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How does being overweight affect the feet?

Updated on 8 July 2024

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Obesity is a growing problem in the world population, currently affecting 34% of Canadian adults.

While it is common knowledge that this condition often leads to high blood pressure and circulatory problems, the mechanical difficulties experienced by overweight people sometimes go unnoticed.

Still, the joints of the legs and feet must support the extra weight.

Read on to learn more about the foot problems that can occur due to being overweight.

Adult acquired flatfoot (AAFD)

The condition known as flat feet is defined by a type of foot in which the arch is almost non-existent or even sagging downward.

Normally, almost all children have flat feet at birth.

The normal growth process, however, is supposed to let the arch of the foot deepen by itself after a few years.

This means that a flat foot can reoccur later in life even without a birth defect.

This is known as an acquired flatfoot.

Usually, you can spot it based on:

  • A sagging arch;
  • Pain in the knees, hips and ankles;
  • An imbalance on uneven surfaces;
  • Inward-facing heels and knees;
  • Pain in the lumbar region;
  • Inability to stand on tiptoe;
  • Swelling of the outer part of the ankle;
  • Difficulty getting around (“duck-like” gait).

The excess weight increases pressure on the tendons and the arch of the foot, forcing them to weaken and flatten in a problematic way.

The podiatrist can propose the following treatments to correct this problem:

  • Orthotics;
  • A muscle-building program;
  • Orthopedic footwear.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a very common condition of the bottom of the foot, defined by the rupture or stretching of the tissue layer under the foot, known as the plantar fascia.

This occurs when the fascia of the foot can no longer properly absorb shock.

As a result, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain under the foot that worsens with movement;
  • Swelling of the foot and tendon;
  • Twinges of pain when the heel hits the ground;
  • Swelling of the affected foot;
  • The appearance of heel spur.

Excess weight significantly increases the load on the plantar fascia.

Therefore, an overweight person is more susceptible to suffer from plantar fasciitis.

The podiatrist will likely prescribe foot orthoses and possibly suggest the following methods to treat plantar fasciitis:

Osteoarthritis of the foot

Overweight and obesity exert additional stress on joints.

As such, there is a direct link between a high body mass index and an osteoarthritis diagnosis.

The red flags of osteoarthritis are:

  • Joint pain, especially in the knees and ankles;
  • Joint stiffness;
  • Swelling near the joints;
  • A grinding sensation in the affected joints;
  • Joint instability;
  • Reduced range of motion.

People who are obese or overweight have particularly sensitive joints.

Due to the fact that the ankles perform both lifting and balancing functions, they become weakened and prone to sprains.

The podiatrist can offer the following treatments for osteoarthritis:

  • Ultrasound-guided cortisone injection;
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medication.

Custom orthotics to relieve foot pain due to excess weight

Achieving a healthy weight can go a long way toward alleviating many foot conditions. However, sometimes it’s not enough.

With this in mind, a podiatrist can intervene to help relieve the pain.

They are able to treat a variety of foot problems stemming from excess weight and obesity with the help of foot orthoses.

Are you concerned about the health of your feet? Reach out to a PiedReseau clinic today.

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