Take the weight off your feet!

British feet are getting bigger and wider. There has been an increase in two shoe sizes since 1970.
The increase in shoe size has been linked to increasing weight and height.
Both men and women admit to wearing incorrectly fitting shoes which are too small and narrow, risking foot problems in the short and long term.
British feet are getting longer and wider, but many men and women are risking foot problems by squeezing their feet into shoes which are too small and too narrow, according to new research by The College of Podiatry.
The research suggests this is due to a number of things; lack of understanding about shoe sizes and width fittings available, the growth in online shopping, not having shoes professionally fitted, and knowingly buying the wrong size because of fashion or if the shoes are on sale.
The research, which was commissioned to mark foot health awareness campaign Feet for Life month (June 2014), showed that the average shoe size in the UK has increased by around two sizes since the 1970s. Today the average male wears a size ten compared to a size eight shoe 40 years ago; and the average female wears a size six versus a size four in the seventies.
Over a quarter (26%) of men and 41 per cent of women say their feet have changed size as an adult, with both reporting they have got bigger and wider (48% of men say their feet have got bigger and 61% say they are wider. 35% of women report their feet have got bigger and 68% say they have got wider). They attribute this to putting on weight (41%) and getting older (55%).
Yet both men (34%)  and women (46%) admit to buying shoes that don’t fit ; with people nearly twice as likely to buy shoes too small (44%) than too big (24%). When asked why they have bought shoes that didn’t fit, the top reasons were:
  1. I thought I was buying the correct size but when I tried them on at home / wore them they didn’t feel comfortable (35%)
  2. I liked the shoes and they didn’t have them in my size (27%)
  3. I bought them online and didn’t realise they wouldn’t fit (26%)
  4. They were on sale (19%)
  5. I didn’t have time to try them on in the shops (15%)When asked what challenges they find when they buy footwear, 20 per cent said they struggle to find shoes which are wide enough and 51 per cent find it difficult to find comfortable shoes which they also feel are fashionable.

    The research also suggests that people may not even know what size shoe they should be wearing, with 17 per cent admitting to never having had their feet measured – even as a child – and the majority of other adults not having had their feet measured since they were aged 10-15. A further 62 per cent are not aware that in addition to standard shoe sizes which relate to the length of the shoe, you can also buy shoes in different width fittings.

    With many wearing shoes which don’t fit them it isn’t surprising that 29 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men report suffering from daily or frequent sore, aching feet. The top complaints people suffer with daily or frequently were:

    Men Women
    1. Hard skin (27%) Hard skin (42%)
    2. Sore / aching feet (18%) Sore / aching feet (29%)
    3. Tight calf muscles (16%) Joint place– Bunions (15%) and Blisters (15%)
    4. Joint place– Corns (13%) and Blisters (13%) Tight calf muscles (14%)
    5. Calluses (12%) Calluses (15%)

    Commenting on the findings, podiatrist Lorraine Jones from The College of Podiatry said:

    “Feet are getting bigger because as a nation we are becoming taller and we’re increasing in weight. Increased weight gain places more pressure on the feet and means ligaments and joints need to work harder to maintain the foot’s structure and keep you mobile. Over time if someone is gaining weight the feet splay to try and accommodate the increased pressure, which can cause pain, lead to mobility issues and increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis in the lower limb joints. Whatever your shoe size, the most important thing is to wear a comfortable, well-fitting shoe. More retailers are introducing wider fitting shoe ranges so if you have wide feet try to opt for a shoe that will comfortably accommodate your foot without causing rubbing or blisters. Try not to rush buying shoes, make sure they fit comfortably and try to have them professionally fitted if you can. If your shoes are hurting you then this means they don’t fit properly or you may not be wearing them for the right task. Being comfortable on your feet is key to maintaining mobility and managing a healthy weight so make sure you have the right footwear. If you are trying to lose weight then undertaking exercise with supportive footwear is key.”

    The average man owns nine pairs of shoes and women typically have 17 pairs. Nearly a third (31%) of men and women admit they keep and continue to wear shoes even though they know they don’t fit.

    The College of Podiatry is the academic authority for chiropody and podiatry in the UK, and an independent charity dedicated to feet health research, education and public awareness. It works closely with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists – the professional body for the UK’s registered chiropodists and podiatrists. In short, they’re the UK’s experts for everything and anything to do with feet.  Podiatry is the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other disorders of the feet.


    The survey was conducted on behalf of The College of Podiatry by One Poll amongst 2,000 UK adults aged 18+. The survey was conducted online between 20-22 May 2014

    The Shoe Fitters Association estimates that the average size shoe for women in the 1970s was a size 4 and a size 8 for men. Official surveys of shoe sizes are not currently carried out in the UK.

    Comfortable, happy feet are key to staying mobile and active; which is essential for good overall health. However research from The College of Podiatry shows that neglect and poor footwear are resulting in a range of foot problems which are causing women discomfort, pain and at worse, mobility problems either in the present or later in life.

    Research amongst 2,000 UK adults showed that half of women put up with uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion and a third (36%) of women have worn shoes they knew didn’t fit them because they looked nice. Just 12 per cent of men report to having done the same.

    As a result, 90 per cent of women report having suffered with a foot problem and one in five women say they are embarrassed about their feet.

    The top foot problems suffered by women are blisters (55%), cracked heels (45%), veruccas (28%), corns (24%) and ingrown toenails (20%). More than twice the number of women to men report suffering from corns, cracked heels and bunions. Despite these problems, 19 per cent of women haven’t sought help because they didn’t think their foot complaint was important.

    Advice for healthy, happy feet:“Our feet bear the brunt of our weight and if you don’t support them with the right footwear, in the short term you can experience painful and unsightly: blisters, corns, callouses and general foot pain, and in the long term this could severely affect your mobility. The key is to wear the right shoe for the right job and small changes can make a big difference. If you normally wear high heels in the office, try wearing some trainers for your commute to work and then slip your heels on when you get there. If you love wearing ballet pumps, try to minimize wear for when you will be sitting down a lot during the day rather than out and about pounding the pavements where the shoe will give you little support. Keep flip flops for the beach and opt for a summer sandal with a strap to hold your foot in place for wearing when you’re walking around. If you do experience foot pain, don’t ignore it, seek professional help as there is always something that can be done.”

    Top tips from The College of Podiatry for comfortable footwear:

    • Consider wearing shoes with a strap or lace over the instep rather than slip-ons.  This will help stop your foot sliding forward, a bit like a seatbelt in a car
    • Choose shoes with a toe box that is high enough and wide enough to comfortably fit, either rounded or square shaped, not pointed
    • Footwear should have a firm thick heel to help with shock absorption and a supportive arch to keep the foot in place
    • Vary your shoe type and heel heights from day to day, avoiding wearing either extreme – flat or very high – on a frequent basis. For everyday use, it’s ideal to keep your heel height to 3cm
    • Ensure your shoe accommodates the width of your foot. Many women wear shoes that are too narrow for them. A number of retailers now offer wider fitting shoes so look for those if you find it difficult to get shoes to fit
    • Always wear the right shoe for the job. Not all foot problems can be prevented but a large majority of problems do result or are exacerbated from incorrect or poor footwear. If you are going to be active then wear a low heeled supportive shoe, but heels are fine to don if it’s for a special occasion.