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Far Too Tight
Photo: Elīna J
Your doctor recommended walking for exercise. After three weeks you gave it up. It proved an agony of blisters, corns, and sore feet. You were even getting blisters between your toes, and calluses on the side of your foot were making your everyday walking painful.

You got new, thick socks, thinking that would help. That made thing worse. You even bought a new pair of walking shoes, but your feet ached worse than ever. Finally, you had to quit. 

What went wrong?

It may be your shoes. They may be too small. Blisters between the toes indicate that your shoe is too short. It lacked room for the toes. Calluses on the sides of your foot indicate that your show is too narrow.

You have been wearing that size shoe since you were 21, you say. That may be the problem. You may not have gotten any taller—you may even have the same waist size as you did back then—but your feet continue to grow.

Blame cartilage and gravity. Your feet have a lot of cartilage in them. Cartilage cushions the many small bones in your feet. It also allows the bones to move as you walk.

Cartilage Changes

Cartilage spreads when there is a lot of weight on your feet—like when you are walking. When you were young, it spread very little. As you get older, the cartilage tends to spread more—and not to contract back when weight is removed. Your feet get larger—both longer and wider.

Pregnancy exacerbates the problem. To allow the baby’s head through the pelvis, pregnancy releases a hormone that loosens cartilage. This causes women’s feet to grow. The folk saying claims a woman’s feet grow one size per pregnancy. Average growth is half a size, usually. By the time a woman has her third child, further foot growth due to pregnancy ceases. By then, you need shoes that are larger than what you wore in your twenties.

Men are not immune to foot growth either, especially big and heavy men. When you consider that your entire weight is supported by the sole of your foot, it seems unsurprising that years of walking will loosen the cartilage in your feet.

Foot growth can often take you unaware. It occur over decades—except for pregnancy-induced foot growth. The problem is exacerbated because self-service has become the norm at shoe stores. Adults rarely have their feet professionally fitted for size before buy new shoes. So you blindly buy the same size you wore for your high school graduation.

Next time you buy shoes, check the fit before buying. Shop in the evening. Your feet are larger at day’s end. Pick shoes that are comfortable when you put them on. If your standard length or width feels too snug, try the next larger size. Avoid buying shoes that feel tight, hoping they stretch to fit.

Once you have shoes that fit—properly—and your feet have healed, try that walk again. The difference will amaze you.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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