Let’s talk about postpartum, specifically postpartum foot pain. Pregnancy impacts your body in so many ways. In postpartum you can experience bigger feet, flat feet, and even tendonitis in some more extreme cases.
All of my life I’ve had flat feet with the occasional aches and pains but no specific injuries or issues. In the third trimester of my pregnancy my feet were regularly swelling (hello summer pregnancy!). Because of this I was very limited to what shoes I could wear. I had some very stretchy Sanuk yoga sandals (highly recommend them if you don’t fit into any shoes). I could also barely wear my tennis shoes as long as they weren’t tied.
At the end of my pregnancy, everything was achy, but I had no targeted pain. The first week postpartum I started noticing it. My left foot was so stiff. It hurt to walk up or down the stairs. I chalked it up to all the changing hormones and one of the many things that would readjust in the upcoming weeks and months. The postpartum foot pain and stiffness continued on for many months. I had to be mindful of it even as I was cleared to work out again (read more about my postpartum workout journey here). I procrastinated going into the doctor, mostly because I was wishfully thinking it would take care of itself. Not only was my left foot stiff, but my feet were now wider and bigger postpartum. Many of my shoes didn’t feel comfortable on me.
After going to an orthopedic specialist, it was as I expected, tendinitis. Due to pregnancy weight gain and swelling and my already flat feet, my tendons in my foot were stretched and inflamed. Tendons and ligaments are prone to overstretching during pregnancy. With the weight gain during my pregnancy, I experienced collapsed arches (what little arches I had). Due to the swelling I wasn’t able to wear truly supportive shoes and this only contributed to my stretched tendons.
So, what did I do with this newfound information? In my case, the doctor recommended I wear a foot/ankle brace for 4-5 weeks, only taking it off at night and sparingly throughout the day. The purpose of the brace was to isolate that tendon and take some of the pressure off of it. I wore the brace even during work outs and modified exercises when needed. Along with the brace, I was instructed to do some daily stretches and to ice it when needed. The doctors visit was necessary to rule out a tear in the tendon or something more serious. Surgery may be necessary in more serious cases.
To this day (15 months postpartum) I still have the occasional flare up, but overall they are very minor and do not last very long if I implement some of the tips I’ve learned along the way for postpartum foot pain.
**I am not a medical professional. If you have any health concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor**
Here are my 6 tips for healing postpartum foot pain:
- Buy yourself some supportive shoes. They don’t have to be ugly orthopedic clunkers. Think shoes with a good sole and supportive arches such as some cute leather strappy sandals, boots, or sporty shoes. My podiatrist also recommended buying a pair of supportive house shoes to have more support rather than walking around barefoot. Some brands to consider are:
- Find yourself a good pair of inserts. They don’t have to be expensive, custom made inserts. I ended up buying comfortable, barely noticeable Superfeet inserts from REI. I tested the inserts inside my shoes in the store to make sure they fit well. To my surprise, they’ve fit perfectly in my tennis shoes, hiking boots, and winter boots.
- Stretch. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is where I saw the most improvement, especially after workouts. Here are some of the stretches I focused on. I noticed a big difference when I did the towel exercise daily for at least two weeks.
- Modify your exercises. Some movements such as jumping or snap movements were more painful for me. In these cases I chose modified exercises that would still provide me a good workout but were less harsh on my feet.
- Ice, elevate, and wrap it when needed.
- Visit a podiatrist if you’re experiencing no improvements in pain or worsening pain.