Weight Gain Can Cause Foot Pain – Even When It’s Just A Few Extra Pounds

heel-pain-obesityAs Americans get heavier, they are crushing their feet. Many studies have clearly linked foot and ankle problems to an individual’s weight and body mass index (BMI is a calculation of your weight based on your height). Individuals with a higher BMI have a significant increase in foot and ankle problems. And the additional weight doesn’t have to be substantial to have an impact. One study found that a gain of even 5-10 pounds can trigger foot problems.

While problems vary from patient to patient, foot and ankle pain often occurs in weight bearing areas, as well as in the tendons and ligaments because additional weight changes the way the foot functions.

Carrying extra body weight can greatly increase pressure on the bottom of the foot, flatten the foot, shorten your gait and lead to your feet angling out more.

Common foot problems associated with weight gain include posterior tibial tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, ball-of-foot pain, fractures and sprains of the feet and ankles. Extra weight can damage the joints of the foot and ankle. What’s even more troubling is that foot and ankle pain can lead to further weight gain because it makes exercise more difficult and painful. Addressing foot pain caused by greater than average body weight is a great starting point to shedding extra pounds 1-6.

Foot And Ankle Pain Relief Solutions For Those Carrying Extra Weight

When climbing up stairs or walking on an incline, we carry approximately four to six times our body weight across the ankle joint. Extra body weight significantly increases the impact. At the Foot and Ankle Center, we have developed special treatment protocols for those who are carrying excess weight. In almost every situation we can relieve your foot and ankle pain so that you can walk and exercise in comfort which can make it easier to shed excess body weight.

Our experts will evaluate how you walk and where you are putting excess force on your feet. There is simply much more force on your feet and tension on your plantar fascia when you are overweight, so more advanced heel pain treatments may be necessary. We take all this into consideration when developing a treatment plan for your heel pain symptoms.

Treatment plans may include:

  • Shoe recommendations
  • Custom foot orthotics
  • Specific strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory medication

If you are starting a weight loss program, we also will often refer to:

  • Your primary care physician
  • A registered dietitian
  • A personal trainer or physical therapist to work on an exercise regimen

Custom Foot Orthotics If You’re Carrying Extra Weight

heel pain obesity high arched foot prefabricated orthotics

Figure 1: Note how closely orthotic matches contour of foot.

Foot orthotics can minimize abnormal force on the feet and can treat and prevent foot problems if you’re carrying excess weight and/or trying to lose weight. A relatively firm and controlling foot orthotic is necessary to support the greater forces caused by carrying extra weight. In addition, the orthotic must provide shock absorption to decrease the excessive stress on the joints and help prevent arthritis. The orthotic arch must perfectly match the arch of your foot to provide adequate support. Finally, the orthotic must be extremely comfortable. Read more here about the best orthotics for those carrying extra weight.

Dr. Hale and Dr. Huppin of the Foot and Ankle Center of Washington are experts in ensuring your custom orthotics will provide adequate support and are 100% comfortable – guaranteed. Although prefabricated orthotics are an option, if you’re carrying excess weight, custom orthotics usually offer the best pain relief. If you cannot come into our Seattle office for an evaluation right away, you can try a pair prefabricated arch supports such as PowerStep Arch Supports to provide your feet with some support right away even if it’s not the optimal solution.

Heel Pain is Extremely Common in Overweight and Obese People – We Can Help

If you are in the Seattle metro area, make an appointment to see us at the Foot and Ankle Center’s Seattle Heel Pain Center right away. If you are not local, try our heel pain home remedies for a few weeks. If you see no improvement, see a podiatrist in your area who specializes in heel pain. If you are overweight and suffering from heel pain, we understand that foot pain can interrupt your weight loss goals. We can help you eliminate the pain and get your life back in motion.

Standard Treatments Are Often Unsuccessful

If you’re carrying extra weight and suffering heel pain, it’s important to know that standard heel pain treatments may not be as effective for you. For example, a thin person with heel pain could decrease activity for a couple days and see a major improvement. This is not so if you’re carrying extra weight. Carrying too much weight means excess force prevents the fat pad from providing adequate cushion.

Because of this, the plantar fascia is much more easily injured. Simply walking to the mailbox or your car can put too much tension on your plantar fascia. But being overweight does not mean you have to live with heel pain and we can help. It is critical for anyone who is carrying extra weight to have heel pain treated immediately. The longer you let it go, the worse it gets.

Diet and Nutritional Counseling for Better Foot Health

Why is a podiatrist recommending diet counseling?  In fact, counseling regarding diet is a critical aspect of treating many foot problems.  Most commonly we refer for diet and nutrition counseling regarding issues of patients who are overweight or obese.  Carrying extra weight can be extremely damaging to feet and losing weight is a critical aspect of treating many foot problems.  There is a lot we can do to help your feet feel better so that you can exercise to help weight loss, but most studies show that proper diet and nutrition is a more important aspect of weight loss than is exercise.  In fact, 75% of weight loss has to do with diet and 25% with exercise.

Even people who think they know how to eat properly usually find that time spent with a registered dietitian is extremely valuable.

Because of the strong relationship between foot and ankle problems and weight, we often refer our patients to registered dieticians (RD).   Below you will find recommendations for RDs in the Seattle area.

Should you see a registered dietitian or a nutritionist?

We suggest you see a Registered Dietitian. A RD has completed at least a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field and has gone through an internship in a health care facility.  Following internship, they must take a certifying examination before they can obtain a license as a registered dietitian.  RD’s must pursue continuing education to remain licensed.

Nutritionists do not need to go through the internship or exam process. Many nutritionists have a degree in Nutrition, but some do not.  Also, some RDs may call themselves “nutritionists,” but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

Will insurance cover diet and nutrition counseling?

Most insurance companies cover individual nutritional counseling.  For those without medical insurance, many of the RDs listed below have payment plans and sliding scales.

Seattle Area Registered Dietitians and Weight Loss Counseling

Seattle Dietitians: We are looking for more dietitians to add to our referral list.  We like to meet first to discuss patient care. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Larry Huppin so we can set up a time to meet

Don’t Delay Seeking Treatment for Your Foot Pain if You’re Carrying Extra Weight

Call today for an appointment at the Foot and Ankle Center of Washington.

References: Obesity and Foot Pain

  1. Plantar pressure differences between obese and non-obese adults: a biomechanical analysis. Hills AP, Hennig EM, McDonald M, Bar-Or O.Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Nov;25(11):1674-9.
  2. Comparison of static footprints and pedobarography in obese and non-obese children. Taisa Filippin N, de Almeida Bacarin T, Lobo da Costa PH. Foot Ankle Int. 2008 Nov;29(11):1141-4.
  3. Why is obesity associated with osteoarthritis? Insights from mouse models of obesity. Griffin TM, Guilak F. Biorheology. 2008;45(3-4):387-98.
  4. Assessment of the medial longitudinal arch in children and adolescents with obesity: footprints and radiographic study. Villarroya MA, Esquivel JM, Tomás C, Moreno LA, Buenafé A, Bueno G Eur J Pediatr. 2008 Aug 27.
  5. Does obesity influence foot structure and plantar pressure patterns in prepubescent children?; Dowling,et. al;  2001; Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord
  6. Computerized baropodometry in obese patients; Fabris, et. al. Obes Surg. 2006

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