Can your feet shrink

Are My Feet Shrinking?

Could osteoporosis cause feet to shrink? Is this a typical symptom? I used to wear a size 9 1/2 and I now wear a size 7.

— Erin, Illinois

You have me stumped. I would need much more information to develop a differential diagnosis. A number of questions come to my mind:

  • Is there any pain?
  • Is/was there any swelling?
  • Over what time did it happen?
  • Have you lost a lot of weight?
  • Is there any deformity?
  • Do you have feeling in your feet?
  • Was there any injury?
  • Was there any infection in the feet?
  • Have you had any ulcers?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Is there a history of sexually transmitted diseases, specifically syphilis?
  • Do you feel pain in general?
  • Do you have armadillos? (They can transmit bacteria that leads to leprosy and neuropathic joints.)
  • Is the skin of your hands, face, and feet tight and leathery?
  • Are the nails of the hands and feet curving over the flesh of the fingers and toes?
  • Have your hands and feet been turning blue and/or white in the cold?
  • Do you have trouble swallowing or breathing?
  • Do you have scleroderma (a rare, progressive disease that leads to the hardening and tightening of skin and connective tissues)?

Feet do not shrink from osteoporosis. A situation where feet can become shortened is with neuropathic joints (Charcot joints), where there is damage to the nerves and the bones crumble. This most common reason for this in the United States is diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes), where there is a metabolic problem in handling sugars (carbohydrates). Diabetic neuropathy affects the nerves of diabetic patients and can cause neuropathic joint disease. This happens mostly in the feet of diabetic patients and is a pretty serious problem that may have little pain associated with it. A rare condition that is present from birth is congenital insensitivity to pain. Patients feel no pain, may get injuries of their extremities, and can develop neuropathic joints. Another condition, inherited multicentric osteolysis with carpal-tarsal localization, can imitate juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This is hereditary and is usually evident early in life. A sexually transmitted disease that is curable today, syphilis, if untreated or poorly treated, can cause damage to the spinal cord with neuropathic joints.

Leprosy, an infectious disease, is seen primarily in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Nigeria. It sometimes happens to armadillo handlers, as they handle the bacteria which cause it. Leprosy causes neuropathy and can also cause short feet due to neuropathic joints. However, it can be treated with special antibiotics.

A systemic rheumatic illness that affects the skin with tightness and the blood vessels is scleroderma. Scleroderma can be very insidious and can cause abnormal reactions to cold exposure with bluing and whiteness of the hands and toes. Sometimes the distal bones of the fingers and toes (phalanges) can be shortened, with curving of the nail over the shortened fingers and toes. This process could not cause that degree of shortening from size 9 ½ to 7.

I recommend seeing an excellent physician to do a full history and physical for you, including important lab tests. Just a suggestion: Try a rheumatologist, and best of luck.

Mother with feet-shrinking condition only got diagnosis after going online

A mother who suffers from a disorder which makes feet shrink only managed to get a diagnosis after sharing symptoms online.
Sophie Earl-Park suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a group of inherited disorders that damages nerves outside the brain and spine, as well as a number of other health conditions.
Mrs Earl-Park said she shared a picture of “curling and arched” feet on Facebook and someone contacted her to ask if she had CMT.
She said it was a “eureka” moment and she later received a diagnosis after being referred to a neurological expert by her GP.
The 29-year-old, whose feet have shrunk from a size six to a size five, is trying to raise awareness of her condition during CMT awareness month with the charity CMT UK.

Mrs Earl-Park, from Swansea, was born with congenital hip dysplasia and has had 14 major hip operations since birth.
When her son Bentley – now aged six – was born, her hip socket fractured in four places which ultimately meant she needed a hip replacement.
She told the Press Association: “After the hip replacement I was unable to recover at a normal speed and was made to feel silly by my consultant, but I knew there was something else pretty major going on with my body, as my legs and arms were getting weaker and weaker to the point where I struggled to even hold my son to bottle feed him.”
Three years later, when she was 26, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), which is a group of rare inherited conditions that affect connective tissue.
“I joined the EDS Facebook support group and shared a picture of my curling, arched feet and asked if anyone else had the same. A lady messaged me to say my feet looked like hers and she had Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) – it was a eureka moment,” she said.
“I immediately Googled CMT and found I had all the classical symptoms – my legs are shaped like an upside down champagne bottle, I’ve got hammer toes and high arched feet, swan neck fingers (which means they’re bending inwards) and I’ve got hip dysplasia, which is directly linked to CMT.
“In addition, I have foot drop on both feet that requires me to walk with my legs up high in order to stop them dragging on the floor.
“Luckily my new GP had seen CMT in other patients, recognised the foot deformities and referred me to a neurologist. As soon as I walked into the consultant’s room he said he knew I had CMT.
“It was such a relief to be diagnosed, as it’s meant I’ve been able to do things differently.
“I’ve been given a wheelchair for long days out, ankle supports and I’ve also got a mobility scooter to get around, as my CMT is quickly progressing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult and exhausting to walk.
“Living with CMT can be challenging on a day-to-day basis and being a ‘normal’ mother to my son is hard because I can’t do all the things I want to do with him in the way my peers do with their children.
“On top of all this, my feet have shrunk from a size six to a five and because my arches are so high, my feet are wide so it’s a struggle to get shoes – although on the plus side, Sketchers are brilliant.”
:: To find out more visit or call 0800 6526316.
This article (or variations on the theme) have appeared in the following publications:

