Obesity and Foot Problems
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
You might hear that a basketball player wears a size 22 shoe and think, “Wow, his feet are huge!!!” What if that player, though, is 7′ 2″ and weighs 330 pounds? Suddenly the feet don’t seem that big.
Actually, our feet are small compared to the rest of our body. The amount of pressure we put on them is great when we’re just standing; when we walk or run, it’s tremendous. The bigger you are, the more your feet are asked to bear.
Which brings us to today’s topic: obesity and your feet.
If you are overweight, you’re putting much more pressure on your feet than they’re intended to carry. That can lead to a number of foot problems, including:
- Fallen arches or flat feet
- Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Heel spurs
- Peripheral Arterial Disease
- Plantar fasciitis
There’s no question that obesity is one of the most difficult health problems people face today. Our sedentary lifestyles, combined with the wealth of cheap, easily available high calorie foods make it easy for people to gain weight and hard for them to lose it. The most common prescription for losing weight is to eat less overall but eat high quality, nutritious, unprocessed food, and then follow a consistent exercise program. Sounds easy, right? But people who are working two jobs would say they don’t have time to exercise and cook meals from scratch. People in low-income areas would say they don’t have access to nutritious food or exercise programs. People who have foot injuries or foot conditions would say their feet hurt too much to exercise.
Ah, that last one is part of the truly vicious circle of obesity. You know you should exercise, but your painful feet are keeping you from doing activities that put a lot of pressure on your feet. But if you don’t exercise, you gain weight or stay overweight and you develop the foot conditions listed above.
I know, it’s hard to lose weight–I’ve struggled a lot with my weight myself. And no one likes to be told to lose weight, or scolded about how being overweight affects health. Most people who are dealing with weight issues are painfully aware of the problem. But you need to try for your overall health and especially your foot health.
A lot of the tips we gave about how to stay in shape while recovering from a foot injury can also apply to a person who is overweight and dealing with foot pain while trying to exercise. Swimming and water activities are a good way to start so you can shed some pounds without putting stress on your feet. Walking is also a good way to start, especially walking in hilly areas, if possible. If you are starting a basic cardio problem, try to head off foot pain by making sure you’re wearing shoes that fit properly. A podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) may suggest orthotics to help relieve pressure on your feet and give them support. It’s also important to choose a special time each day for exercise. People who exercise in the morning are more likely to stick with exercising; everyone has a morning routine, so once you incorporate working out into your morning routine, you’ll find it easier to keep up with, as opposed to random afternoon or evening times when meetings, social activities, or even just traffic can interrupt the best laid plans.
In regards to diet, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to learn to read labels on packages and understand what a portion is. Make fruits and vegetables your friend (they’re really good, honestly!). If you’re having trouble figuring it all out, join an organization like Weight Watchers. Some companies’ health insurance will reimburse you for programs like that or gym memberships.
Again, I know it’s really difficult to lose weight, but the longer you let it go, the harder it will be. I know when you first go out for a morning walk your poor feet will scream, “What are you doing to me?!! Can’t we just lie down again?” Getting started is the hardest part, though. If you can just get through that, your feet–and the rest of you–will feel a lot better. Indeed, someday your feet may say to you, “Hey! Let’s go for a run!” And that will be fun.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.