When you were growing up, you probably had your feet measured every few months. Whenever your shoes started feeling tight, that meant it was time to head to the shoe store, get your feet into those sliding size scales, and determine your new shoe size. When shoes don't fit, this is what happens to your feet

At some point, however, you stopped outgrowing your shoes. That final size was now your size for life…or so you thought. Sure, women may have expected a slight change in shoe size during or after a pregnancy, but barring that, most adults believe their shoe size will always stay the same. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true—and assuming it is may be hurting your feet!

 

Foot Size Changes Even after You’ve Stopped “Growing”

 

The truth of the matter is that, even after you’ve stopped adding inches to your height,  over time, the size and shape of a person's foot will change.  There are 28 bones in the foot, and at age 18 (or whatever age you reach skeletal maturity) those bones—along with all the others in your body—will stop growing.  

Having said that, however, various circumstances such as hormonal changes, weight gain, additional laxity in your ligaments (combined with natural biomechanical forces) can cause your ligaments to expand.  This expansion will cause your foot to "grow" in size, even though your bones themselves do not grow.  Which means that, you may outgrow your shoes, and your shoe size may change, because those bigger ligaments will expand your feet.  

This is a phenomenon that can be seen around the world. Take the UK, for example—apparently, since 1970, the average shoe size in men has grown from an 8 to a size 10. In women, the increase has gone from a size 4 to a size 6.  As we just discussed, increasing foot sizes are something that comes along with increased height, weight and age in the average individual. 

How Your Foot Changes As You Age

In addition to a larger foot, you may notice other changes in your feet as you get older.  

Of course, one of the most common (and most frustrating) is the change in foot size we just examined. But this change in foot size can do more than send you to the store for a bunch of new kicks. As your tissues become looser, not only will your foot size expand, but you may also notice fallen arches or an overall increase in the length of your foot, not just the width.  Both of these problems may make it difficult, if not impossible, to fit into your existing shoes.

Why Your Shoes Still Don’t Fit

What if your shoe size hasn’t changed, but your shoes aren’t fitting properly? What if the expensive pair of heels you just snagged on Zappos simply won’t fit properly, no matter how much you squeeze ad scrunch your toes? Are your toes hanging over the edge of your shoes? That means the shoes don't fit!

Think back to how you bought shoes when you were a child…imagine the scene we described at the beginning of this post. Back before the internet explosion, people bought shoes in stores. Today, people buy shoes from the comfort of their computers. You save the time of driving to a store and fighting for a parking spot, plus you get free shipping (usually) and rock bottom prices.

So…that’s what you gain, but what about what you lose when you shop online for shoes? Even if your online retailer offers free returns, shopping online may lead you to hold onto a pair of shoes that isn't all you thought they would be - for the sake of not having to wait for a new pair to be sent or to avoid the annoyance of repackaging those shoes for returns. Plus, when you shop online, you miss an opportunity to get your foot re-measured, a sure-fire way to determine if age has affected your shoe size!

Given all the downsides of online shoe shopping, I’d like to make a bold suggestion…when it comes to gear for your feet, make a vow to shop local. Not only will you support the struggling retailers, you will guarantee yourself a comfortable fit and earn a free opportunity to measure your feet and check in with your actual shoe size!

Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White
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