Pregnancy footwear: striving to make the right choice

A while back I received a message out of the blue from a shoe company, one I hadn’t heard of before but which, it turns out, is rather unusual and interesting. They wanted me to trial a pair of their shoes because they are pretty convinced that they hold benefits for pregnant women. Now when it comes to footwear I will always go for comfort over style. Having said that, there’s clearly no need to compromise on style with Strive shoes – they’re genuinely beautiful.

“Fallen arches are common in pregnancy”

In my line of work – pregnancy and postnatal fitness – I spend a good deal of time looking at people’s feet whilst they exercise, in particular to see if collapsed arches might be compromising their form. In short, I’m more than a little obsessed about the potentially detrimental impact of having flat feet, and also of wearing the wrong sort of footwear, not just when exercising but also when going about one’s daily life. This problem can lead to pain and also injuries.  

“High heels and flats with no support can all cause niggles in pregnancy”

A few years ago, when those massive fluffy boots were all the rage (I name no names) I found myself strongly urging mums-to-be not to choose this type of footwear: with absolutely no foot support whatsoever and with incredibly flat, thin soles, I would cringe as I saw the way people’s feet were rolling inwards, the leather on the outside of the boot all worn down as it touched the ground when walking.

Pregnant women really do need shoes that support the feet. It isn’t, for example, a myth that some women’s feet expand during pregnancy. Why? Put quite simply, this is because they are weighed down by the extra load of carrying a baby. Moreover, the high levels of the hormone relaxin cause the body to become less stable and ligaments to loosen. In turn, this can exacerbate pronation (the collapsing inwards) of the foot. Classic exercises such as squats, and forms of fitness such as running and cycling, can lead to ankle, knee and hip pain, if performed with low or collapsed arches.  In short, footwear is paramount.   

High heels are equally in my firing line, when it comes to pregnancy footwear. As we all know, posture is greatly affected by pregnancy: the growing bump causes the pelvis to tip forwards creating a pronounced arch in the lower back. In turn, this can exacerbate lower back pain and lead to muscle tightness in the area. Wearing high heels merely adds to the problem: by raising the heels off the ground, the pelvis is forced into an even greater forwards tilt, leading to yet more arching of the lower back, thus compounding pregnancy posture.   

“Strive - a shoe that helps in pregnancy?”

Strive Footwear bills itself as incorporating “unique Biomechanical Footbed Technology within every shoe to keep the foot in its optimum position, relieving pressure points and aligning the body” and the instructions recommend a gradual build-up of usage so as to allow the foot to become accustomed to the feel of the built-in insole. I got on really well with my pair of Idaho Strive shoes from day 1 and being one of those people who rarely looks at instructions until absolutely necessary, I didn’t read the bit about gradually acclimatising to the shoe and so I wore them all day right from the word go! Admittedly, I don’t pronate and I am not pregnant but I have found them excellent for using whilst out and about and also for fitness.

In my pregnancy Pilates classes I always make a point of letting attendees know if they roll inwards on their feet, have collapsed arches and are, consequently, misaligned when performing certain exercises. This is often followed up by the inevitable question “so what can I do about it” and I explain about orthotics that can be made as inserts for shoes.

More recently, I have been adding that there’s a company called “Strive” and all their shoes have inbuilt support for the feet… and look good. It’s an easy solution that doesn’t require trips to the GP followed by waiting for a referral. Whilst Strive shoes cannot address every podiatric condition, they are certainly helpful in terms of offering support to those who roll inwards on their feet.

From my perspective a shoe that helps with alignment when people are exercising in my classes is very welcome.


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