Column: Extra weight affects feet

Commentary by Dr. David Sullivan

April is Foot Health Awareness Month, and this month’s focus is on how your weight can affect your foot health.

Carrying extra weight is not only bad for the heart and waistline, it’s also hard on the feet. Extra weight is a risk for foot pain because the feet, toes and ankles are the foundation of the body. They absorb shock when running or walking. By adding extra pounds to their load, they can get overworked. Even gaining between 5 and 10 pounds could be enough to hurt the feet.

Foot problems linked to weight gain

Extra pounds can flatten your arches, putting more pressure on your feet and changing the way you walk.

Gaining weight could also increase the risk for bunions and hammertoes. When it comes to bunions, extra weight can make the feet pronate (roll inward). This overpronation can make the big toe shift towards the second toe, leaving a bony bump on your foot. Obesity contributes to hammertoes by causing the toes to buckle and bend at their middle joints. They become rigid, so they stay in this painful shape.

Gaining weight could also trigger heel pain or ball-of-foot pain as well as tendonitis. It also increases the risk for foot fractures or ankle sprains and, in the long term, arthritis of the foot.

Treating weight-related foot conditions

The best way to protect your feet is to maintain a healthy weight (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9).

But while you’re working on your weight, we can help manage foot pain with certain devices or treatments. The best way to prevent damage is to take the load off the feet, with supportive shoes and custom orthotics. If you’re already experiencing foot pain, we can help with anti-inflammatory medication or with stretching/strengthening exercises and/or physical therapy. MLS Laser Therapy also may be an option.