The Ultimate Guide: How to Manage Foot Pain During Pregnancy
About two-thirds of pregnant women experience foot pain at some point during their pregnancy—and it can start as early as the first trimester. For many women, the pain is mild and goes away after a few weeks. But for others, foot pain can be quite severe and persist throughout the pregnancy. In some cases, foot pain can even lead to problems with walking or carrying out everyday activities.
We will explore some of the most common conditions as well as symptoms, causes, and treatment options. We hope this information will help you identify if you are experiencing foot pain during pregnancy and seek appropriate treatment if necessary.
What are the most common causes of foot pain during pregnancy?
While the main causes of foot pain during pregnancy can vary from woman to woman, a few key factors tend to contribute to it. These include changes in weight distribution caused by the growing baby bump, increased laxity in ligaments due to hormonal changes, and alterations in gait caused by swelling and joint stiffness. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or arthritis can also increase your risk of developing foot pain during pregnancy.
When does foot pain start in pregnancy? For many women, foot pain begins in the first trimester. However, it can occur at any time during pregnancy—including early on—so if you’re experiencing discomfort or unusual sensations in your feet, be sure to speak with your doctor.
Common Foot and Leg Conditions During Pregnancy
Three common foot conditions can occur during pregnancy: plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and varicose veins.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot pain conditions among pregnant women. It is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the band of tissue that extends through the heel and arch of the foot. The pain is typically worse in the morning upon waking, or after long periods of standing or sitting. Some common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the heel, arch, or ball of the foot, swelling, redness, and warmth.
The cause of plantar fasciitis is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including weight gain, changes in posture, and other hormonal changes in the body. Treatment for plantar fasciitis typically involves a combination of rest, ice therapy, stretches, and orthotics.
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Tendonitis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons, which connect muscles to bones. The most common tendon affected during pregnancy is the Achilles tendon, which is the largest tendon in the human body and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Tendonitis can cause extreme pain and stiffness, making it difficult to walk or stand.
The cause of tendonitis is thought to be related to overuse and other mechanical issues caused by the increase in weight and size of the baby bump, as well as hormonal changes that may affect ligament laxity. Treatment for tendonitis usually involves a combination of rest, ice therapy, stretching exercises, and sometimes surgery.
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that typically occur on the legs. They are often blue or purple and can cause aching, throbbing, swelling, or itching. Varicose veins are more common during pregnancy, since hormones and other bodily changes can cause them to dilate. Approximately 40% of pregnant women will experience varicose veins, according to the National Library of Medicine.
There is no specific treatment for varicose veins during pregnancy, but you can do a few things to help relieve symptoms. These include elevating your feet whenever possible, wearing compression stockings, and avoiding standing or sitting for long periods.
A Survey of 500 Expectant Mothers
We surveyed a group of expectant mothers and found that over 60% of pregnant women experience foot pain by the end of their pregnancy. For many, the discomfort can be quite severe.
In this survey, 500 expectant mothers share their experiences with foot pain during pregnancy. The results provide a snapshot of the most common causes and treatments for this condition.
- KURU Footwear surveyed 500 pregnant women to determine the prevalence of foot pain during pregnancy and found the following:
- 60% of expectant mothers reported that they have experienced foot pain during their pregnancy.
- The majority of expectant mothers (57%) began to experience foot pain within the first three months of pregnancy.
- Almost 3 in 4 expectant mothers (72%) have experienced foot pain for 2 or more months.
- The most common types of foot pain experienced during pregnancy include the following, in some cases, an expectant mother may have reported experiencing more than one type of foot pain.
- Swelling/inflammation (60%)
- Cramping (42%)
- Persistent throbbing (38%)
- Tenderness (35%)
- Widespread pain (33%)
- Intense bursts of sharp pain (32%)
- Isolated pain in one area (30%)
- Increased pressure (26%)
- Tingling sensations (17%)
- On average, expectant mothers report that the foot pain they’ve experienced during pregnancy is between moderate to severe.
