Obesity and your feet
Obesity is becoming an ever-increasing problem around the world. It is estimated that, worldwide, 1 billion adults are overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25, and almost 300 million are clinically obese, with a BMI greater than 30. In The Bahamas, it is estimated that 70.6 percent of the population is overweight or obese with an average BMI of 29.17.
Although it seems obvious, a number of recent studies have found a direct link between a higher BMI and foot problems. In fact, a number of foot and ankle problems are linked to weight and BMI. Not only is there an increased risk of “wear-and-tear” problems (such as arthritis, tendonitis and heel pain), but there is also an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. Being as little as a few pounds above your ideal weight can increase pressure in your hips, knees and ankles and feet. In another study, 40.8 percent of the respondents reported weight gain prior to the onset of foot pain. Obesity has a significant effect on foot pain, foot function, footwear fit and general foot health.
A survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that foot pain and problems are a major deterrent to exercise. It is felt that foot pain contributes to making 72 percent of Americans fat. Obesity can lead to foot pain because of the increased body weight and stress on the foot. The pain often occurs in weight-bearing areas on the bottom of the foot as well as in the tendons, ligaments and joints.
Obesity contributes to many musculoskeletal problems in the feet and ankles. The heel and toes take on more pressure; the arch and sides of the feet stretch out more; the bones are more apt to develop stress fractures; and shoes don’t fit or support the feet well. There is increased foot pressure with walking and standing and increased weight and contact with the ground. Simply walking up a flight of stairs or incline can increase pressure on the ankle by four to six times. The foot does not function at its best, and one’s ability to exercise may be limited. Several common foot problems may develop, including tendonitis, heel pain, ingrown toenails, arthritis, gout, fungal infections, diabetes, collapsed arches, swelling and low blood flow.
Oftentimes, for people who are obese, comfortable and appropriate footwear is more difficult to find. Further, extra wide shoes may be needed, but are not always available. The shoe styles available may not offer enough support, and supportive therapeutic shoes may not be attractive or stylish enough.
Foot pain, foot function and footwear can all affect the overall general health of the feet and the body. However there are many steps you can take to have healthy feet and improve your overall health.
Your journey to healthy feet
Weight control can be an essential component in alleviating foot pain. Physical activity is vital for weight loss and overall healthy living. Before starting any exercise program, see your physician for a complete physical exam and your podiatrist for a foot and shoe check-up. Start with low-impact or off-weight aerobic activities, such as water aerobics, weightlifting, bike riding, swimming, etc. Start exercising slowly and gradually increase the time and distance. Avoid activities that cause pain. Stop if you have foot pain and see the podiatrist to have your feet checked out. Walking is the best exercise for most persons because almost everyone can do it. There is no special equipment, and you can do it all year round. Remember stretching is also important to begin your exercise routine and to cool down afterward.
Shoes also play a major role in preventing foot pain and improving foot function. The best shoe for you is the one that fits you best. It is imperative to always try on your shoes before buying them. The best shoe for you has proper support, flexibility, cushioning and compensates for any foot problems. Shoes should be checked for wear and tear and changed regularly.
Sometimes when starting a new exercise program, some people may experience some foot pain. Remember, foot pain is not normal. It tells us something is wrong. See a podiatrist if you have persistent foot or ankle pain; foot or ankle swelling; injuries such as sprains, fractures, etc.; changes in the shape and function of foot; a foot deformity; trouble finding shoes that properly fit your feet; fungal nails and/or skin, and if you have any foot questions or concerns.
• For more information or to see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996; Bahamas Surgical Associates, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820; or email us at [email protected], or visit www.apma.org.