If you’ve ever had your feet measured at a shoe shop, you’ll know whether you have different sized feet. If not, try placing both feet on a sheet of paper, drawing around them, then measuring the longest and widest parts to compare their sizes.
Although we think of our bodies as the same on both sides, there are subtle differences. You may well have one foot bigger than the other. In fact, having different sized feet is more common than having feet exactly the same size.
The left foot is usually the larger one. Why? This phenomenon can often be attributed to the way we walk. For most people, the right side of the body is dominant. It’s, therefore, easier for them to maintain their balance when they’re stepping forward with their left foot and relying on their right side to help keep them steady. By comparison, they step forward a little more tentatively with their right foot. As a result, the left foot is exercised somewhat more thoroughly, grows stronger and achieves a slightly bigger size.
Using one foot more than the other when playing sport can lead to your preferred foot increasing in size. In addition, your feet get bigger as you age, as the arches flatten out. This change may occur more rapidly in one foot than the other, resulting in size variations.
More than Half of Adults Have Different Sized Feet
Approximately 60% of adults have one foot that’s longer and/or wider than the other. In the vast majority of cases, these variations aren’t particularly noticeable or troublesome.
To put this into perspective, let’s consider shoe sizes. As Clarks’ size guide shows, the difference between each shoe size is very small, corresponding to about 1 cm difference in foot length. For example, women’s shoes in size 5 are designed for feet that are about 23.7 cm long, while size 6 caters for feet that are about 24.6 cm long.
If you have one foot longer than the other, the difference between them is likely to be less than 1 cm. So the chances are that your longer foot won’t require footwear in a larger shoe size than the other. The same can be said of feet that are different widths.
Noticeable Differences Are Linked to Health Problems
In rare cases, the variation in size is considerable and results from a health problem. A young woman named Jessica Gray, whose right foot is size 9 and left foot size 7, has drawn attention to this issue in the press. She was born with spina bifida, which means her spine didn’t develop properly. The condition is linked to bone and muscle abnormalities, which can lead to foot problems. Jessica’s left foot stopped growing several years before she reached adulthood.
Other health problems that can lead to differently sized feet include clubfoot (a deformity that makes the foot point inwards; when corrected, the foot tends to be smaller and wider than its counterpart) and scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine – the asymmetry makes one leg longer than the other and puts the corresponding foot under strain, flattening its arch).
Injuries can also affect the foot’s measurements, especially if they occur when the foot is still developing. If the foot is encased in a cast, its muscles will get smaller and weaker.
Take Extra Care with Footwear
If there’s a difference in size between your feet, take extra care when choosing shoes. If one foot is 1½ sizes bigger than the other (or more), it’s best to buy shoes in non-matching sizes. Some retailers have ‘split-size’ policies: you could buy one shoe in size 8 and another in size 9 ½, say.
If the variations are less noticeable, try buying footwear in the correct size for your larger foot (to ensure it isn’t painfully cramped or susceptible to developing deformities) and put an insole in your smaller foot’s shoe. This should stop the smaller foot from moving around too much and developing blisters and calluses.
Foot Care from Skilled London Podiatrists
If you want to ensure your feet work in harmony with each other and shoes fit properly, visit our skilled London podiatry team.
We can examine your feet, perform gait analysis and treat issues arising from size differences and asymmetry. For example, we design custom-made shoe inserts called orthotics to support feet and enhance foot function.
Don’t let size differences create foot problems – book an appointment with Feet By Pody today!