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Suddenly only shoes that are a whole shoe size bigger fit. Our expert explains why feet can get bigger in adults and why women in particular suffer from it.

Status: 02/01/2021 | archive

Many people know this - at some point you have to buy shoes that are half a shoe size or even a whole shoe size larger. Do our feet still grow in the course of our lives? No, our feet do not grow in the strict sense, because:

How long do feet grow and what does that mean for shoe size

"The bony growth of the foot bones is complete between the ages of 14 and 16 in girls, and a little later in boys. After that, our bones stop growing."

Prof. Dr. Christina Stukenborg-Colsman, foot and ankle surgeon at the Orthopedic Clinic of the Hannover Medical School in Diakovere Annastift

Our expert explains that behind the perceived growth of the feet, there is a natural aging process of the feet. The feet don't get longer, but they get wider. And then no longer fit into the usual shoe size. "Tendons and ligaments decrease and foot deformities can occur. For example splayfeet," says Prof. Stukenborg-Colsman. With splayfoot, the transverse arch of our foot sinks and the metatarsal bones and toes move apart, the foot becomes wider at the front.

Different shoe size through pumps

Wearing high-heeled shoes and toe-toe that are too tight can cause our feet to change. If we wear pumps frequently and for a long time, the entire burden of our body weight lies on the forefoot. The result can be: We get splayfoot. If the metatarsal bone deviates from the big toe to the side and the big toe moves inward, a foot deformity occurs, which is called hallux valgus or ball toe in German. For the most part, women are affected by this.

"This can happen when you wear high shoes for a long time, but there are usually several factors including heredity. Women have weaker connective tissue than men and that also affects the foot," says Stukenborg-Colsman.

Shoe size changes during pregnancy

In pregnancies it can happen that our shoes no longer fit us: "Some have foot problems during pregnancy due to the higher weight. In addition, we have a different fluid balance during pregnancy. Fluid accumulation can lead to swollen feet and thick legs But that usually disappears after pregnancy, "says our expert.

Being overweight puts a strain on the foot and can result in a larger shoe size

Our joints and especially our feet feel every additional kilo that we gain. Three to five times our body weight acts on the foot. The good news: even if our joints hurt because of it, we can still stop the process. "It has been scientifically proven that overweight can cause arthritic changes in the joints. Reducing weight can reduce these symptoms," explains the expert.

Determine the correct shoe size

82 percent of Germans buy their shoes the wrong size, according to the German Foot Report, a study by Dr. Monika Richter with the Pirmasens Testing and Research Institute (PFI) and the Hohenstein Institute of Clothing Physiology. Over 10,000 feet were measured for this. Two thirds of the test persons wore shoes that were too big - these are just as harmful as shoes that are too small.

"If the shoes are too wide, the foot does not find a hold and slips into the empty space in the shoe that is intended to roll, the so-called allowance. As a result, the toes are squeezed with every step as if the shoe were too small."

Dr. Claudia Schulz, German Shoe Institute

In the past few decades, the feet of Germans have hardly changed - even though their body size is increasing on average. Most women still wear a 38 or 39, and 42 is the most common shoe size for men. Most Germans tend to have wider feet.

This is how you buy the right shoe in the right shoe size

Tips from the German Shoe Institute:

  • Have your feet measured precisely in a specialist shop - the exact shoe size and width are determined there.
  • Shoes that are worn all day are best bought in the afternoon, shoes that are only worn in the evening are better bought in the evening. Background: Our feet are bigger and bigger from afternoon to evening.
  • Suitable shoes must always be a thumb's width longer than the foot.
  • Shoes that are too wide should be replaced with a narrower shoe rather than a smaller shoe. Sounds banal, but experience shows that people with narrower feet often choose shoes that are too short.

To keep your feet healthy - walk a lot barefoot

Prof. Stukenborg-Colsman recommends barefoot walking and gymnastics for fit feet: "Walk barefoot through the sand on the beach or through the garden when the lawn is still damp." Our foot muscles are also stimulated when we regularly roll a small hedgehog ball or a mini fascia ball over the soles of our feet.

Here you can find out how healthy it really is to walk barefoot and why we can even do sports barefoot.