Do Your Feet Get Smaller When You Lose Weight?

Listen to the Geek Fitness Podcast

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Pocket Casts | RSS

When you lose weight, your body changes in ways that I can pretty much guarantee that you’ve never even considered–like that your feet lose weight. And that brings up issues that affect the way you dress and groom yourself. As well as the kind of clothes that you buy. I’d bet money you aren’t used to your feet getting smaller.

I mean, that was one of the biggest changes as I went from 310 pounds to 155. For some reason, I didn’t expect my feet to lose weight when I dropped enough weight to make up for another whole person.

Remember, Runners: As your feet lose weight, your shoes won’t fit anymore.

You expect shirts to get looser and baggier the smaller you get. Pants, too. After all, pant size is the go-to detail in those before/after photos from late-night infomercials. You probably even expect your double-chins to shrink and give you a more pronounced jaw and neckline.

And they will.

But your feet will, too! So will your neck, arms, legs, and face. Heck, your fingers and wrists will shrink, reducing your ring, watch, and bracelet sizes.

You will notice these changes yourself, and other people will notice those changes. They’re public and prominent and easy to see. (And awesome. Don’t forget awesome.) But what really got me was that feet do lose weight. No one really tells fat people that every single inch of your body shrinks.

(I’ll pause here while you guffaw like adolescents for a few minutes.)

But seriously, the biggest change from weight loss–and one that no one told me about–was that my feet would lose weight, too. That meant that my shoe size would change. And it took me a bit of pain to realize how big a problem that was.

Now, I have nice feet. For a Hobbit. They’re short, thick, hairy, and wide. After my weight loss, I went from wearing a size 12 to a size 9(ish). Even now, 8 years later, I don’t fully know what size I wear. For years, I wore a 10 4E (that’s extra-wide) in my Asics Gel-Nimbus running shoes, but I’ve been told that’s far too big for me, too (my ankles and balls of my feet agree). In Altras and Converse, I tend to wear a 9.5. New Balance 860 is a 9 2E (just wide, not extra).

The fit changes a bit by each shoe and brand, but that just means I get to experiment with more running shoes. So that’s a plus.

Shoes That Are Too Big Hurt. Bad.

When my feet first lost weight, most of my shoes slipped up and down more than they did before, obviously. But I kept wearing them. It was gradual, and despite getting blisters and sore feet and knees, I just kept wearing the one pair of sneakers (those beat up Skechers in the pic above), for both everyday wear and for running.

As I started really running, the blisters got worse. So did the foot and knee pain. It wasn’t the normal fat-guy pain. This was an all-new, all-different kind of pain. And when I finally did buy my first pair of real running shoes (Nimbus 13s, size 10.5 4E–again pictured above), they were a size and a half smaller than my old Skechers. And the soles weren’t destroyed, there was cushion, and they didn’t slip around and blister my feet.

I was in heaven. Once I realized that weight loss made my feet shrink, the fix was easy. But it took me so long for the idea to even come to me. I mean, who has fat feet? Answer: me. I did. Apparently really fat feet when I went from a 12 to a 9.

So please. Take my advice. When you lose weight, don’t wear your old, worn out shoes. They will be far too large. That’s hard on your feet. That’s hard on your ankles and your knees. Basically, it’s hard on your whole body because foot health has an impact on almost every part of your body. Shoes can be expensive. And running shoes even more so, but I always say the only thing a runner really needs is a comfortable pair of running shoes.

And if you’ve lost weight, make that a comfortable pair of running shoes in the right size.

Nobody told me that weight loss would make my feet shrink so dramatically. So this is me. Telling you, straight up: your feet will shrink. A lot.. Prepare for it. And don’t wait to grab even a new, cheap pair of comfy tennies. I am as guilty as anyone of being so obsessed with the exposed and visible areas of my body. We tend to forget that our daily lives and overall well-being are affected by the soles of our feet a whole heck of a lot more than the size of our biceps.

As you’ve lost weight or become more fit, have you noticed any unexpected changes in your body?

