Your feet are the foundation for your body, and they bear your entire body weight day in and day out. It’s no surprise that carrying excess weight may increase the chance of developing foot problems. In fact, recent studies have shown that overweight people experience more heel pain, tendinitis, arthritis, ball-of-foot pain, fractures and sprains in their feet and ankles than individuals at a normal, healthy weight.
The most common foot problems that are caused or worsened by being overweight include:
• Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is considered a “wear and tear” condition that occurs when the cartilage begins breaking down in one or more joint, which often leads to a total loss of cartilage. The cartilage breakdown is a result of repeated stress and overuse, which can be exasperated from carrying around extra pounds. In the foot and ankle joints, this can become quite painful and debilitating.
• Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot, becomes inflamed. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it can lead to sharp pain in the heel and arch of the foot. This condition may be particularly painful upon standing in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time and then walking.
• Arch problems: Due to extra weight bearing down on your feet, arch problems can occur. As a result, many people can suffer from arch collapse, causing flat feet. Flat feet can cause the ankle to roll inward to compensate for the collapsed arch, leading to alignment problems and accompanied ankle, knee, and back pain.
• Heel Spurs: This is common problem seen in overweight people because the longitudinal arch is under significant undue pressure, which causes it to pull on the plantar fascia that connects to the heel. The stress can result in the formation of a heel spur.
You don’t have to be obese to experience foot pain, although being overweight also can lead to other health conditions that can result in foot pain, such as:
• Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis, which is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness, often in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is caused when your body deposits an excess of urate crystals near a joint, most commonly the big toe. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, which build up, creating sharp, needle-like deposits in the joint or in surrounding tissue and cause pain, inflammation, and swelling. The likelihood of developing gout increases if you are overweight because your body is more likely to increase uric acid production.
• Diabetes: The risk of diabetes increases with weight gain. If you have diabetes, it can cause numbness and tingling in your feet, which is due to nerve damage from a lack of blood flow to your feet, called peripheral neuropathy. Because you lose feeling in your feet, small cuts can go unnoticed and develop into a serious infection. These infections can cause diabetic ulcers, which left untreated, can result in a serious problem that may require amputation of the foot.
Foot pain and being overweight is a vicious cycle, because if your feet hurt, exercising can be extremely difficult. If you can’t exercise, then losing weight becomes a much tougher battle. To combat foot problems triggered by weight gain, ease into a low-impact activity that doesn’t require you to place pressure on your foot, such as water aerobics. Always start any new workout routine slowly. Work with your physician to find healthy ways to modify your diet, and let us help you find most supportive footwear for your feet.
The first step in reclaiming your pain-free life and working towards a healthy weight is treating your foot pain, so you can get back on your feet. By working with your healthcare team and the Personal Fitting Specialists at ICS, you can find the right fit for your feet, regardless of size and width, to help you get moving again.
Give us a call. We’re happy to help!