It goes without saying that the feet are a very important part of the body. They keep you mobile, active and self-sufficient in so many ways. There is a correlation between an individual’s body weight and foot pain. People who are overweight have a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 and they are more likely to develop foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, osteoarthritis and tendonitis. The World Health Organization defines obesity as having a BMI of 30 or higher, which compounds those risks, and other health issues, even further.
To support this assertion, the authors of an article published in the Journal of Arthritis Care Research, posited that increasing body mass index (BMI) is associated with foot pain and disability.
Are you at a healthy BMI? Use the chart above to find out.
The fact is, as your weight increases, your feet have to work harder to support you and tissues in the feet are exposed to a greater workload.
Just having 5 -10 pounds of extra bodyweight can cause symptoms of overuse and strain in some people. The connective tissues in the feet stretch out, the natural fat pads found at the bottom of your feet compress and flatten out, making it difficult for the muscles to work efficiently.
How does excess bodyweight affect my feet?
When you are overweight, it increases the pressure on your ankles, knees, hips and the feet. This pressure can lead to different types of foot pain, including:
- Plantar fasciitis – This is a foot condition characterized by small tears in the fascia along the bottom of the foot, which produces heel pain and inflammation. It affects people who on their feet for extended periods of time, and excess body weight is an important factor.
- Weak Arches – Excess body weight in the body can cause tendons, ligaments and muscles that support the feet to become weak. This can lead to foot pain, overpronation and knee and hip pains.
Other foot conditions that can occur as a result of an excess body weight are:
- Ball of foot pain
- Posterior tibial tendonitis
- Fractures and sprains of the feet and ankles
How to treat foot pain triggered by excess body weight
- Lose weight. The first thing you can do to reduce the foot pain is to reach a healthier weight. The biggest factor in managing weight is eating clean, micro-nutrient dense foods (veggies, complex starches, lean fish sources) and reduce or eliminate processed foods. Though this is a challenge for most people, it’s a habit that you can practice in order to improve your diet. Improvement doesn’t necessarily mean perfection, so start somewhere. Exercise is also important in meeting your weight management goals. You don’t have to sign up for a marathon or become a bodybuilder – even daily walking can get you on the road to better fitness, especially if you are currently not engaging in some form of movement. The point is to be purposeful in how you eat and move so that you can get to a healthier place for life. If you like gadgets, you can purchase a fitness tracker (such as FitBit, Garmin, or Apple Watch), and follow its recommendations for targeting a minimum number of “steps” per day. Having clear data like this has helped a lot of people get excited about meeting and exceeding their daily goal.
- Use custom foot orthotics. Custom foot orthotics will reduce abnormal forces on the feet, thereby reducing pain. They help support excess body weight, treat and prevent foot problems, keep the foot in proper alignment, and absorb shock. This will reduce the stress on the joints.
- Use shoes that provide extra support and cushioning. Wear shoes that have stable heels. Good shoes should support your foot structure. This will lessen the forces that cause foot pain.
- Avoid sitting in one place for a long time. If your work involves sitting down for long, take breaks to stand and move around. In addition to breaking the sedentary period, it will help you get blood circulating through the legs and feet. This is one reason standup desks have gotten so popular – in seconds you can convert your desk to standing height, allowing you to keep working on your feet. Most people will sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then take a 5-15 minute standing break.
It’s hard to say what percentage of patients we see whose foot and ankle problems are a direct result of excess weight. However, regardless of the cause, patients trying to recover from a foot issue often achieve better results if they are at a healthy weight. It also helps regulate so many other conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, potentially eliminating a whole set of risk factors in the process.
At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we might only treat conditions below the ankle, but we care for the whole patient. See why Dr. Gabriel Maislos has been named a Houston Top Doc, with an excellent reputation among podiatric surgeons in Texas.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- numbness or tingling of the toes
- pain along the arch of the foot
- stabbing heel pain