What It Means If Your Feet Are Two Different Sizes

Not everyone's shoe sizes are the same; and, as it turns out, not even your own two feet are always the same size. While we might be inclined to think that both sides of our bodies are symmetrical, this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, according to River Podiatry, around 60% of adults don't have the same size feet.

There are a few different reasons why one foot might be larger than the other, according to experts. For starters, it all comes down to what your dominant side is. If you're right-handed, as most people are, you probably feel most comfortable balancing on your right foot while you stick out your left foot in front of you to walk, per Cincinnati Foot Care. All the steps you take throughout your lifetime can influence how your foot shape changes, according to podiatrist Nicole Nicolosi (via Cleveland Clinic). "The ligaments and tendons that support the arch in your foot become worn from use. As that happens, the arch slowly collapses — and that flattening results in your foot getting a bit longer or wider," she explained. What this means for right-handed folk is that constantly leading with your left foot when you walk can make that foot work more, leading to it becoming bigger than your right. If it's simply a case of using your left foot more than your right when you walk, the size difference won't be as much, say the podiatrists. In fact, it can be as small as 0.39 inches (1 centimeter) length-wise, per River Podiatry.

Other reasons that foot size can vary

Other reasons for having two different foot sizes include being born that way, having an injury in one foot, and having to wear a cast on one foot for a long period of time, per Cincinnati Foot Care. 

Noticeable differences in foot sizes can also be linked to health conditions like spina bifida, scoliosis, and clubfoot. Spina bifida is a spinal condition that can lead to bone and muscle abnormalities resulting in two different sizes of feet. Scoliosis, again, is a condition that affects the spine. The abnormal lateral curvature of the spine can lead to uneven legs in someone with scoliosis, and this can result in different foot sizes. Clubfoot is a birth defect that affects how a child's muscles and bones form. 

If you've ever been pregnant, you may have wondered if your feet really stop growing. Pregnancy can change your foot size too, per Live Science, and sometimes the changes aren't symmetrical. 

How you should be treating the difference in foot size

If you have two different foot sizes, it might also be the surprising reason your feet always hurt. Perhaps you've been buying the wrong shoe size all your life. If you want to maintain the health of your feet, it is important to get fitted for the right shoe size, no matter what age you're at, shared pedorthist Jim Pattison (via Pedorthic Association of Canada). 

"If one foot measures within a half size of the other and you don't have any other problems with your feet, purchase shoes to fit your largest foot," explained Pattison, adding, "Although, you should buy footwear that fits your larger foot, it's also important to make sure it fits your smaller foot." You can do this by customizing the shoe for your smaller foot by adding an insole to prevent increased movement. 

If the difference between sizes is a little more prominent — for example, two completely different shoe sizes like an 8 and a 9 — simply speak with the retailer and ask if they have a split-size policy, per Feet by Pody. Or you could buy a pair that fits your larger foot comfortably and have one shoe fixed by a pedorthist, added Pattison. "Custom made shoes — shoes that are made specifically for you — are also an option. Although this is the most expensive option, custom shoes are the most likely to fit perfectly," shared the pedorthist. 

Ultimately, it's good to be aware of what is causing your foot-size difference and treat the entire thing with care. While health conditions and birth defects might require a more nuanced approach, negligible differences in foot size can just mean opting for the most comfortable shoe size (overall) at the store and tweaking for the difference.