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Foot Problems Pervasive in U.S., Linked to Obesity, Sedentary Lives, Diabetes, Says IPFH/NPD Study

Statesville, NC—June 26,2012---A staggering 78% of U.S. adults age 21+ report they have had one or more problems with their feet at some time in their lives, according to The National Foot Health Assessment 2012, a survey conducted for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) by The NPD Group. The most common foot maladies, plaguing both men and women, were ankle sprains (reported by roughly one in three respondents), followed by blisters, calluses, foot fatigue, cracked skin and athlete’s foot.

The study revealed discouraging news for those affected by the American obesity epidemic. Foot health is negatively related to body mass index (BMI), creating a conundrum for overweight adults attempting to become more active and healthy. The “very overweight” (BMI 30.0+) were 51% more likely to rate their foot health as fair/poor and more likely to currently be experiencing a foot issue (41%) or a high level (7-10 on a scale of 10) of foot pain (16%). Additionally, 32% of these adults were less active in fitness/sports activities than respondents who were not very overweight.

"People should be taking care of their feet and can do so relatively easily by keeping them comfortable, dry and free of friction,” says IPFH Executive Director Robert (Bob) Thompson, CPed . “We advocate that consumers follow an ‘integrated approach’ to help prevent injury to the skin/soft tissue(s) of the foot. The approach involves first selecting a padded sock to be worn with new shoes and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional. Fitting footwear this way helps ensure that feet don’t slip and slide in the shoe and toes aren’t pinched together, a precursor to lesions. Yet, we found that only 18% of adults report having had their feet measured with a Brannock device, the best way to get accurate sizing. In addition, only 7% reported having their walking gait analyzed. Gait analysis is important in identifying physical and biomechanical issues that can develop into longer term problems.”

Further, people with feet at risk are not getting the help they need to prevent potentially serious consequences from a foot issue. Fewer than half (46%) of people with diabetes reported seeing a doctor for regular foot screenings. Only 20% had even been told that they were at risk for foot-related complications, and only 11% said they had their feet properly measured and fitted every time they bought new shoes.

The implications of the findings for those with poor foot health are especially serious.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), more than 60% of non-traumatic lower limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.  In 2009, about 68,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2007 (latest available data), the treatment of diabetes and its complications in the U.S. generated at least $116 billion in direct costs; at least one third of those costs were linked to the treatment of foot ulcers.

“People with diabetes or any other medical condition that compromises blood flow to the lower extremities are at heightened risk for foot ulcers and foot amputations,” warned IPFH Scientific Advisory Board Member Terrence P. Sheehan, MD. “These data are alarming and highlight the need for foot health awareness among all health care professionals.  Getting people to take care of their feet can be a first step toward getting them moving and on the road to better overall health.”

Study respondents admitted that their productivity on the job suffers when they have foot issues.  Roughly half (52%) of adults report experiencing sore feet (frequently/occasionally) after working all day and another 44% admit it has a negative impact on their productivity.

Other key findings include the following:

• Among individuals currently experiencing foot issues, 59% reported having seen a specialist for their foot condition.
• More than half of adults (58%) report thinning fat pads with the majority (83%) unaware that the fat pad wears away with age.
• Running/jogging, hiking, basketball, fitness walking and dancing are the top five activities producing sore, achy feet and/or blisters as a result of participating in the activity.
• Even leisure activities such as shopping produced sore feet in nearly half of adults (46%).  Of these, over half (55%) said it occasionally impacted their enjoyment of their leisure activities.
• Individuals over age 50 who are currently experiencing foot issues are significantly more likely than their younger counterparts to visit a physician for foot issues. They are also more likely than 21-34 year olds to have foot issues or foot pain and to say their foot conditions affect their walking and quality of life.
• Women seem to have more foot ailments than men and are significantly more likely than men to report having calluses, foot fatigue, cracked skin, ingrown toenails, blisters, swelling, plantar fasciitis and corns.

Data for the National Foot Health Assessment 2012 were gathered by The NPD Group from a nationally statistically representative sample of adults age 21+ with a sample size of 1,456 individuals. The current survey is the second of its kind. The first National Foot Health Assessment was published in 2009.

The Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness, education, research and the identification of easy-to-follow methods to prevent, treat and manage painful conditions and diseases affecting the feet.  IPFH was founded by James L. Throneburg, owner of THORLO, Inc., based on knowledge gained from groundbreaking clinical research conducted with novel padded sock designs donated by THORLO.  Both Throneburg and THORLO, Inc. continue to provide financial support for IPFH and to initiate collaborative efforts with its educational partners: the Amputee Coalition and the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). For more information, please visit

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