With our feet bearing the weight of our entire body, 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, tendonitis, arthritis, ball-of-foot pain, fractures and sprains in their feet and ankles than individuals at a normal, healthy weight.
Extra weight doesn’t have to be substantial to have an impact on your feet and ankles. As little as 10 or 20 pounds can trigger pain in the lower extremities. Being overweight changes the way your foot functions, and the force on the feet intensifies.
The most common foot problems from being overweight include:
- Plantar Fasciitis: Excess weight adds strain to the plantar fascia, overusing and weakening it. This causes it to become inflamed and irritated. Heel pain is one of the most common problems caused by weight gain.
- Tendonitis: When the feet endure extra weight, it eventually causes the tendons/ligaments to be overused, which leads to injury and inflammation.
- Fallen Arches: An increase in body weight and pressure causes the supporting structures in your feet (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) to become stretched and weakened, breaking down over time. This can weaken the muscle which gives the foot its arch, causing over-pronation and leading to other problems such as knee and hip pain.
Other effects from carrying extra weight include changes in posture, changes in gait (steps become shorter), and stress fractures.
Losing extra pounds can help ease the pain and reduce problems caused by carrying excess body weight. Unfortunately, it's tough to lose weight when your feet hurt. 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 your podiatrist to select the best, most supportive footwear for your feet.
Foot pain is never normal, regardless of weight, as it indicates some type of stress or injury. You should always consult an experienced podiatrist if you are experiencing any pain in your foot.