Generally speaking, most things in nature grow with age (Just think about your waistline). In fact – it is pretty typical for people to gain a shoe size or two after they have reached adulthood. As people get older and heavier, the shock absorption systems of the foot tend to wear out and their arches begin to show the strain. As a result of the constant pressure, the arches of the foot flatten or pronate and the foot spreads out, getting both wider and longer.

So that explains why feet seem to get bigger with age…but why would they shrink?

Well, one reason could be the opposite of the “flat foot” scenario mentioned above. Your feet could be getting shorter because your arches are getting higher.

A foot with a really high arch is called a “Cavus” foot. This foot type is somewhat rare, and it causes its own category of problems. Cavus feet are found most frequently in people who have very high muscle tone. In fact, their muscles are too strong – and like a clock that has been wound too tightly, the gears and leavers of the foot begin to jam together. As all the bones of the foot are pulled higher into a tighter arch, the overall length of the foot decreases. (Sometimes this phenomenon is associated with some type of nervous system disorder).

A foot can imitate this Cavus foot type by becoming supinated. If your foot is supinated, it is rolling to the outside – causing you to put more weight on the pinky toe side of your foot.

Here is a (somewhat exaggerated) picture of what that looks like.

Just like a Cavus foot, a supinated foot becomes shorter.

So, your feet could be getting shorter because your arches are getting higher or because you are supinating more than you had in the past. But both of these conditions are fairly rare. The most common reason for a shortened foot length has to do with toe alignment.

In a perfect world, all your toes would point straight ahead like this:

But, as a result of a combination of factors – including faulty genetics and poor shoe fit; many people end up with toes that are crooked and squished together like the foot below.

When the big toe crowds over toward the other toes it is called a Hallux Valgus. A Bunion or bump of bone that sticks out at the base of the big toe is almost always associated with Hallux Valgus. Big toe issues can really mess up your feet – so if you notice this sort of thing starting to happen, it is time to get your feet evaluated by an expert (like a Podiatrist or Pedorthist).

The last reason your feet could be getting shorter is because your toes are starting to get crunched up and curled over. This is called Hammer Toe, Claw Toe or Mallet Toe. Here is what that looks like:

If your toes are doing this, it is often because of two things: either you’ve been wearing your shoes too tight…or you haven’t had enough arch support under your feet. If your body senses that your arches are beginning to collapse or pronate, you will often begin to grip the ground with your toes in effort to stabilize your foot. If you do this long enough, your toes will be stuck in this position.

And we come full circle. It all comes down to support. And good shoe fit.

The moral of the story is: don’t expect your feet to always be the same size. However, if you notice that they are changing more than a size or two – your safest bet is to get them checked out in order to rule out any complications. Don’t take your feet for granted…no matter what size they are.

Walk well.

With every step you take over the years, your body absorbs two to three times its weight due to gravity. The main recipient of all that wear and tear? Your feet.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

While your feet are amazing, complicated pieces of machinery, the literal pounding and squeezing they take over the years will change how they look and perform. And the natural changes that come with aging will impact things, too.

One size does not always fit

You might have worn a size 5 when you were 20, but don’t count on wearing that size forever, says podiatrist Joy Rowland, DPM. That’s because your feet get flatter over time.

“Over time and because of gravity, our feet tend to get longer and wider,” Dr. Rowland explains. “That happens after our ligaments and our tendons become a little bit more lax over time.”

In addition to getting bigger, your feet can develop deformities such as bunions and hammertoes as you age, Dr. Rowland says. (As much as one-third of all older people have a bunion, according to the American Geriatrics Society.) This can happen when tendons and ligaments in the feet get tighter or looser, depending on the area of the foot in which they’re located.

Heredity, the types of shoes you wear and how well they fit may also play into development of foot deformities.

Body changes

Many of us gain weight as we get older, which can also make your feet flatter, Dr. Rowland says.

The plantar fascia tendon that runs the length of the bottom of your foot becomes stretched, which contributes to lowering of the arch. Weight gain also can change the mechanics of how you walk and put extra pressure on the feet and ankles.

Changes in how your body stores fat as you get older also may impact how your feet look and feel. The fat pads that cushion the bottom of your feet grow thinner as you grow older. So your feet absorb less shock, which can make them feel sore and painful when you walk around in thin-soled shoes on hard surfaces.

“When we start aging, we tend to lose the fat pad that is underlying the skin, so some people develop calluses and corns in addition to the fat pad atrophy, which adds to a patient’s pain,” Dr. Rowland says.

Other conditions

Diabetes and arthritis can affect your feet, so if you develop either of those, your feet may require medical treatment. But as long as you are healthy and take routine care of your feet, you usually can avoid serious problems, Dr. Rowland says.

She adds that it’s important to get fitted for shoes every so often to make sure you have a proper fit. When your favorite shoes begin to cause pain or discomfort, it’s time to invest in a new pair. If the pain doesn’t go away, consult a podiatrist.

