Common Causes of Foot and Heel Pain During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time filled with both joy and anticipation. Your body is going through many rapid physical changes due to hormonal changes and your growing baby. These changes can lead to pregnancy aches and pains along the way. One common complaint, yet one you may not hear as much about, is heel pain during pregnancy. If you are expecting and finding each step a little more tender than the last, you are not alone. Let us take a closer look at the common causes of heel pain and how to take care of your feet during pregnancy. This will help ensure you can focus more on the excitement of welcoming your little one and less on your foot pain.

Pregnancy can put you at risk for many different foot conditions due to the extra strain and weight put on your feet. Your expanding belly, along with the increase in the progesterone hormone, can lead to changes in your body posture and gait which can lead to heel pain. In addition, the extra weight gain during pregnancy can add pressure to your feet, causing discomfort and potential damage. Read on to learn everything you need to know about heel pain during pregnancy.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not give medical advice. It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor with any questions or concerns you have during your pregnancy.

What Causes Heel Pain During Pregnancy?

Heel pain can have several causes during pregnancy. One of the most common reasons is the natural weight gain that comes with pregnancy. As your baby grows, you put on extra weight that your feet need to support. This extra pressure can cause pain in your heels since they bear the brunt of your body weight.

Another culprit could be pronation, which is when your foot rolls inward as you walk or stand. This puts added pressure on the heel of the foot, leading to pain and discomfort. Your center of gravity changes during pregnancy, which can cause changes in your gait. 

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also contribute to heel pain. The hormone relaxin is responsible for loosening the ligaments in your body to accommodate your growing baby and prepare for birth. However, this looseness can cause strain on the ligaments in your feet, leading to heel pain.

Fluid retention, also known as water retention, is another cause of aching feet during pregnancy. The increased blood volume and changes in your body’s fluid balance can result in inflammation and swelling of the feet. This extra fluid puts pressure on the nerves and is a common cause of pregnancy foot problems. This is especially true for expectant mothers who are in the later months of pregnancy.

Flat feet or fallen arches can also be a contributing factor. During pregnancy, the weight gain and hormonal changes can cause flattening of the feet. This can also stretch out the arch of the foot, leading to heel pain.

Plantar fasciitis is another common cause of heel pain during pregnancy. Development of plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament that connects your heel to your toes becomes inflamed and irritated. The extra weight and pressure on your feet during pregnancy can exacerbate this condition. 

Heel spurs, which are bony growths on the heel bone, can also cause pain during pregnancy. These growths can develop due to strain and pressure on the foot and can be aggravated by hormonal changes.

As you can see, there are many different causes of foot pain during pregnancy. It is essential to understand the underlying cause of your discomfort in order to find relief and prevent further issues down the road. Knowing the exact cause can help you and your healthcare team come up with appropriate treatment options.

Close-up of a woman's lower legs and feet. One foot is resting on the tips of the toes.

How to Relieve Heel Pain During Pregnancy

The good news is that there are steps you can take to alleviate and even prevent heel pain during pregnancy. Here are a few tips:

  • Wear supportive shoes: As your feet work harder to support your growing body, it is important to provide them with proper support. Invest in comfortable shoes with arch support and cushioning to help alleviate pressure on your heels. Your foot size can change during pregnancy, so make sure to wear shoes that fit well and accommodate any swelling. Shock absorption insoles can also provide additional support and comfort.
  • Do gentle stretches: Stretching can help ease tension and tightness in your feet. Try doing calf stretches by placing your hands on a wall and leaning forward with one foot behind the other. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat a few times.
  • Use orthotic inserts: These inserts can provide extra support and cushioning for your feet. You can find them at most drugstores or have custom orthotics made from a podiatrist. Be sure they have the proper arch support for your feet.
  • Rest and elevate your feet: Take breaks throughout the day to rest and elevate your feet, especially if you have been standing or walking for long periods of time. This will help reduce swelling and pressure on your heels.
  • Compression socks/compression stockings: These can help improve circulation and reduce swelling in your feet, potentially relieving heel pain. Check out the best compression socks for pregnancy.
  • Apply ice: If you experience acute pain or swelling, applying ice to your heels can provide temporary relief. Just make sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel before placing it on your skin.
  • Consult a healthcare provider: If the pain becomes severe and affects your daily activities, consult a healthcare provider. They may recommend physical therapy or other treatments to help alleviate the pain. Physical therapists can provide exercises and techniques to improve foot strength and flexibility.

