Your feet support your entire body. They make it possible to walk, run, climb, and stand. They also work to keep you stable and balanced.
When you’re a child, your feet rapidly grow each year. They grow even faster during puberty, as your body turns into an adult. Your bones, including the ones in your feet, get bigger during this time.
Generally, feet stop growing around 20 or 21 years old. But it’s possible for a person’s feet to keep growing into their early 20s.
It also depends when you started puberty. Everyone grows at different rates. For example, if you started puberty early, your body and feet may stop growing sooner than other people. Genetics play a role, too.
Some people feel like their feet are getting bigger later in life. In reality, growing feet are usually due to age-related changes like weight gain or loose ligaments. It’s also common to experience an increase in feet size during pregnancy.
Feet usually stop growing at age 20 in males. The most noticeable changes will likely happen during growth spurts in puberty. In boys, puberty typically occurs between ages 10 and 15.
Foot growth generally slows down between ages 14 and 16.
In girls, feet also stop growing around age 20. They usually start puberty earlier, between ages 8 to 13 years old. During this time, a girl’s feet will rapidly grow as she goes through growth spurts.
Usually, the rate of foot growth decreases between ages 12 to 13.5 in females.
During childhood and adolescence, the bones in your feet get bigger. This is what makes your feet grow.
When your bones stop growing in your 20s, your feet stop growing, too. They won’t keep growing throughout life.
Yet, your feet can change as you get older. These changes alter the size of your feet, but they don’t involve actual bone growth.
Your feet might increase in size due to:
- Decreased elasticity. After years of using your feet, your tendons and ligaments lose elasticity. This makes your feet longer and wider.
- Weight gain. Weight loss and maintenance is more difficult later in life. Gaining weight puts pressure on the pads of your feet, making them spread.
- Physical deformities. As you get older, you’re more likely to develop bunions and hammertoes. You may have to wear a bigger shoe size in order to comfortably wear shoes.
It’s normal for feet to get bigger during pregnancy. This can happen for several reasons:
- Increased weight. The increased body weight places extra stress on your feet. Your ligaments can become elastic, causing your feet to spread.
- Hormonal changes. During pregnancy, your placenta produces relaxin, a hormone that softens the cervix by promoting collagen degradation. Relaxin might also loosen the ligaments in your feet.
- Growing uterus. As your uterus get bigger, it places pressure on the surrounding blood vessels. The pressure may lead to edema, or swelling, in your feet and ankles.
- Increased fluid retention. Your body holds onto more fluid during pregnancy. The fluid can accumulate in your lower limbs, resulting in bigger feet.
If your feet get bigger due to swelling, the increased size will be temporary. Ankle and foot swelling typically subside after giving birth.
To reduce swelling during pregnancy, try the following tips:
- do light physical activity every day
- wear compression socks
- wear loose clothing
- avoid prolonged standing
- sleep on your left side
- elevate your legs
In some cases, the increased size is permanent. This usually happens when the ligaments in your feet become loose and lax during pregnancy. If these structural changes occur, your feet may not return to their original size.
Most people rarely think about their feet. However, your feet are some of the most interesting parts of your body.
Here are several fascinating facts about your feet:
1. One quarter of your bones are in your feet.
Your skeleton has a total of 206 bones.
Each foot contains 26 bones. This equals 52 bones in both feet, which is about one-quarter of all the bones in your body.
There are also 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles in each foot.
2. They have the most sweat glands.
Compared to the rest of your body, the soles of your feet have the most sweat glands per square centimeter. There are about 125,000 sweat glands on each sole. They excrete about half a pint of perspiration every day.
3. They’re some of the most ticklish areas of the body.
The soles of your feet contain approximately 8,000 nerve endings. Most of the nerves are located close to the skin surface.
For this reason, your feet are extremely sensitive to physical touch. That’s why some people are very ticklish on their feet.
4. Different foot sizes are common.
Many people have different foot sizes. In fact, it’s rare to have two feet that are the same size. If one foot is bigger than the other, it’s recommended to buy shoes that comfortably fit the bigger foot.
5. Our feet are getting bigger.
In the United States, the average shoe size is getting larger. Thirty years ago, the most popular shoe sizes for men and women were 9.5 and 7.5, respectively.
Today, the most common shoe sizes are 10.5 for men and 8.5 for women. This may be related to the increase in overweight and obese individuals.
6. Toenails grow slower than fingernails.
Normally, fingernails grow about three millimeters a month. It takes about six months for a fingernail to completely grow in.
Toenails takes three times as long. A toenail can take about 12 to 18 months to fully grow.
Feet usually stop growing at age 20. In some people, their feet might continue to slowly get bigger into their early 20s. Everyone is different, so there isn’t a set age for when your feet should stop growing.
As you get older, your feet might get bigger due to weight gain, loose ligaments, or physical changes like bunions. But this doesn’t mean your actual bones are growing. Instead, your feet get flatter and wider over time.
If you wear the same shoe size as you did in your 20s, consider getting a bigger size. This will provide proper support and promote good foot health.