As you get older, an annual foot health check is also important. Your doctor can identify conditions like diabetes or circulatory problems by looking at your feet, or treat common problems like corns, cracked skin and ingrown toenails.

Why Feet Get Bigger as We Get Older

Are you wondering why you are wearing bigger shoes as you get older? Do you think you feet are getting bigger? Well, that is because they are getting bigger

Nearly 100% of us will need bigger shoes as we get older. Essentially what is happening is that over time our feet slowly flatten out. As they flatten, the arch lengthens and your feet get longer. In addition they splay out and your feet get wider.

Since your feet are getting bigger, you should be wearing larger shoes as you get older. If you are still wearing the same shoes you wore 10 years ago, we can pretty much guarantee that they are too small.

Besides Age, Why Else Do Feet Get Bigger?

1. Weight gain can cause feet to get bigger

If you are carrying extra weight, you are going to carry extra fat everywhere including around your feet with the result of larger feet.

2. Pregnancy can cause feet to get bigger

During pregnancy the same hormones that relax the ligaments of the birth canal also relax the ligaments in the rest of your body including the feet. Since the feet are carrying extra load during pregnancy due to normal weight gain, the feet will often flatten leading to lengthening and widening of the feet.

How to Stop Your Feet from Getting Bigger

There may not be a way to completely stop your feet from getting bigger. But you may be able to slow the progression. Below are our best suggestions of what you can do to combat the flattening of the foot that occurs with aging, weight gain and pregnancy.

Please read this important disclosure about the products recommended in this article.

1. Use arch supports in your shoes

By using arch support to stop the flattening of the feet you may be able to stop or slow the splay that leads to feet getting bigger. The key is to get an arch support that conforms very close to the arch of foot. The closer it grabs your arch the better it will be at stopping your foot from flattening and splaying. Another way to look at this is to wear the highest arched orthotic you can tolerate.

Custom orthotics that are made to be total contact to the arch of your foot will provide the best support and protection. There are, however, some very good over-the-counter arch supports that will offer excellent protection.

Over-the-Counter Orthotics with the Best Arch Support

For athletic shoes and walking shoes try the FootChair Plus Orthotic with adjustable arch height. It has a great arch to help stop flattening of the foot plus pads that can be used to increase the arch for even more support. This may help stop the foot from getting bigger over time.

For smaller casual shoes and small athletic shoes (such as soccer cleats) try the smaller version – the FootChair 3/4 Length Orthotic.

For women’s dress shoes, the FootChair Slim Orthotic with Adjustable Arch Support is also is the one we recommend to our patients. This is by far the best OTC arch support we have found for women’s flats and dress shoes. It has a great arch support, a very slim profile and flexes to adapt to most heel heights.

Here is a list of all of our recommended prefabricated orthotics.

2. Wear arch support sandals or slippers anytime you are not wearing shoes

At times that you are not wearing shoes, for example when in your house, wear sandals or slippers with arch support. The is particularly important if you are on hard, flat surfaces such as hardwood floors.

These arch support sandals will help prevent flattening and splaying of your feet.

The sandal brand with the most supportive arch is currently Vionic. You can see a selection of Vionic sandals and slippers here.

The key to avoiding flattening of the arch is to wear arch support as much as you can – even when at home.

3. Custom orthotics offer more protection against feet getting bigger

If prefabricated orthotics are not providing enough support, we can prescribe use a custom orthotic. Custom orthotics will conform closer to the arch of the foot, so they do a better job stopping your feet from flattening out. In particular a “total-contact orthotic” that hugs the arch of the foot very close will help the the arch from flattening the foot from getting longer.

If you are in the Seattle area contact us for an appointment to find out if you are a good candidate for custom orthotics.

4. Wear stable shoes

Stable shoes that don’t flex too much will also help support your feet and prevent the flattening that leads to larger feet. Our list of recommended shoes can be subscribed to here.

5. Have your feet sized when you buy shoes

Go to specialty shoe stores with well-trained staff and believe the clerk when they tell you that you are no longer a size 8.

6. Lose weight to shrink your feet

Extra weight puts a lot of flattening force on the foot. If you can take off a few pounds you will decrease those harmful forces on your feet.

So our general recommendation is that it is good idea to wear arch supports or custom othotics to help prevent the foot from flattening over time. Stable shoes will also help. These suggestions will probably help slow or decrease the enlargement of your feet, but regardless of what you do you will probably need a somewhat larger shoe as time progresses.

Most Important for Preventing Your Foot From Splaying and Getting Bigger

If you want to try to limit how much your foot splays out the most important things you can do are to ALWAYS wear arch support as described above and, if you are overweight, then lose some weight.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *