Fatigue, morning sickness, and peeing more than usual are all things we expect from pregnancy, but the irritation of foot pain tends to go unmentioned.
Pregnancy brings so many changes to the body; even your tootsies don’t get a free pass, so what can you expect from pregnancy-related foot pain?
Foot pain can begin in pregnancy as you begin to gain weight during your first trimester. As your weight increases, pressure is placed upon the tissue connecting your foot’s ball, arch, and heel. Fluid retention and hormones can also contribute to foot pain due to widening, relaxed ligaments.
A comfortable pair of shoes and an occasional foot massage can help to make foot pain a little more bearable during pregnancy, but an awareness of how you treat your feet throughout the day can make a big difference.
To understand a little more about pregnancy foot pain, we’ll look at the common complaints, what to expect in each trimester, and tips for alleviating your symptoms.
Foot Pain During Pregnancy – Possible Problems
The weight gain and surge of reproductive hormones cause your feet to change shape and even the way you walk.
With these changes, it’s common to experience some pain in each area of the foot. Let’s look at some of the foot issues you can expect during pregnancy.
Your pregnant body creates extra fluid, and gravity sends a lot of it down to your feet and ankles.
What’s more, new hormones make changes to your blood vessels, which make it harder for your body to rid itself of this excess fluid.
2. Diminished Arch
A regular foot arch helps align us as we move, but pregnancy produces a reproductive hormone in the body called relaxin.
As the name suggests, this hormone relaxes supportive structures in the feet like arches, resulting in extra strain and aches in the heel and arches.
3. Widening Feet No Longer Fit Shoes
The hormone relaxin has a loosening effect on your foot ligaments, causing them to stretch and widen.
Coupled with the pressure placed onto your feet with your added pregnancy pounds, the joints in your feet widen to the point that your shoes begin to pinch. This means that it’s time for a new pair.
4. Muscle Strain
According to physician and OB/GYN specialist Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi, the added weight in pregnancy puts all kinds of pressure on your feet, especially in those with a flat foot type as this causes your feet to roll inward while walking.
In addition to muscle strain, muscle spasms are also common due to restricted blood flow.
5. Change in Gait
Your gait (how your body moves as you walk) is altered as you progress through your pregnancy due to the increased weight and expansion of your uterus.
This added pressure can lead to overpronation, which causes your outer heel edge to strike the ground first as you walk, resulting in your foot rolling inward too much.
6. Plantar Fasciitis
In the long term, walking with an overpronation type of gait can lead to a painful condition known as plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is the band of tissue supporting the arch of your foot, and the extra strain of your altered pregnancy gait can lead to foot and heel pain.
7. Pregnant Feet Hurt To Walk
Things like plantar fasciitis, tendon strains, and swelling due to fluid retention can all contribute to pain while walking.
Discussing your specific symptoms with a podiatrist will help you get the best advice and appropriate treatment to help you walk comfortably again.
Some home remedies can help matters too (which we’ll talk about further on).
8. Heel Pain During Pregnancy
Naturally flat feet and the fallen arches that occur during pregnancy due to the relaxin hormone cause a laxity between the heel and foot bones, resulting in pronounced pain in the heels.
The change in gait will also put additional strain and aches on your heels.
9. Top of Foot Pain
In some cases, you may experience pain in the top of the foot accompanied by swelling and warmth.
According to Dr. Lauren Doyle at the Weil Foot and Ankle Institute, pain in the top of the foot can be caused by a stress fracture in the metatarsal bone (across the middle of the foot).
This can be improved in a matter of weeks with early treatment.
10. Nerve Pain in Toes During Pregnancy
A growing uterus can press on the nerves in your legs. This can cause a tingly feeling of pins and needles in your toes.
The swelling caused by your fluid retention can cause the nerves in your feet and toes to become compressed and pinched, especially if blood flow is restricted due to standing all day or wearing tight shoes.
11. Pregnant Feet Hurt but Not Swollen
Foot pain can occur without swelling as the most commonly reported foot symptom in pregnancy is the pain caused by the flattening of the feet due to diminished arches.
This can present as a sharp throbbing pain or a dull ache and can be corrected with the help of orthotic shoes and insoles to provide arch support.
