Why is the Average Foot Size Increasing?

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If you’ve shopped for shoes recently, either online or at a retailer, you may have noticed that there is a greater range of sizes being offered by certain brands. In the past, anything larger than size 11 for women or size 12 for men was hard to find or required special order. Now, it’s much easier to find those sizes and beyond, including styles with varying widths. If you’re a fan of zappos.com, you can even find shoes up to size 20 for both men and women.

According to College of Podiatry, our feet are getting larger. In the past four decades, foot size has increased by an average of two sizes for both men and women. The old women’s size 6 has been re-classified as the current women’s size 4. For men, the number of requests for shoe sizes 6 and 7 has shifted over the last 20 years to larger sizes.

A poll of 2,000 British adults conducted by the College of Podiatry found that more than 60 percent of men said their feet had become wider over the years.

Why are our feet growing?

First, the human foot is an amazingly complex structure. Over the years, feet endure endless pounding as they deal with our ever-active lifestyles and duties. This constant use will affect their performance and appearance, causing slight changes over time that can make our old, familiar shoe sizes feel small.

The average body type has also changed. Being taller and heavier has contributed to the increase in average foot size. In itself, rising obesity is a global health problem that affects an individual in ways both visible and invisible. An increase in weight results in additional pressure on the feet, forcing ligaments and joints to work harder to maintain the foot structure through any activity.

Over a long period of time and in an attempt to absorb the increased pressure as a result of increased body weight, feet can splay or widen. This can cause pain, bunions, foot deformity and other mobility issues.

Another factor that is responsible for increased foot size is that bigger babies are being delivered today than in decades past. This is related to changes in nutrition and lifestyles.

Also, when young children eat more, growth hormones are stimulated throughout the body – including in the feet. Furthermore, bones in children are soft and supple and can spread under heavy body weight.

Your Shoe Size Today Is…

Now that you understand how your feet can change, it should be obvious that you won’t be ONE size for life. We recommend that you always have your foot measured, and that you be open to trying a slightly larger size than you are used to. This is especially true for runners, who tend to need more room in their athletic shoes (feet can swell up half a size after putting in a few miles).

If you find that the styles you are trying on feel small or constrictive, your best bet is to take the time to seek out alternatives. Tight footwear causes minor aches in individuals, and over time, those can add up to major complications. Don’t be afraid to shop online if your favorite stores don’t stock the right styles and sizes for your needs. Your #1 priority should be buying shoes that fit correctly, as you alone will have to deal with the consequences.

Many of our patients are dealing with the effects of a lifetime of small, tight and uncomfortable shoes. They come in with bunions, metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, hammertoeand ingrown toenails, among other conditions. Call (713) 541-3199 if foot or ankle pain are preventing you from enjoying normal activities. Dr. Maislos is a board certified Houston podiatrist and surgeon, with a passion for treating patients and helping them feel great again.

Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:

  • toe misalignment due to bunions or hammertoe
  • frequent numbness or tingling in the feet
  • sharp heel pain

Houston Foot and Ankle