Does Walking Barefoot Make Your Feet Bigger?

If you walk barefoot often you may have noticed that your feet seem to look bigger. Is this just a trick of the mind or are your feet actually growing?

Your feet aren’t growing in the traditional sense. Given enough time, walking barefoot can allow your feet to decompress from consistently wearing shoes resulting in bigger feet. Even perfectly sized shoes can alter the way your feet develop.

When the norm is wearing shoes, changing that can have a few effects on your feet. Below, I will go over all the potential effects from widening your feet to flattening them.

Does Walking Barefoot Make Your Feet Bigger

Does Going Barefoot Widen Your Feet?

One of the potential effects of going barefoot is that your feet can become wider. They may get to the point where they look swollen when compared to how they were before. However, as with any potential effect of going barefoot, this will take some time. Walking barefoot for 10 minutes a day won’t do it. It takes years of extensive barefoot walking and running for this to happen.

This widening can happen because of what wearing shoes your entire life will do. In an article in Footwear Science, researchers found that Western individuals who wore shoes most of their life had more slender feet compared to Indian populations who did not.

While shoes are not a bad choice, quite the contrary, they can affect the way you walk and how your feet grow. That your feet can widen when going barefoot is less of an effect of being barefoot. Instead, it is more of a result of no longer wearing shoes all of the time. 

Unless your feet are still growing when you start going barefoot, your feet aren’t growing wider. Feet stop growing around 20 years old depending on the person. As mentioned above, your feet are decompressing. The change in your walking pattern will change how your feet react to pressure.

What Makes Your Feet Get Bigger?

There are plenty of reasons your feet will change over time. The causes are not only limited to going barefoot or not. In fact, your feet getting bigger is a natural phenomenon that happens to everyone eventually. Some of the common causes include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

As you age, your body wears out–especially your feet. Consider how much you have used your feet up to this point. Consider how much more you will have worn them down after 20 or 30 years. The human body is not everlasting. In your later years, your feet will lose their elasticity. This can cause your feet to widen and flatten.

Additionally, gaining a lot of excess weight can increase the load your feet must bear. They already bear more than your body weight due to the effects of gravity. The more your feet must bear, the more they become worn down. The connective tissue may begin loosening with a similar effect to aging.

Lastly, pregnancy will commonly increase an expecting person’s foot size. This is due to the various hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. One of the goals of these hormones is the loosening of ligaments in the birth canal. This effect can extend throughout the entire body and affect the feet. When the connective tissue is loosened feet can become flat and wide.

Does Walking Barefoot Make Your Feet Flat?

As mentioned above, widening is not the only change your feet can go through. They can also become much flatter than they are currently. However, this is not a common result of walking barefoot. It may actually be shoes that cause an increased risk for flat feet.

The reason for this may have to do with the support provided by shoes. The muscles that would have supported the arch without shoes do not get the same exercise. These weaker foot muscles can result in a shallower arch when out of shoes. 

Going barefoot will expose your foot muscles to more strains than they are used to. This can be a risk of course. That is why it is important to go slowly when switching to a barefoot lifestyle. After some time the muscles will be more refined and can prevent injury and flat feet. 

If you go from constantly wearing shoes to running barefoot on concrete you will greatly increase the chance of foot damage. This is one circumstance where you could cause your feet to become flat. If you are concerned, talk to a podiatrist.

Final Thoughts

People have been walking barefoot for centuries, and there is some evidence that suggests it can make your feet bigger. However, this doesn’t make your feet bigger in the traditional sense.

The widening and flattening of your feet will only happen if you walk barefoot extensively, like for years. It’s not going to happen overnight.