How Overweight/Obesity Affects Your Feet—-and What to Do About It
You may be aware that being overweight or obese puts you at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and other ills. But did you know that carrying around extra pounds also puts you at increased risk for foot pain and other foot conditions that may be preventing you from exercising regularly and functioning at your best? The National Foot Health Assessment 2012, conducted for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) by The NPD Group, revealed that 51% of survey respondents who described their foot health as “fair” or “poor” reported being obese. By contrast, only 21% of respondents who were not overweight or obese described their foot health as “fair” or “poor.” Other research, including an article published in the journal Arthritis Care Research in February 2012, supports the notion that, as the authors of the article state, increasing BMI is “strongly associated with foot pain and disability.” A person whose body mass index (BMI) is greater than or equal to 25 is considered overweight; a BMI greater than or equal to 30 means the person is obese.
Being overweight or obese affects not only the feet, but the ankles, knees and hips, as well. Your gait, or how you walk and move around, may be altered as you compensate for that extra weight. You’re also at greater risk for injuries such as a broken ankle or knee problems so severe that replacement is necessary. Studying the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry, researchers found that people with BMIs of 30 to 35 are 8.5 times more likely to need total knee replacement than those with BMIs of less than 25. People with BMIs of more than 35 are nearly 19 times more likely to need total knee replacement, while those with a BMI of 40 or higher are nearly 33 times more likely to require total knee replacement.
What to Do
Your foot health is one more reason to lose weight safely by following a healthful diet and engaging regularly in physical activity. The following tips can help address foot pain and discomfort related to being overweight, and may also make it easier for you to do your daily activities and participate in an exercise program.
- Because being overweight is associated with diabetes, check your blood sugar levels regularly. Keeping blood sugar levels under control reduces the risk of foot ulcers that, untreated, can lead to life-threatening infections or amputation. Click here for specific foot care concerns related to diabetes.
- Wear padded socks to help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot. For optimal foot protection, IPFH recommends that padded socks be properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, with shoes with non-slip outsoles and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional.
- Avoid walking barefoot, even at home, and take other important steps to avoid injury to the skin/soft tissue of your feet. Click here for information on how to help prevent skin/soft tissue injuries to the feet.
- Practice good foot hygiene, examining your feet daily for cuts, bruises and other potential trouble spots, and taking other steps to take care of your feet. Click here for tips on taking care of your feet.
- Because your weight may increase your vulnerability to foot and lower extremity conditions, be sure to get regular foot examinations either from a health care professional or foot health professional.
Remember: If you are under a doctor's care for any chronic condition, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program.
Medical and health care professionals, see also this article: "Obesity: Consequences for Foot Health."