In addition to these remedies, it is important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. Your body is going through a lot of changes! Take breaks when needed and prioritize self-care during your pregnancy. Remember, the discomfort you may experience in your heels is temporary and should subside after giving birth.

Other Types of Foot Issues During Pregnancy

Besides heel pain, there are other foot issues a pregnant woman may experience during pregnancy. Some of the most common foot problems for pregnant people include:

  • Swollen feet and ankles: As mentioned earlier, excess fluid can cause swelling in your feet and ankles. This is normal during pregnancy but if the swelling becomes severe or is accompanied by other symptoms, consult a healthcare provider. This is often the worst during the later stages of pregnancy, such as the third trimester.
  • Varicose veins: The extra blood volume during pregnancy can also put additional pressure on the veins in your legs and feet. This can lead to varicose veins, which may cause discomfort or pain. Your blood vessels should return to their normal size after giving birth, but consult a healthcare provider if the discomfort persists.
  • Cramps: Many pregnant women experience cramping in their feet, especially at night. This is often due to changes in circulation and increased pressure on the nerves. Leg cramps can also occur during pregnancy, especially in the lower legs and calf muscles.
  • Numbness and tingling: As pressure increases on the nerves in your feet, you may experience numbness or tingling sensations. This is usually temporary but if it persists or becomes severe, consult a healthcare provider.
  • Ball of the foot: As the weight distribution in your feet changes, you may experience pain or discomfort in the ball of your foot. This can be alleviated with proper support and cushioning.
  • Ingrown toenails: Changes in hormones and increased blood flow can cause nails to grow faster during pregnancy. This can lead to ingrown nails, which should be treated by a healthcare professional to avoid infection.
  • Ankle pain: As your body adjusts to the added weight and changes in balance, you may experience ankle pain. This can be alleviated by wearing supportive shoes and avoiding high heels.
  • Sole of the foot: Some women may experience pain or discomfort in the sole of their foot due to changes in arch height. Supportive shoes and orthotic inserts can help alleviate this issue.
  • Arch pain: As the arches of your feet work harder to support your weight, you may experience pain or discomfort. This can be addressed with proper footwear that contains the appropriate arch support. Stretching exercises can also be helpful.

It is important to address these foot issues during pregnancy to prevent them from becoming more severe or causing long-term problems. Consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment options if you experience foot pain of any kind. Remember, your feet are working hard to support you and your growing baby throughout all of your body changes. Take the time to show them some love and attention. 

Taking Care of Your Feet During Pregnancy

As mentioned above, proper support and self-care are key to relieving heel pain during pregnancy. Proper foot care in general is very important during this time. Here are some tips to make sure your feet are taken care of:

  • Keep them clean and dry: Hormonal changes can cause excessive sweating, which can lead to bacteria growth and potential infections. Make sure to keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes.
  • Cut toenails carefully: As your belly grows, it may get harder to see and reach your feet. Take extra precaution when cutting your toenails to avoid any injuries. Ingrown toenails can be especially painful during pregnancy.
  • Moisturize: Dry, cracked skin on your feet can also lead to discomfort. Keep your feet moisturized to prevent this and potential infections.
  • Get a foot massage: A gentle foot massage can provide relief for tired and achy feet. Just make sure the person giving the massage avoids pressure points that may stimulate contractions. It is best to consult with a trained prenatal massage therapist.
  • High heels: It may be tempting to wear high heels for a special occasion during your pregnancy, but it is best to avoid them. They can exacerbate sore feet and put you at risk of falls or accidents.

By taking care of your feet during pregnancy, you can prevent or alleviate additional strain on your feet and keep your focus on the exciting journey ahead. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider if the pain becomes severe or persistent. 

Close-up of a woman's feet.  Her hands rest lightly on the tops of her feet.

In conclusion, heel pain is a common complaint for many pregnant women due to the increased demand on your feet and the many physiological changes your body undergoes. Understanding the various causes can help you address this discomfort with effective strategies. Remember to wear supportive shoes, stretch regularly, use orthotics if necessary, rest and elevate your feet, consider compression aids, and apply ice to manage inflammation. Most importantly, consult your healthcare provider when pain persists. By taking proactive steps and prioritizing foot care, you can alleviate heel pain and better enjoy your pregnancy journey. 

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