From Our 2010 Archives

Pregnant Women Put Fashion Before Foot Health

Unsuitable Footwear Can Lead to Severe Foot Problems, Podiatrists Warn

By Tim Locke
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

June 15, 2010 -- The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in the U.K. says pregnant women are risking the health of their feet to keep up with celebrity trends. It says that could be a painful mistake.

The society has found from a survey that half of pregnant women in the U.K. feel pressured to keep up with celebrity fashion. Nearly a third of women risk foot health by wearing high heels during pregnancy and two-thirds wear flip-flops, which lack necessary support.

One thousand pregnant and recently pregnant women were questioned for the society's annual Feet for Life month.

Other unsuitable footwear included ballet pumps (53%) and Ugg style boots (30%).

The society found 70% of pregnant women suffer from foot problems like swollen ankles (37%), swollen feet (45%), and arch and heel pain (16%).

Podiatrists are urging women to wear supportive, wide-fitting shoes to stay comfortable and avoid long-term damage.

Lorraine Jones, a podiatrist from The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, says in a news release: "Weight gain and hormonal changes in pregnancy have a huge impact on the body. Muscles and ligaments soften and stretch because of an increase in the ovarian hormone relaxin, which makes your feet more prone to ankle and ligament strains on a daily basis. High heels alter your posture, shorten your calf muscles and place increased pressure on your back and knees. In pregnancy this places extra pressure on your joints when they are already under strain which can result in a host of foot, leg and back problems and could increase the likelihood of falls."

She adds: "Shoes like ballet pumps, flip flops and Ugg boots are also unsuitable for daily wear in pregnancy because they don't provide your feet with the necessary support. If you're pregnant choose well fitted, round toed and low heeled, comfortable shoes with straps to support the foot and ankle and help minimise discomfort and prevent the prospect of long term damage. There are so many different shoes available today that you can still wear fashionable footwear which is supportive and comfortable. Many of the pregnant celebrities you see wearing high heels in magazines are attending events, so like them, try to keep your high heeled, high fashion shoes for a special occasion and stick to a more supportive shoe on a daily basis."

Foot Tips in Pregnancy

The society's top feet tips in pregnancy are:

  • Wear comfortable, supportive footwear, ideally with a strap, laces, or Velcro. Choose a heel height of 3 centimeters, as this shifts your weight a little further forward on your feet, which can help alleviate discomfort. Avoid wearing high heels, as this can place unnecessary pressure on your joints at a time when they are already under strain.
  • Supportive footwear with extra shock absorption, a supportive arch, and firm heel is essential.
  • Don't cross your legs or ankles when sitting.
  • Keep active. Keep the lower limbs moving even when resting. Lying on your back and simulating riding a bike will help the muscles in the leg and reduce swelling. Prevent cramps from occurring by boosting circulation. Try rotating your ankles 10 times to the left and 10 times to the right, and repeating. Before you start an exercise program, check with your doctor.
  • Raise your feet and legs up whenever you can and do daily leg and calf stretches.
  • If you experience arch pain, a podiatrist may be able to provide special inserts for your shoes to help treat the problem.
  • Wear surgical stockings -- with advice from a health professional.
  • Feet tend to swell during the day, so buy shoes later in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest.
  • Make sure there is 1 centimeter between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Choose shoes with a toe box that is high enough and wide enough to comfortably fit, either rounded or square shaped, not pointed.

SOURCES: News release, The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.

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