What Your Feet Expect When You're Expecting: Shoes that Should Stay on the Shelf During Pregnancy

Among the many "joys" of pregnancy are the increased problems with your feet and knees. When you're not sleeping well and getting heartburn from eating nothing but mashed potatoes, you'll appreciate anything you can do to bring some comfort back into your life, even if it means benching some of your favorite shoes for the pregnancy season.

Heels Are Hellish

Women like high heels because they make the legs look longer, stronger, and confident. However, your confidence and strength will quickly turn to pain, anguish, and injury if you wear high heels during your second and third trimester. The reasons include weight gain and hormones.

Yes, pesky pounds will cause all sorts of discomforts. The extra weight you gain make wearing heels harder on your body than usual because as you gain, more stress is placed on your knees and hips. Heels make the extra strain even more pronounced, increasing your chances of misaligning your hips and spine. The extra weight will also put more pressure on the feet, especially the ankle, making you more susceptible to injury.

As your pregnancy progresses, you may not only find that hormone changes cause you to cry for no reason at all; they'll also cause your muscles and ligaments to relax. The hormone responsible for this change is called—wait for it—relaxin. Your feet will become more flexible, and therefore much more prone to injuries caused by twisting or rolling the foot the wrong way. High heels place stress on the ankle and ball of the foot; both areas will not be as strong as they were pre-pregnancy, leading to sprains. 

Don't Make Flip Flops Your Foundation

Pregnancy is also a great time to pack away one of your favorite wardrobe staples: the flip flop. Along with your flip flops, you can also pack away poorly constructed flats or other styles of sandals that don't offer good arch support. 

Why is wearing flip flops flip akin to making a deal with devil when you are pregnant? Well, the loosened ligaments and weight gain can cause the feet to become wider and flatter during pregnancy, especially through the natural arch of the foot. Flip flops and similar shoes only make this flat-footed problem worse. If you spend too much time in beach shoes during pregnancy, you will develop a condition called plantar fasciitis. 

The plantar fascia is a ribbon of tissue that runs from the heel and through the arch of the foot. It controls motion through the foot, allowing you to walk and run with ease. Walking without support with extra weight causes this area to become inflamed, making every step more painful for you. As the natural arch in the foot begins to fall, you will have to deal with over-pronation, which can unleash a whole new set of problems.

Over-pronation occurs when the arch falls as you take a step, causing the foot to finish the stepping motion with a roll inward, instead of straight. This will further aggravate the plantar facia, but will also cause you to suffer from shin splints, sore knees, and painful hip movements. In order to keep yourself from suffering from these unnecessary problems, you can:

  • wear sports shoes with excellent cushioning and arch support during pregnancy. Your feet will thank you for your sacrifice.
  • get orthotic inserts from a podiatrist. Some women have naturally flat feet, and pregnancy only makes a bad thing worse. You can beef up the support on your shoes with orthotics prescribed by a pro. 
  • continue to exercise during pregnancy. Exercise strengthens the muscles in the body and helps keep pregnancy weight gain under control. Choose low impact activities like swimming, cycling, or walking in order to reduce the stress on your seriously stressed feet.