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Big Foot: The Pandemic Sasquatch Effect

Dr. Pelto explains foot growth linked to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the fact that people spent more time without

Big Foot: The Pandemic Sasquatch Effect


If your beloved shoe collection seems to be hurting your feet more than normal and that favorite ultra-comfortable pair of sneakers no longer fit, you are not alone. It happened to my wife and to several patients in what I am calling the “Pandemic Sasquatch Effect.”

Normally the feet grow and shoe size changes over time throughout our lives. However, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions might have exacerbated this growth. In the last two years, people spent more time without shoes, barefoot, in flip flops, clogs and slippers. Now they are taking their shoes out of the closet and realizing their feet grew a half-size, sometimes a whole size larger.

Most of the time the feet got wider more than longer, as the bone and muscle structures had room to expand without being constricted by any shoe gear. Weight gain also can change how your feet feel inside the shoe. The “big foot” pain is mostly noticed in leather shoes that tend to become harder and less flexible over time without use. The stretchable fabrics might not hurt so much to wear, although still uncomfortable.

Try the shoe liner test
To easily check if your feet grew during these last two years, try the shoe liner test. Remove the liner from your shoe and stand on it. You could even add a piece of paper underneath the liner and draw around your foot to compare. The extra space needed to walk comfortably and keep your feet healthy might surprise you!

Besides foot pain, tight shoes can cause calluses, ingrown toenails and lead to foot deformities. As sad as it might sound, especially for the ladies, you should avoid wearing shoes that don’t fit properly instead of just continuing to walk with pain. 

Choosing wide shoes usually isn’t the best option as these are designed for feet that are wide in the calf, heel and mid foot areas as well. Sometimes, just ditching the shoe liner might provide a little needed extra room. You could try those sprays that promise to stretch the shoe, but it might not be enough.

Embrace your big foot
My advice is to embrace your new bigger foot and try, for example, shoes with a wider toe box. There are many new companies out there launching good looking products with a more natural foot shape. At Central Massachusetts Podiatry, some of the brands we recommend are Lems, Altra, Hoka, Topo and Oofos. Here is my shoe buying  guide to help you pick the correct shoe. 

If foot pain persists for a few weeks even after not wearing tight shoes, you should consider a visit to a podiatrist. At a consultation, we can make sure that not only you get the right size and kind of shoes, but also evaluate any other underlying condition that might be causing the pain and propose tools and a personalized plan towards healing and strengthening the foot. 

Read also: COVID may be the cause of your foot pain. Even if you didn't get the virus.


Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto is a Podiatrist at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough. Author of several books on foot health, he also speaks Portuguese and Spanish. He likes to go on family hikes and loves learning and talking about health related topics and healthy life hacks. Watch some of his interviews about health and video lectures on

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