Why Do Women’s Feet Get Bigger As They Age?

There are many reasons why women’s feet get wider as they age. Some of the reasons include weight gain and an aging population. We’ve probably all noticed that people are generally bigger today than years ago. Weight gain adds more pressure on your feet as you stand or walk which makes the joints and ligaments work harder to retain the structure of your feet. The more pressure the feet have to put up with, the more your feet will stretch or spread out. As feet age, they lose fat padding and grow wider and longer, resulting in lower arches and problems like corns and calluses. Structural changes can affect balance and gait. With time, your feet will stop going back to their normal shape, and their size in due course will become wider and longer. As we get older the ligaments and soft tissue start to grow weaker and lose elasticity, causing the feet to grow wider and flatten.

Good fitting shoes with enough cushioning and support can help with this. As the foot becomes wider, longer and less padded, the plantar fascia tendon which runs along the length of the sole and makes up the arch becomes stretched; this contributes to the lowering of the arch. A lower arch can lead to bunions forming. Women are inclined to have wider feet due to pronation. Pronation is when the arch area in the inside of the foot, rolls inwards towards the ground. Women tend to have wider hips which make pronation more common in women than men. Legs are made to turn inwards at the knees, which can lead to pronation at the feet. If a woman is overpronated it will look as if she has flat feet. Pronated feet are wider than unpronated feet thus making them look bigger. Another reason when women complain about having wider feet is during pregnancy.

During this time, the body releases hormones which relax the soft tissue structures like the ligaments. This hormonal change along with the natural weight gain during pregnancy is known to increase a woman’s shoe size. Women tend to spend a lot of time walking and standing on hard surfaces, which can lead to foot deformities. Foot deformities such as hammertoes and bunions are caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes more often than not. Feet can change in size as we get older or heavier. Health problems like diabetes, circulation problems and heart disease can cause swollen ankles and feet, making them look bigger. Sales figures show that the average woman’s shoe size has gone up from a 5 in the past five years. This means that demand for the bigger sizes, like the nines, tens and elevens is also going up. This increase has been linked to the obesity epidemic.

Medical experts believe that consuming high-density foods like pizza and processed foods during puberty stimulates the growth hormone. This not only then increases waist size, it also affects other parts of the body such as the feet. What causes foot pain? Almost all women have experienced a dull ache or throbbing feet sometime in their lives. There are many reasons for this but mostly ill-fitting shoes are to blame. Most people put up with foot pain as a part of their lives. Foot pain and discomfort is generally a sign that something isn’t right, your body is trying to send you a message. If you do something about it then, it will save you from unnecessary pain in the future. The foot is designed to adapt to uneven ground. Nevertheless, hard and flat are the types of surfaces most people find themselves walking on these days.

Sadly, human feet don’t do too well on this kind of surface. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP), the leading professional body for registered chiropodists and podiatrists in the UK, have stated that 37% of British women have bought ill-fitting shoes in the summer sales and 80% women have suffered from foot problems. The study has found that women are ignoring the consequences of buying and wearing ill-fitting shoes just for fashions sake. Many foot problems arise because of this. Out of the 80% of women who endure foot problems because of bad shoes is made up of 39% with cracked heels, 19% having in-growing toenails, 15% having bunions and 24% resulting corns on their feet.

The top five foot problems in the UK are:

27% – Cracked heels

26% – Veruccas

26% – Fungal infections

19% – In-growing toenails

16% – Corns

Blisters are also another cause of ill-fitting shoes. Years of wearing ill-fitting shoes can take their toll on your feet. Problems such as bunions, neuromas and hammertoes can occur. Not forgetting arthritis. Overlooking foot problems can increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis in your feet. Nearly half of the people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis in their feet or ankles. Ill-fitting shoes are a danger to people with diabetes too. Something as simple as the wrong size shoes can put those with diabetes at risk of serious foot problems that could lead to amputation. We all think that ‘killer’ high heels are the shoes which would give you the most problems. They do cause problems but slip-on shoes like the court shoe is the worst out of them all as they give no support, they tend to be too narrow in the toe and cause the foot to slide forward and squash the toes.

Common foot problem

  • Blisters – caused from friction when rubbing against ill-fitting shoes.
  • Bunion – a swelling on the side of the big toe, causing pain and worsened by wearing ill-fitting shoes.
  • Ingrown toenails – tight footwear and socks in ill-fitting shoes worsen this condition.
  • Corns – hard and thick skin on areas of the foot where there is a lot of pressure or rubbing on the skin.


Bunions are caused when the toes are pushed out of their normal position. This causes a lump on the side of the foot that can be very painful and swollen. Wearing tight fitting shoes can cause this.

Corns and calluses

The skins way of protecting itself against repeated pressure and friction is to build up hard layers of skin cells where the irritation has occurred. When this build up occurs on top of or between toes is called corns. Calluses are hard skin which is thick and yellowish on the sole of the foot.


A hammertoe is when one of the smaller toes starts to look like a claw, when the outer toes are bent rather than straight. Wearing ill-fitting shoes like exceptionally high heels or pointed shoes can cause hammertoes. These types of shoes force the toes into an unnatural shape which cause the muscles in the toes to shorten thus forming a hammertoe. People with diabetes are more likely to develop hammertoes; extra care is needed to ensure correct shoes are worn to help prevent this. Wearing correct fitting shoes and looking after your feet is a must with the hectic lifestyles women lead today.