How Does Weight Affect Heel Pain?
Do you feel constant heel pain? Are you worried your body weight could be the cause of it? Chronic plantar heel pain (CPHP) is one of the most prevalent conditions that affect the foot. Records show this musculoskeletal disorder accounts for 15% of all foot complaints in adult patients who seek podiatric care. Persistent heel pain often affects 40- to 60-year-old patients.
The condition seems to be more common in women than men. The truth is obesity and heel pain go hand in hand, and, unfortunately, tend to reinforce one another. Heel pain caused by being overweight tends to reduce one’s motivation to exercise, which contributes to maintaining or gradually increasing one’s weight, which leads to further problems.
Considering the skyrocketing numbers of obese and overweight, patients need to understand how increased body weight can affect foot pain. Here is all you need to know.
Why Weight Factors into Heel Pain
Being obese can change how you walk, stand, and take a step. Increased body mass can lead to poor foot function. Since your arches act as shock absorbers and bear the weight of the entire body, obesity makes you prone to having flat feet or fallen arches.
Sustained Force can Take a Toll
The heavier the body, the bigger the impact on the back, hips, and lower extremities. Wondering what could be the cause of your heel pain? Overweight or obese individuals can suffer from:
- Plantar fasciitis: The extra pounds put a lot of pressure on the heel. This can lead to inflammation of the fibrous tissue (plantar fascia) and trigger intense heel pain.
- Heel spur: Obesity changes the gait. These bony growths can develop due to plantar fasciitis. Those affected can experience heel pain when standing.
- Stress fracture: Obese and overweight individuals who spend a long time standing can experience tiny cracks in the heel bones, which leads to swelling and foot pain.
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. 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.
Such problems can happen in runners and other athletes whose feet are hitting the pavement for extended periods, 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.
Less Weight Equals Less Force
The impact force of your steps can, in fact, equal several times your body weight. Jumping or running, especially with obesity or overweight, increases the pressure. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can curb the average impact force on the feet to about 15 to 30 pounds per step.
What can be Done About Heel Pain?
Weight loss is a critical component in relieving heel pain. However, the pain from being obese or overweight can make it increasingly difficult to exercise. With problems such as these, it is important to get podiatric care. Our podiatrist can guide you toward implementing healthy lifestyle habits that can get your feet back on track.
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 one of the main priorities in 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 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
The longer you leave your heel pain untreated, the more damage it can cause. Our podiatrists can work out a solution that can accommodate your needs and lifestyle so that you can better manage the pain.
When to See a Podiatrist
See our podiatrists if you have:
- Persistent heel pain
- Swelling in the foot
- Discomfort or numbness
- Bony growths on the heel
- Pain after standing
Contact Us Today
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.
At McVay Foot & Ankle pediatric care, we can relieve pain, treat foot infections, and support good long-term foot health. Contact us today to set up an appointment in Colorado Springs by calling 719-266-5000 or by filling out our online contact form.