How Does Weight Affect Heel Pain?
Weight is a prevalent problem in the United States, and it can have a negative impact on one’s health in many ways. In addition to heart problems, diabetes, and other systemic issues, being overweight or obese can also be a contributing factor to heel pain and general foot discomfort.
Obesity and heel pain, unfortunately, have a tendency to reinforce one another. Heel pain caused by being overweight or obesity tends to reduce one’s motivation to exercise, which contributes to maintaining or gradually increasing one’s weight, which leads to further problems.
How does weight affect our foot comfort, and how can McVay Foot & Ankle help you get on track to finding relief?
Sustained Force Can Take a Toll
Our feet are designed to bear and distribute great amounts of force while we walk or run. When our feet hit the ground while running, for example, the force is equal to several times our body weight (though exactly how many times can vary a bit from study to study, and is also based on the type of running conducted).
The structures of our feet are made to endure a good amount of impact, but they still have limits. When forced to take too much all at once, or too much over a sustained period of time, injuries happen. The bones or soft tissues of the feet have simply had to endure too much stress and have not been given enough time to recover, leading to heel pain-causing problems such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis.
Such problems can happen in runners and other athletes whose feet are hitting the pavement for extended periods of time, but it can also be a factor when one’s weight is exerting excess force. This consistent strain can be produced every time one moves or stands, so having a job that requires spending all day on your feet can be particularly troublesome.
Studies have suggested a strong connection between obesity and plantar fasciitis specifically, and it makes a lot of sense. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the underside of the foot. It helps support your arch and bends and releases to aid in locomotion. This places the plantar fascia in a prime position to be affected by excess weight during standing and walking.
When the plantar fascia becomes overloaded with stress, it can lead to tiny trauma within the band of tissue. This causes inflammation and is the source of that heel pain many feel as soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning.
In many cases, people can recover from plantar fasciitis in a few weeks by lessening their activity. When excess weight is a significant factor, however, plantar fasciitis ends up being more of a chronic problem. There is simply less opportunity for an injured and inflamed plantar fascia to recover.
Another problem to contend with is how excess weight can compress the fat pads that cushion the soles of the feet. That layer of fat serves as a sort of natural shock absorber, and thinning it out can contribute to less protection (as well as a greater likelihood of suffering cracking skin in the heels and soles of the feet).
What Can Be Done About Heel Pain, Then?
We understand that it can feel like a vicious cycle. Excess weight contributes to heel pain, which contributes to you not wanting to move. If you’re forced to stand all day as part of work and your heels are aching by the time you get home, who wouldn’t want to just stay in?
Reducing excess weight will be a main priority of helping reduce heel pain in many cases, but that does not mean more can’t be done to address the problem and aid this goal.
Surgery is not the only option for heel pain, and you should not be concerned about it being the immediate recommendation. Surgery is only reserved for very rare instances when it is clear other forms of treatment won’t or have not had the effects we need.
Conservative forms of addressing your heel pain may involve changing in footwear to better accommodate the pressure on your feet and ankles. Shoes with padded, supportive soles can make a big difference, and so can cushioned mats in places where you must spend a long time standing.
Custom orthotics might also be a recommendation, especially if an imbalance in foot structure is also present in your condition. Made precisely for each foot, custom orthotic inserts provide support and cushioning in much-needed areas to help alleviate and redistribute excess force away from trouble spots.
Additionally, physical therapy is often a good companion to any treatment plan. Strengthening the feet and ankles in specific ways can help build endurance and reduce pain during everyday motion, and help build yourself up for further exercise.
If further pain relief is needed, medications and corticosteroid injections might be considered. If surgery does happen to be an option on the table, we will fully discuss all your options with you to ensure you make a fully informed decision on how you wish to proceed with treatment.
Do Not Wait to Start Treating Your Heel Pain
No matter how long you have had heel pain, starting on a path to addressing it now will be well worth the effort—and you don’t have to do it alone.
Call our Colorado Springs office at (719) 266-5000 to schedule an appointment with us. We are also happy to answer questions and take appointment requests through our online form.