Updated: Jul 14
How being overweight or obese can affect your foot health and what you should do to prevent it. Gaining weight can happen quickly and unexpectedly. One minute you’re feeling lean and a few too many dips in the biscuit tin later, you’re struggling to walk up the stairs without panting like a dog. While most of us know obesity and being overweight can cause heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, the effect it has on our foot health isn’t as widely recognised by the general public. What people forget is that our body is all connected, working in unison to function properly. Most of the things we do begin and ends with the feet. So, if you’re overweight, your feet and ankles will end up bearing the brunt of the load, causing them to wear out quicker and develop other health issues.
The facts around obesity and foot health
According to the National Foot Health Assessment, conducted for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) by The NPD Group, 51% of survey respondents who described their foot health as “fair” or “poor” reported being obese.
An article published in the journal Arthritis Care Research in 2012 also supports the notion that an increasing BMI is “strongly associated with foot pain and disability.”
UFAI’s Dr Bob Baravarian says, “It only takes only one pound of extra weight to add 10 pounds of additional pressure on your feet and ankles.”
Scientific research discovered that a high body mass index (BMI) has a negative effect on core stability (CS) and foot posture index (FPI).
Common foot problems caused or made worse by being overweight Being overweight or obese plays a major role in causing or worsening a variety of painful foot and ankle conditions, including:
Flat feet – being overweight weakens the tendons and ligaments that form the structure of your feet and ankles. After time, the arches will collapse, causing flat feet. We dedicated an entire blog about the difficulties of living with flat feet and how you can make your shoes more comfortable!
Plantar fasciitis and heel pain – this condition involves inflammation of the ligaments running from the heel bone to the metatarsal bones between the arch of the foot and the toes. Being overweight can cause this foot problem to deteriorate, leading to heel pain and even disability.
Tendinitis – similar to plantar fasciitis, extra pressure caused by being overweight can lead to inflammation and pain in the tendons of the feet and ankles.
Bone spurs – obesity causes extra stress on the joints, which can lead to a bone spur developing in the feet. This is where two bones grind against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, tingling and numbness.
Gout – your diet plays an integral role in the development of gout. It’s caused by accumulations of uric acid crystals in joints of the feet, commonly associated with drinking too much alcohol.
As mentioned earlier, being overweight or obese affects not only the feet but the ankles, knees and hips too. If you’re experiencing foot health problems due to being overweight, such as gout or flat feet, you’re more likely to walk in a different way. In turn, this alters your gait and can cause other parts of your body to compensate for the extra weight. What’s more, being overweight is a primary cause of diabetes (See how Diabetes can affect your foot health here). Developing this condition can damage the nerves in your feet, as well as reducing the flow of blood to them. Ways to prevent common foot problems caused by obesity and being overweight Naturally, the simple solution is to lose weight and eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. However, to engage in more physical activity, you must take precautions – especially if you’re experiencing some of these common foot problems already. We highly recommend:
Checking your blood sugar levels regularly to ensure they’re steady. If you don’t, it could lead to foot ulcers, which if untreated, can lead to life-threatening infections or amputation.
Maintain excellent foot hygiene by examining your feet every day for cuts, bruises and other potential issues.
Wear padded socks that help protect your feet against any damages to the skin or soft tissues.
Avoid walking barefoot and stick to comfortable, well-constructed shoes while exercising, socialising and working. Our shoes are a perfect example of quality and comfort.
If you are worried about your foot health in association with weight gain or you are experiencing some of the issues associated and what to look into improving your footwear we would advise careful consideration into the following:
Proper construction and research into the production and quality of your shoes. A better construction will assure you have all the correct structuring aids in places such as metal or wooden shanks, toe caps, back stiffeners and shock absorbers. Your shoes should be aiding you to remember, without these elements they are likely to lose their shape and collapse.
Source a qualified bespoke footwear maker if you suffer from more extreme foot ailments. Bespoke footwear makers such as Bill Bird Shoes working out of the Cotswolds will assess the exact measurements of your feet and work with you to design shoes which will protect and aid you in your daily life.
For help with diagnosing or rectifying any existing ailments, try a biomechanist who specialises in the movement and treatment of the feet and pelvis. Our friends at CiONE Wellness centre will be able to provide a comprehensive service of care, as well as producing a set of custom insoles specific to you.
To learn more about foot health and implementing the right solutions, you may enjoy our previous articles:
4 Common Foot Problems and What Shoes to Wear
What is Subluxation and Why Does Foot Health Matter?
Fixing Flat Feet: How to Make Wearing Dress Shoes More Comfortable
Diabetes Foot Care Guidance