Human Feet Keep Getting Bigger So Maybe It's Time to Get Yours Measured Again

Were you 15 years old the last time you got your feet measured? If so, it might be time to double check your shoe size. According to the Wall Street Journal, your feet are probably changing shape, which may be responsible for the aches and pains caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes.

Retailers such as Nordstrom, Stuart Weitzman, and Cole Haan have reported increased sale of large shoe sizes, and in 2012 TIME revealed that the average shoe size for an American female is between 8 1/2 and 9, up from a 7 1/2 in the 1970s. This change is supposedly due to the fact that people are getting taller (I wouldn't know) and we therefore need larger feet to support our more substantial bodies.

Of course, none of this is an issue if you actually understand your true shoe size and what styles work with the shape of your feet. Which, surprise surprise, most of us don't. According to WSJ, more than one third of men and over half of women straight-up admit to not buying shoes that fit them correctly (okay, guilty as charged). You may not think twice about cramming your toes into those ill-fitting yet oh-so-cute flats, but if you do that frequently enough you'll cause structural damage. For example,

Shoes with a narrow "toe box," the industry term for the front part of the shoe, can push the big toe in and create or accelerate a bunion, says Steven L. Haddad, a Glenview, Ill., orthopedic surgeon and president of the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society. It can also constrict the toes, resulting in what are known as "hammertoe deformities."
"It's like when your mom said, 'Don't make that face, it will stay that way,' " he says. "It does actually stay that way when you put so much pressure on the toe over a long period of time."
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Yikes! Better step away from those pointed Louboutins. But rest assured that it's not all your fault — the fashion industry is partly to blame. According WSJ:

Designers often weigh fashion against function in the quest to grab a share of the U.S. shoe market, where sales are expected to top $68 billion this year, according to Euromonitor International. To make shoes more visually appealing, manufacturers can fiddle with proportions, such as the height of the heel or the width of the "last," the mold on which a shoe is formed.

Sure, seeking out orthopedically appropriate footwear isn't as fun as going on a shopping spree at Steve Madden, but plenty of awesome brands are trying to make things easier (and more stylish) for us foot-owners. WSJ cites Nordstrom, Cole Haan, and Allen Edmonds as some of the best places to go for well-fitting footwear. For those who like to go their own way, here's a handy list of tips for finding shoes that fit, courtesy of About.com.

Image: Getty Images