Some of you may have heard that our fingernails and hair continue growing even after death, but sadly, it’s a myth (source). Here’s an interesting fact instead: feet develop and grow all throughout our lives! Most of the growth takes place in spurts and phases (source). Moreover, the feet are the only part of a body that grows larger as we age (source)! Basically, they flatten and that permanently increases their size. Anyway, if you’re wondering when do feet stop growing, here’s what you should know!
Foot Growth During Childhood
Feet formation takes place even before birth (source). It’s during the third or the fourth month of gestation that the long feet bones and the toes begin to develop. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the most important stage of growth and development of a child’s foot occurs during the first year of life (source), and that depends on genetics (source). Another thing that might affect the growth is pressure. Hence, it’s normally advised not to make babies wear tight booties, shoes, or socks. Also, here’s another fact - our feet double in length from the moment of birth to the age of four! The growth is almost 10mm per month (source)! Therefore, now you know the reason why children regularly outgrow their shoes. The next spurt takes place between the age 9 and 11.
Feet growth stops by the age of 14 for girls and 16 – for boys.
Factors That Affect Foot Growth
Yes, there are different factors that might either improve or impede the growth of your feet.
Heredity plays a big role in determining a person’s foot growth speed, length, and development. That’s obvious since we often inherit out overall physical features from parents or grandparents (indirectly). At the end of the day, the feet are just a part of our bodies and they grow proportionally with it.
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Men’s feet grow for much longer than women’s do. Similarly, women sometimes experience feet growth during pregnancy. Thus, gender also makes a small contribution towards the growth and appearance of the feet.
Natural processes like ligament stretching can affect the feet’s growing patterns. It also depends on hormones. After GH (growth hormone) treatment, it’s been noticed that hands and feet increase in their size (source).
Diet and Nutrition
Diet and nutrition influence our lives and bodies tremendously. Eating healthily supports a regular body growth, which indirectly affects the size of our feet. Not limited to just a healthy diet, high-calorie junk food consumption has led to increased obesity and, subsequently, the foot size.
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Weight and Age
As weight increases, foot size might increase too. The lateral extension of the foot happens due to the flattening of the foot, in case you were wondering. Also, the tendons and ligaments lose their elasticity, and, therefore, some people as old as 50 years could experience an increase in their foot size.
Pressure: The Foot Growth Inhibitor
Abnormal pressure can greatly impede the foot growth, especially in the initial years of a human life. Those who’re aware of the ancient Chinese practice to bind feet (source) are probably familiar with the fact that pressure can restrict foot growth. According to California Podiatric Medical Association, a child’s foot is flexible and soft and the amount of pressure applied can either deform the bone structure or limit the growth (source). Poor fitting shoes and socks that are too tight should be strictly avoided when it comes to children. When a child begins to walk, he/she should do it barefoot. Therefore, don’t rush putting those shoes on. Even during the later years, it’s important to constantly buy new, bigger size shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s also important to wear proper fitting footwear even in your later years. In a study conducted by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it was found that almost 75% of subjects wore shoes that were too small (source). When buying shoes, always think about the comfort rather than the size of the shoe. Average foot size has increased as a product of evolution, so we shouldn’t try to squeeze them in smaller shoes any longer.
Changes in Foot Size During Adulthood
A fully grown adult foot contains 26 bones and encompasses a complex network of blood vessels, nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Even though the feet growth slows down by the age of 20, most have observed a growth spurt around the age of 40 (source). Over the years, the plantar fascia tendon, which runs along the length of the foot sole, stretches out causing the lowering of arch. Unfortunately, it can cause different issues such as callus formation, bunions, or pressure on the big toe.
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Pregnancy and Foot Size
Women must have definitely noticed the changes in their feet during pregnancy (source). That could be due to:
Fluid retention causes the obvious swelling of the feet, which is a characteristic trait of pregnancy. That’s the reason why they appear larger than usual. Therefore, your snugly fitting shoes may become tight and uncomfortable.
Foot size also increases due to hormone release that relax pelvic area during gestation or around delivery. These hormones also cause the loosening of the ligaments in the foot, thus elongating it (source).
Flattening of the Foot Arch
Increase in weight during pregnancy lowers the foot arch, making it longer than usual. The flattening of the arch is actually permanent too (source). Therefore, it’s important to try to maintain the weight and constantly consult your doctor on that.
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When do feet stop growing? That happens a few years before we hit puberty. Also, as you’ve probably learnt, there’re a lot of contributing factors that control the growth of them. Feet development continues throughout our lives, and weight as well as pregnancy can influence that. I hope that answered your question. Do let me know if you have any concerns in the comments section, I’ll do my best to answer them. Have a good day and take care!