Should I Change My Running Shoes When Pregnant?
Should I Change My Running Shoes When Pregnant or Postpartum?
The answer is (of course) that it depends! There is so much individual variation in bodily pregnancy changes and postpartum recovery. Listed below are a few general recommendations for pregnant and postpartum running footwear- Keep in mind that all the suggestions may not apply to you, but could be helpful to look into if you experience problems while running!
Increased body weight and plantar pressure is common during pregnancy (Karadag-Saygi 2010). Consequently, choosing a shoe with higher cushioning may be a good option to increase comfort and allow a softer ride under the foot.
➤Decrease Heel to Toe Drop:
Pregnant women often experience a forward shift of their foot center of pressure while walking/running due to a growing baby bump (Forczek 2018). This will often change their footstrike, causing the foot to land on the mid to forefoot instead of the heel (Forczek 2018). Due to this change in footstrike, pregnant runners may be more comfortable with a shoe constructed with a lower heel to toe drop (see explanation above concerning the association between footstrike and heel drop).
➤Increase Shoe Size and Width:
Due to swelling and a collapse of the foot arch (explanation below), pregnant women often experience an increase in both foot width (Ramachandra 2017) and length (Segal 2013). This change in foot size can happen as early as 24 weeks pregnant, and will likely go away during the postpartum period (Ramachandra 2017). It may be helpful to purchase a larger shoe, or loosen the shoe lacing to keep your foot from rubbing!
➤Consider Your Arches:
Research has found that pregnant women experience a drop in arch height and rigidity, likely due to an increase in body weight and the hormone relaxin (which will increase joint laxity) (Segal 2013). This change in the arches is thought to be permanent, lasting beyond the postpartum stage (Segal 2013).
Should we be worried about a drop in arch height? Arch drop will lead to increased foot pronation and flatter feet, but neither of these conditions are necessarily bad! Despite popular belief, neither condition has proven association with injury, and not everyone will need corrective shoes or orthotics (Khan 2021, Nigg 2015).
However, speaking biomechanically- a flatter and more pronated foot will cause increased internal rotation of the leg, as well as alter the natural control of forces going through the foot (Segal 2013). This may increase risk of injury at the knee and hip, and could even affect pelvic alignment and the spine (Segal 2013, Ramachandra 2017).
If you find yourself with these types of problems or even just general foot or heel pain, it would be beneficial to talk to a podiatrist or physical therapist. It is possible that using an orthotic (Karadag 2010), or using a stability or motion control running shoe could help to redistribute pressure in your foot and help with these types of injuries! This may be especially important in the postpartum period as you get into more intense running.
This is a fantastic resource for all things related to shoes, foot arches and arch support: The Truth About Arch Support - A Meta Analysis of 150 Studies
This is not directly related to shoes, but is too important to leave out! Dr. Preetha Ramachandra conducted a study in 2019 and found that pregnant women who participated in a foot strengthening program had: less arch drop, less of an increase in foot width, and also significantly less foot pain and swelling (Ramachandra 2019)! This is significant because as mentioned above, the flat feet commonly seen during and after pregnancy can lead to increased injury risks in the foot and other parts of the body. A foot strengthening program should include exercises for the intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles (which will help to actively support the arch of the foot), as well as work on range of motion. See post here for a sample foot strengthening program.
Forczek, Wanda, Yury P. Ivanenko, Joanna Bielatowicz, and Karolina Wacławik. “Gait Assessment of the Expectant Mothers – Systematic Review.” Gait & Posture 62 (May 2018): 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2018.02.024.
Karadag-Saygi, Evrim, Feyza Unlu-Ozkan, and Alin Basgul. “Plantar Pressure and Foot Pain in Last Trimester of Pregnancy.” Foot and Ankle International 31, no. 2 (February 2010): 153–57. https://doi.org/10.3113/FAI.2010.0153.
Khan, Sadi. “The Truth About Arch Support- A Meta Analysis of 150 Studies.” Run Repeat, 17 March 2021, https://runrepeat.com/arch-support-study.
Nigg, Bm, J Baltich, S Hoerzer, and H Enders. “Running Shoes and Running Injuries: Mythbusting and a Proposal for Two New Paradigms: ‘Preferred Movement Path’ and ‘Comfort Filter.’” British Journal of Sports Medicine 49, no. 20 (October 2015): 1290–94. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-095054.
Ramachandra, Preetha, Pratap Kumar, Asha Kamath, and Arun G. Maiya. “Do Structural Changes of the Foot Influence Plantar Pressure Patterns During Various Stages of Pregnancy and Postpartum?” Foot & Ankle Specialist 10, no. 6 (December 2017): 513–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1938640016685150.
Segal, Neil A., Elizabeth R. Boyer, Patricia Teran-Yengle, Natalie A. Glass, Howard J. Hillstrom, and H. John Yack. “Pregnancy Leads to Lasting Changes in Foot Structure.” American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation92, no. 3 (March 2013): 232–40. https://doi.org/10.1097/PHM.0b013e31827443a9.
Aubree McLeod is an ACSM-EP exercise physiologist, researcher in running biomechanics. She has also completed the ICE Preg & PostPartum Course for athletes. She has an M.S. in Exercise Science and has worked in a variety of spaces within the exercise science field including physical therapy, education, research, and run coaching for... Read More