy (hello, bump!), you could wind up collapsing more on the insides of your feet. If you notice any new pain in your feet, legs, or hips crop up, your sneaks might not be serving you anymore. Head to your local running store for a gait analysis and treat yourself to a new pair. After all: Gait changes — and the wrong pair of shoes — can both contribute to foot issues such as plantar fasciitis. Pain continuing? Make an appointment with a podiatrist, suggests Dr. Sheth.
Your Skin Could Act Up
Hormones can alter how much your feet sweat, leading you to be sweatier (or drier — sweat can wind up drying your feet out) in your socks than before. "We're really focused on stretch marks and making sure the belly is hydrated but making sure your feet are hydrated is also important," says Dr. Sheth. An unscented lotion is enough to do the trick, she says — just skip in between your toes (an area that doesn't tend to get dried out).
And make sure you're wearing comfy shoes! If your feet are swollen (read: they don't fit into even your loosest shoes) and you wind up shoving them into less-than-comfortable pairs of kicks, you could wind up with calluses, corns, blisters, or other skin issues, says Dr. Sheth.