Have you noticed your feet getting wider after wearing Crocs or Birkenstocks for extended periods? Podiatrists say you aren’t alone.
One of the very best parts of summer is that you can release your toes from their closed shoe shackles, so they can finally get some air.
Gone are the oppressive reign of boots and brogues, and outcome the strappy sandals, Birkenstocks and thongs, if you’re so inclined.
There’s definitely a sense of freedom, being able to spread out your toes and feel the breeze between your phalanges. But to actually increase in size?
As unbelievable as it sounds, one TikTok user is certain, and she’s got the receipts to prove it.
@leahsickofthis, an Irish content creator and regular Crocs wearer says that after wearing the shoes for all of summer 2019, her feet grew a notable amount – an entire shoe size.
“I was originally size five, I wore Crocs all summer in 2019 for three months straight when I was in America. I came home and none of my shoes fit me, I went from a size five to a size six. So just putting that out there,” she said, in a video that’s now got 286,000 views.
“I don’t wear Crocs that often anymore, in fact barely ever, and I’ve stayed a size six. So use that information for whatever purpose you want,” she added.
Commenters on the video rallied in support, with one writing “Because normal shoes aren’t meant for your feet they squish them”.
Another said, “They don’t make your feet bigger, normal shoes actually restrict your feet whereas whilst wearing Crocs your feet are relaxed.”
But while everyone and their dog thinks they’re an expert these days, we thought it best to touch base with the real experts in feet, to see what the science says.
Can your feet really grow from wearing Crocs?
Ricky Lee, podiatrist and director of The Walking Clinic Podiatrists tells Body+Soul it is actually possible for your feet to grow, depending on the shoes you wear.
“It is true that our feet will change shape over time, this occurs throughout our whole life. As we age our joints and feet change shape, size and structure” he says.
It’s not necessarily because of a brand of footwear, per se, “but is due to wearing wider and less structured footwear” as a whole.
Lee says “Flat, wide, unstructured shoes, or long periods being barefoot could potentially contribute to these changes,” and there are also some shoe companies that make their shoes with changes in foot size in mind.
But does it happen for everyone? No, says Lee. Just because you wear more loosely structured footwear, it doesn’t necessarily mean your feet will become wider or flatter – though clearly it can for some.
Is it bad for your feet to change in size?
“It is not bad for them, as our feet do constantly change, it is important to keep up with these changes and accept them,” says Lees.
“Foot changes over our lifetime are normal, and this topic is actually very divisive within the podiatry world,” he says. “‘Normal or traditional’ shoes can, in some cases, actually cause our feet to deform and not allow for their normal development or formation”, so wearing relaxed, well-fitting shoes is a good thing.
Aside from wearing loose-fitting footwear, pregnancy is the other greatest cause of a change in foot size.
“There is a large increase in the hormone relaxin, which causes the ligaments, joints, muscles and certain structures to become more flexible in preparation for childbirth,” says Lee. “This can have a large effect on the feet and quite commonly post-childbirth women are left with slightly larger or wider feet.”
Is there anything you can do to stop your feet expanding?
While certain footwear will lend itself to changes in your foot size or shape, Lee urges people to remember that’s not a bad thing at all – just an inconvenient one.
Most people who have experienced their feet changing shape say they wear Crocs, Birkenstocks or other relaxed-style shoes all the time – like @leahsickofthis who wore them all summer long – so balancing your wardrobe with more structured shoes could help to maintain your feet shape.
If your feet are changing shape in a way that’s not healthy, like developing claws or bunions, podiatrists may recommend people go “barefoot to aid the strengthening of their feet to allow them to maintain their structural position and improve their overall foot health,” says Lee.
“We commonly recommend exercises to improve foot strength (little intrinsic muscles of the foot) to improve foot function and help reduce potential deformity.
“On the other foot, we also very commonly advise structured footwear to stabilise and aid in the prevention of certain issues or problems at the feet into the future.”
However, seeing a podiatrist is always the best course of action if you’re worried about your feet changing shape.
Long-term effects on our feet
Many people started wearing Crocs and Birkenstocks more regularly during Covid, when they were working from home and rarely leaving the house.
“People were barefoot for so long. So their feet changed, but the shoes didn’t change,” licensed professional medical pedicurist Marcela Correa told the New York Post.
While very comfortable and convenient for quick trips to the shops or ducking down to the beach, they’re not always the most supportive shoes for your feet – even if they do allow them to relax.
Foot health and hygiene is an oft-overlooked part of our self-care routine, but our feet are responsible for literally carrying us through life, so neglecting to properly care for them can have devastating knock-on effects.
Podiatry Week Australia aims to increase education of proper practices for taking care of our feet, and educate the public on the large range of ways podiatrists can support their health.
Find out more at podiatry.org.au