By: Kim Mills (C. Ped (C), CAT(C), CCAA) Certified Pedorthist (Canada) Certified Athletic Therapist
Pregnancy can be a beautiful thing. Women will be complimented on their new “glow” and their new baby bump. But the belly is not the only thing that becomes bigger during pregnancy; your feet can also grow in size! During pregnancy, the body will naturally produce a hormone called Relaxin. This hormone allows tendons and ligaments in the body to stretch, which is necessary to facilitate the birthing process.
If you look at the anatomy of the feet, there are 26 bones held together by multiple ligaments and tendons. The Relaxin hormone allows these ligaments and tendons to stretch, causing the arch of the foot to decrease in height, and the length of the foot to increase in length. Although it looks like the foot is growing, it is due to the lax ligaments. Most women’s feet will return to their normal size a few months after the childbirth; however, some women’s feet will increase to one half or a full size permanently. Other than needing a new post-pregnancy shoe wardrobe, your feet should be fine.
Pregnancy can be a risk factor for some foot problems such as Plantar Fasciitis (severe heel pain). This is due to the natural increased weight that women gain in a short period of time. This new added weight puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the feet, and with the foot stretching with the release of Relaxin can cause the plantar fascia to tear at the heel. The best solution during your pregnancy is supportive shoes that protect the arches from strain and cushion the foot while standing or walking. A custom orthotic that will support the foot in a corrective position inside the shoe would also be beneficial.
Custom orthotics can also help with over-pronation, which is very common during pregnancy. Over-pronation, which is often referred to as flat-feet, occurs when a person’s arches flatten out while standing or walking. This can create excessive stress to the tissues and inflammation in the arches, thus causing tired achy feet. The custom orthotics will support the person’s natural arch profile, to keep their lower kinetic chain (ankle-knees-hips-low back) in better alignment. Therefore, helping to alleviate tired, sore feet, and help prevent other conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis, and low back pain.
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