Most of us, if we’re honest, wouldn’t mind losing a couple of pounds.
In fact, according to the latest statistics, almost 3 out of 4 American adults are considered overweight or obese (by medical standards). Those percentages have increased steadily over the last 20-30 years, and don’t seem to be slowing down.
Now, we’re not saying everybody needs to be as skinny as a twig. But there are lots of good reasons to keep yourself within a relatively healthy weight range for your height and body type.
In other words, it’s not just about vanity. Maintaining a normal, healthy body size drastically reduces your risk of all kinds of systemic diseases, degenerative conditions, and other health problems. And it’s a lot easier on your feet, too!
The Link Between Weight and Feet
Here’s the short version: it’s worse than you think.
The basic link here is obvious, of course. Your feet are positioned as the foundation of your entire body. All your weight rests on top of them. So, the heavier you are, the more weight and pressure gets placed on your feet.
That’s all true, and not difficult to understand. But there are some complicating factors as well that make the calculation less straightforward than it seems.
For starters, one pound of body weight does not equal one pound of force acting on your feet. You also need to consider the impact forces, as well as forces involved in propelling you up and forward, which acts like force multipliers.
And the multiplier isn’t small! For example, a typical runner might experience a peak force of up to 3-4 times his or her own body weight for every stride. Force loads could even get up to 7 times your body weight for certain activities.
Even just walking normally can put up to twice your body weight worth of force on your feet.
As a result, sometimes as little as 10 or 15 pounds of weight lost can lead to a dramatic reduction in force loads on feet, and consequently painful symptoms as well.
Foot shape and structure is another complicating factor. A “normal” foot dissipates some of the pressure of walking, running, and jumping by rotating slightly (pronation) and flexing the arch. This spreads those forces out over a larger area and longer length of time, so they don’t overstress any one spot.
However, biomechanically flawed foot structures and gait cycles (flat arches, high arches, overpronation, etc.) might not be able to cushion your steps as well, or load up the pressure on specific, inconveniently placed hotspots. So your feet feel the impact of that extra weight a lot more acutely.
How Losing Weight Helps Your Feet
Now that you understand a little bit better how body weight and foot forces are linked, you might be able predict some important ways how losing weight can help alleviate foot pain and reduce the risk of other complications. But there are other benefits, too.
Here is our quick list:
- Less pain and fatigue. Again, it’s obvious, right? Losing weight means less force—and potentially a lot less force—on your feet with every step. So your feet won’t get tired or sore quite so easily, and you’re able to walk further or play longer without discomfort. Again, losing just 10 pounds might be more than enough in some cases to prevent a case of plantar fasciitis or other chronic pain.
- Lower risk of traumatic injury. It’s not just the daily wear and tear that a lower body weight will spare you, however. Higher impact forces mean a higher risk of traumatic foot injuries, including ankle sprains, foot fractures, tendon tears, and more.
- Lower risk of progressive deformities. All feet change shape over time. That’s normal. What isn’t normal, however, are progressively acquired deformities like bunions, hammertoes, and flat feet. While being skinny won’t guarantee that these problems won’t happen to you, excess weight on certain joints can trigger them to begin earlier, progress more quickly, and cause more pain.
- Lower risk of systemic diseases and extremity amputation. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many medical conditions that adversely impact foot health. These include diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral artery disease, and more. If you’re overweight and develop any of these conditions, you are more likely to develop serious foot complications, including infected foot ulcers that may ultimately require amputation if they become severe.
- Creating healthy feedback loops. Let’s tie it all together. If you’re overweight, getting more exercise is important. But if your feet hurt after just a few minutes, you’re less likely to do it—and that just makes the situation worse. That’s a negative feedback loop. But the reverse is just as true: If you lose some weight and find your feet aren’t hurting after activity any more, you’re going to walk further the next day, and even further the day after that. That’s a positive feedback loop, and it’s fantastic. Although the first few days and weeks will be difficult, staying in shape is usually a lot easier than getting in shape—and the long-term rewards are more than worth the investment!
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
We just touched on it, but one of the most frustrating things about getting in shape is that, in most cases, the more you need exercise, the harder it is to do it safely.
For example, an overweight person, or someone with peripheral neuropathy, is going to be at a higher risk for developing a foot injury just through normal exercise. And even one bad setback can be extremely discouraging.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you’re exercising and dieting safely, with input either from us, your general practitioner, a nutritionist—or maybe even all three!
Check-in before you start any new exercise or weight loss plan—we promise we will do everything in our power to ensure that it is a success, with the lowest possible risk of injury.
For example, remember above when we said that foot structure can contribute significantly to force loads and foot pain?
We have ways to help you deal with that, including custom or customizable orthotics, suggestions for the type of shoes to wear, or even minimally invasive surgical procedures to realign a flat foot or fix other biomechanical problems.
And of course, we’re always ready to step in with advanced care (such as regenerative injection therapy) to help you overcome chronic pain or recover quickly from a traumatic foot and ankle injury.
So, put your best foot forward! If foot pain and personal fitness are both issues you’d like to work on, give us a call so we can set you up for success! You can schedule an appointment with our contact form online or calling us at our Lee’s Summit at (816) 246-4222 today.