We already knew there was an obesity epidemic, but there’s one body part that may be outpacing the rest: our feet. The average shoe size has gone up two whole sizes since the 1970s—and people are cramming their feet, big or small, into shoes that are undersized, according to a study cited in the Wall Street Journal. US shoe manufacturers and retailers are also noting bigger shoe sizes: Apparel and footwear merchant Long Tall Sally tells the Journal that 12 and 13 are its most popular US sizes. "We've all gotten taller, and we need big feet to hold us up," says a consultant for the UK’s College of Podiatry, which administered the survey.
In theory we could all just go with the foot flow and buy bigger shoes, but while manufacturers do have larger fits, the buying public may not be ready: One-third of the men and one-half of the women surveyed admitted they cram their feet into shoes that are too small. That habit can lead to bunions and hammertoes, and the damage could last forever. "It's like when your mom said, 'Don't make that face, it will stay that way'—it does actually stay that way when you put so much pressure on the toe over a long period of time," says an orthopedic surgeon.