Can You Make Your Feet Get Smaller? What to Know About Shrinking Feet Naturally, ‘Cinderella’ Foot Surgery & More

Having big feet can be a style challenge all of its own, whether you struggle to find shoes in your double-digits size or can’t buy a pair without the tell-tale “W” indicating wide width. And as with any body-related struggle, you may be curious if you could alleviate the problems by just making your feet smaller — somehow, someway.

The desire to have smaller feet is nothing new, especially for women. While some men may want smaller feet to simply make shoe shopping easier, some women with big feet likely want smaller feet for that same reason and then some. Though it may seem strange, society tends to associate narrow, small feet with femininity, making smaller feet an odd (but still pervasive) beauty ideal for some women. And this centuries-old beauty standard runs deep, seen everywhere from the notorious and historic foot binding practices to the more modern preferences on foot fetish websites.

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If you were “blessed” with big feet but wish you weren’t, you may find yourself wondering if (and how) you can make your feet smaller. If you want answers to your burning questions about shrinking shoe sizes, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what experts and medical research have to say on the topic.

What can cause feet to get smaller?

The answer: Not much.

If you lose or gain a significant amount of weight, you may notice your feet appear to shrink, though it’s unlikely you will shift an actual numerical shoe size, according to studies. That’s because, regardless of weight fluctuations, your overall foot length will largely stay the same because your natural foot structure and bone will not change regardless of fat accumulation or loss.

You may, however, notice your feet lose some width with weight loss or gain some width with weight gain—but it will never be a dramatic shift, like dropping two shoe sizes. The most you’re likely to lose or gain is half a shoe size to make up for any width changes. Here’s why: When a person gains a significant amount of weight, they are likely to experience an increase of soft tissue in their feet, according to research. When that happens, the tendons and ligaments in their foot can stretch to accommodate this growth of tissue, some health professionals have found. If that person then loses weight, those tendons and ligaments will shrink to accommodate the loss of soft tissue.

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In this case, your previous larger shoe size was actually compensating for the width of your foot. As you lose weight, your feet can lose width, giving the impression that your feet are shrinking. But if you take a tape measure to your foot, you’ll likely find your overall foot length is the same.

Some studies suggest that people who are overweight may have flat feet or lower arches than those with a smaller body mass due to the extra weight being carried by their feet. If the person then loses weight, they may experience their feet seemingly “shrink” in length as their arches get higher, Livestrong reported. But really, nothing is shifting in their actual anatomy.

When looking at foot size fluctuations, a particularly telling case study is looking at the foot growth in pregnant women. Pregnant women can sometimes gain half a shoe size over the course of nine months, which can be permanent or not depending on the person, Medical News Today reported. Part of the reason for the growth is the rapid weight gain associated with pregnancy, which can have the effects outlined above—especially when it comes to permanently flattening the foot arch. But there are also hormones at work that may impact foot size during pregnancy.

“We know that pregnancy is often associated with major shifts of weight and changes in hormones, which can relax the ligaments and joints in the foot as well as the rest of the body,” physician Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH told Livestrong in 2021. “The key hormonal change that affects the foot is a rise in progesterone. In the first trimester, we also see high levels of relaxin, which also can loosen the ligaments.”

Additionally, some health conditions, like edema and lymphedema, can cause a person’s foot width to grow from a collection of fluids or fat. Experts also say that as we age, our feet tend to naturally lengthen slightly due to the effects of gravity on our feet, which can slightly flatten our arches and elongate our ligaments over time. But still, any shifts are likely to be minor—like a half a shoe size growth or less.

As you may have guessed by now, it’s much more common for people to experience a growth in foot size rather than a shrinkage. That’s just the way the universe (and gravity) works.

Can you make your feet shrink naturally?

The quick answer to this question is no.

You truly can’t make your feet shrink naturally—at least not in the way some people may think. Losing weight or treating certain long-standing medical conditions may help you drop half a shoe size at most. But that is not because your feet are shrinking in length, it’s because your feet are losing width. Your bones are typically fixed for the entirety of your life, meaning your feet are your feet—end of story.

Of course, there are cosmetic interventions for everything these days, including procedures to address foot size to shrink feet. There are toe shortening procedures, foot narrowing procedures, and even “Cinderella foot surgery” to give you the perfect feet for high heels. Cosmetic foot procedures purely for aesthetic gain, however, are extremely controversial and are not recommended by medical professionals. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and the American Podiatric Medical Association have both spoken out against the practice. It’s best to skip this so-called “solution” to your feet woes.

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