12. Ball of Foot Pain Pregnancy
As your ligaments spread and widen, particularly in the toes and balls of your feet, this can stretch your plantar fascia tissue band, causing inflammation from the heel and across the arch to the ball area.
Activity puts extra strain on this stretched tissue, leading to noticeable pain.
When To Consult Your Doctor
If you experience swelling or pain in only one foot or the pain/swelling comes on suddenly, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor as this may, in rare cases, indicate a more serious condition.
You should also report the following symptoms to your doctor:
- Sudden swelling anywhere but feet
- Excess fluid build-up in legs or feet
- Severe pain in abdomen or ribs
- Seeing stars or feeling faint
- Swelling persists throughout the day, even after relaxation
- Shooting pain anywhere, especially in lower body
- General discomfort brought on suddenly
- Discolored skin
Pregnancy Foot Pain First Trimester
Women typically gain between 1 and 5 pounds during the first trimester of a healthy pregnancy, so toward the end of your initial trimester, your weight gain (though minimal) will begin to put a strain on your plantar fascia tissue, resulting in inflammation.
This can cause “a sharp pain in the heel, especially after you’ve been sitting for a while or when you wake up in the morning,” notes podiatrist Dr. Alan Berman at Somers Orthopedic Surgery.
Pregnancy Foot Pain Second Trimester
By week 13 and beyond, growing pressure from the expanding uterus and fluid retention cause the feet to noticeably swell (a condition known as edema), making it painful to walk.
The eversion of your ankle (ankle turning outwards) also begins to decrease by the second trimester, which alters your pelvis height and hip rotation, in turn affecting your gait, which can cause pain from over or under pronation as your ankle rolls too far inward or outward.
Pregnancy Foot Pain Third Trimester
Studies have shown that the length of your foot increases during the third trimester. This will bring pain and discomfort from shoes that no longer fit well due to the stretching and relaxing of ligaments.
The incidence of a condition known as “cavus foot” (abnormally high foot arches) can also increase significantly in the final trimester.
How To Relieve Foot Pain During Pregnancy
A good podiatrist in your contacts is a great thing for every pregnant woman to have as they can suggest treatment for each foot pain issue and prescribe supportive footwear that helps distribute the weight evenly.
In addition to this, there are plenty of steps you can take (pun intended!) to help bring relief from pregnancy-related foot pain.
Here are a few of our top suggestions…
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day (8-12 cups is ideal for helping flush out the sodium that can contribute to swelling pain).
- Wear seamless socks to prevent circulation constriction.
- Ditch the heels! Give the balls, toes, arches, and heels of your feet a rest in supportive and breathable footwear.
- Maintain regular exercise and go for walks to keep ligaments and tendons supple and flexible.
- Do gentle daily stretches that target the legs and feet. Here are some great ones to practice.
- Avoid going barefoot, and try not to cross your legs while sitting to enhance circulation.
- Take breaks during the day to rest and elevate your feet to minimize pressure.
- Massage your feet regularly (or get your partner to do it!).
- Limit salt intake, and do your best to stay cool in hot weather as heat can make swelling and the resulting pain worse.
- Try compression socks. These help to graduate pressure upwards to prevent fluid pooling in the feet. Ask your doctor or podiatrist first as they can prescribe special compression stockings over store-bought ones that may be ineffective.
Does Your Shoe Size Change During Pregnancy?
Yes. During pregnancy, hormones cause your ligaments to loosen and relax to help the body stretch in preparation for birth.
Ligaments in the feet are also relaxed. This causes the bones to widen and spread, so you will often need to go up a shoe size from the second trimester onwards.
When Do Feet Go Back to Normal After Pregnancy?
According to Baby Center, pregnancy-related foot swelling generally subsides within a month after giving birth, but the spreading of bones caused by loosening ligaments is permanent.
Foot lengthening is most pronounced with the first pregnancy, so you may find you need to go up a shoe size.
Foot pain can begin to trouble you as early as your first trimester due to hormonal changes and pressure caused by weight gain, but thankfully many of these aches and pains can be treated or alleviated with some lifestyle (and footwear!) changes.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you spot anything out of the ordinary, such as prolonged swelling or pain/swelling in only one foot, as this may indicate a more serious health condition.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.