Shoes Getting Tight? Why Your Feet Change Size Over Time

Make sure you get your foot measured every few years

Woman having painful feet due to unfit shoes

We all know that our bodies change as we age. Your feet, of course, are not exempt. With every step you take over the years, your body absorbs two to three times its weight due to gravity. The main recipient of all this wear and tear? Your feet.

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While your feet are amazing, complicated pieces of machinery, the literal pounding and squeezing they take over the years will change how they look and perform. And the natural changes that come with aging will impact things as well.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Ease Your Bunions Without Surgery

Ever-widening

One aspect of your feet that change over the years is size. You might have worn a size 5 narrow when you were 20, but don’t count on wearing that size forever, says podiatrist Joy Rowland, DPM. That’s because your feet get flatter over time.

“Over time and through gravity, our feet tend to get longer and wider,” Dr. Rowland says. “That happens after our ligaments and our tendons become a little bit more lax over time.”

In addition to getting bigger, your feet can develop deformities such as bunions and hammertoes when you reach middle age, Dr. Rowland says. This can happen when tendons and ligaments in the feet that get tighter or loose depending on the area of the foot in which they’re located.

Other factors that determine development of foot deformities include heredity, the types of shoes you wear and whether your footwear fits well.

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As much as a third of all older people have a bunion, reports the American Geriatrics Society.

RELATED: Best Ways You Can Treat, Prevent Hammertoe

Body changes

May of us gain weight as we get older, which can make your feet flat, Dr. Rowland says.

The plantar fascia tendon that runs the length of the bottom of your foot becomes stretched, which contributes to the lowering of the arch. Weight gain also can change the mechanics of how you walk and put extra pressure on the foot and ankles

Changes in how your body stores fat as you get older also can impact how your feet look and feel.

The fat pads that cushion the bottom of your feet grow thinner as you grow older. So your feet absorb less shock, which can make them feel sore and painful when you walk around in thin-soled shoes on hard surfaces.

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“When patients start aging, we tend to lose the fat pad that is underlying the skin, so patients can develop calluses and corns or they can also get something called fat pad atrophy,” Dr. Rowland says. 

About 30 percent of older people with foot pain have calluses and about 15 percent have corns, the American Geriatrics Society says.

Other conditions

You also may develop other conditions with age, such as diabetes and arthritis, which can affect the foot and need medical treatment. But as long as you are healthy and take routine care of your feet, you usually can avoid serious problems, Dr. Rowland says.

It’s important to get fitted for shoes every so often, Dr. Rowland says. Make sure you have a proper fit and to consult a podiatrist at the onset on any foot pain. When your favorite shoes begin to cause pain or discomfort, it’s time to invest in a new pair.

As you get older, an annual foot health check is important. Your doctor can identify conditions like diabetes or circulatory problems by looking at your feet, or treat common problems like corns, cracked skin and ingrown toenails.

More information
Foot and ankle pain treatment guide

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