pregnancy foot massageShoes feeling a little snug lately? It's not your mind playing tricks on you, it's your feet: a pregnant woman's foot can increase a full size both in length and width during pregnancy. Get used to that new size nine because, unlike most other pregnancy changes, this one is permanent. By focusing on foot health and choosing the right footwear, you can make the next few months much more foot friendly.

Scientists have proposed that feet grow during pregnancy due to the combination of natural weight gain and increased joint looseness, which lowers the arch and elongates the foot. This can lead to a condition called over-pronation, or flat feet, which can cause health problems, such as arthritic in the feet, hips, knees and back. A woman's center of gravity is also affected by weight gain, putting additional painful pressure on the knees and feet. Other common foot-related ailments during pregnancy include edema, also known as swelling caused by fluid retention, cramping and varicose veins.

While lifestyle changes like staying hydrated, wearing seamless socks, taking breaks during long period of sitting or driving, and elevating your feet can help alleviate your symptoms, it's also essential that you choose the right footwear. If over-pronating is your problem, consider an orthotic for arch support. Steer clear of flimsy ballet flats, flip flops and high heels, which generally do not provide sufficient support. Furthermore, certain styles, such as wedges and spiky heels, can increase your chance of falling and harming the fetus, so they should be avoided.

Flats and low-heeled shows are the most effective choice, and slip-on styles, with or without elastic ankle straps, work particularly well for the very pregnant. Look for shoes made of natural leather and canvas for breathability, as well as soft, flexible materials, which will work with the shape of your foot. Companies like Naturalizer and Aerosole offer chic choices which maximize arch support and comfort. Have your feet measured several times throughout your pregnancy to make sure you are wearing the right size: shoes that are too small or narrow can constrict circulation.

While bigger feet may not be on the list of things you hoped to gain from pregnancy, consider the bright side: an excuse for some medically-sanctioned shoe shopping. Just keep in mind the time of day when you shop, as tired feet are swollen feet!

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