- The most common areas of the foot for expectant mothers to experience pain are:
- Underneath the arch (57%)
- Under the heel (56%)
- At the ball of the foot (37%)
- Upper heel (34%)
- The toes (12%)
- Here are the most common types of treatments for foot pain, listed from most to least common:
- Resting by sitting or laying down 97%
- Massage 97%
- Foot bath 96%
- Elevating your feet 95%
- Stretches 91%
- Ice 86%
- Topical ointments, or lotions 86%
- Compression socks / sleeve 84%
- Foot roller 83%
- Cotton or seamless socks without compression 83%
- Over-the-counter medication 83%
- Orthotic insoles 79%
- Prescription medications 77%
- Orthopedic shoes 74%
- Other types of pain during pregnancy, from most to least common:
- Back Pain
- Leg Cramps
- Swollen and Tender Breasts
- Lower Abdominal Pain
- Stomach Cramps
- Pinched Nerve(s)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Dental Pain
- 81% say that the foot pain they’ve experienced during pregnancy has made it difficult to participate in everyday activities.
- Approximately half (52%) of expectant mothers said they were prepared to experience foot pain during their pregnancy, while 48% were unprepared.
- 68% of expectant mothers say that the severity of the foot pain they’ve experienced during their pregnancy has been surprising.
- Nearly 3 in 4 (72%) have researched treatments for their foot pain during their pregnancy, and 68% have sought treatment.
- Most expectant mothers with foot pain reported experiencing pain between 50% and 70% of their day.
- On average, expectant mothers reported that they experience foot pain between 2 and 3 hours at a time.
- The most common time of day for expectant mothers to experience foot pain is in the afternoon between 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
How Can You Relieve Foot Pain During Pregnancy?
One of the best ways to relieve foot pain during pregnancy is to elevate your feet whenever possible. This can be done by propping your feet on a pillow while sitting or lying down or by elevating them with an ice pack while standing. You can also wear compression stockings to help improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
Another great way to ease foot pain is through stretching exercises. You can do several stretches that target the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist for specific exercises that will help relieve your particular type of foot pain.
One final option for relieving foot pain during pregnancy is using over-the-counter pain relievers. However, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.
What Are Some Tips to Help Prevent Foot Pain During Pregnancy?
Prevention is key when it comes to foot pain during pregnancy. Here are a few tips to help you stay comfortable and pain-free throughout your pregnancy:
- Elevate your feet whenever possible. This can be done by propping them up on a pillow while sitting or lying down or by elevating them with an ice pack while standing. You can also wear compression stockings to help improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Do stretching exercises regularly. You can do several stretches that target the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist for specific exercises that will help relieve your particular type of foot pain.
- Wear supportive footwear. Wearing supportive, comfortable shoes can help minimize pain and support your changing body during pregnancy. We recommend choosing a shoe with plenty of cushion, high-quality arch support, and a flexible, wide toe box to allow room for any swelling.
When Should You Seek Medical Help?
There are certain times when you should seek medical help for foot pain during pregnancy. If the pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms like swelling, redness, or warmth, then it is best to consult your doctor.
You should also seek medical attention if the pain does not improve after taking measures like elevating your feet and stretching exercises.
Additionally, if you experience any sudden changes in your foot health, such as numbness or tingling sensations, it’s essential to visit your doctor for a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan.
What are Some Post-Pregnancy Exercises That Can Help Relieve Foot Pain?
After giving birth, there are a few exercises you can do to help relieve foot pain. These include stretches for the calves and feet and activities that strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles, such as towel curls. It’s important to start slowly and build up gradually, as you don’t want to overdo it and cause further discomfort.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercises post-pregnancy. They can help recommend specific exercises most beneficial for relieving your foot pain. Additionally, it’s a good idea to continue elevating your feet regularly and wearing compression stockings to improve blood flow.
Generally, it takes time for the body to heal after giving birth. So be patient and give yourself plenty of time to recover physically and mentally. You’ll be on the road to recovery before you know it!
KURU Footwear surveyed 500 American expectant Moms 18 years and older. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4% and a confidence level of 95%.
The survey results were weighted to reflect characteristics of the United States population and 2021 birth rates as reported by the CDC.
- KURU Footwear proprietary survey, conducted 2022
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At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 29,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them with conditions (such as plantar fasciitis) and got them back to doing what they love. Explore our guide to the best shoes for plantar fasciitis to find a pair that fits your needs.
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