Cases of obese and overweight people have become more prevalent than ever before. According to the United Nations, the world had 1.96 billion overweight adults in 2016, of which 650 million were categorized as obese. With those staggering numbers, it's essential to learn how obesity affects your feet.
The questions to ask first are, what is obesity and who is an obese person? The World Health Organization (WHO) describes obesity as the excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat that can impair health.
Body Mass Index (BMI) determines whether your weight is healthy by checking your weight-to-height ratio. Your BMI is equal to your mass in kilograms (kg) divided by the square of your height in meters (m2).
Generally, overweight for adults begins at a BMI of 25. Those with a BMI of 30 and above are considered obese.
That’s a lot for your feet to support!
Effects of Obesity
Many people understand that obesity has adverse impacts on our bodies. However, most attention goes to matters like diabetes, hypertension, and heart attack.
In reality, the condition is a threat to most body parts, but not many people or publications talk about this fact. One of the most neglected areas in discussions about being overweight is the feet, so let’s look at how obesity affects your feet in more detail.
How Obesity Affects Your Feet
Being overweight and/or having obesity can have the following consequences on your feet. Bear in mind that not all of them will affect you, but they could if left untreated.
There is no doubt that your feet have to support more weight than they should when you become overweight. When you stand or walk, the soft tissue and the bones of your feet suffer from physical stress. They can become altered over time.
The feet can develop fallen arches (flat foot) as the tendons lose their elasticity. Though some people are born with a flat foot, acquiring fallen arches can cause walking difficulties and long term pain.
Apart from the strain on the feet, fallen arches can be a result of the excessive wearing out of shoes due to weight.
Pronation, sometimes known as eversion, is a natural side-to-side movement of the foot when walking or running. The foot leans a little bit inwards with each step.
Overpronation occurs when the inward rolling of the foot toward the arch becomes too much. It's a typical result of fallen arches, and it can cause various injuries in the feet.
Fallen arches and overpronation can lead to a proliferation of other foot problems if left untreated.
Osteoarthritis accounts for the largest percentage of arthritis cases, as compared to other variations. It comes as a result of wear and tear of a bone or by injury, causing stress on joint cartilage.
Obesity increases stress pressure on the ankles and joints. Since all your body weight is on your feet, they absorb most of the force.
Therefore, overweight people have a high risk of developing osteoarthritis. Symptoms of this condition include pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
The big toe is one of the most crucial parts of the body in maintaining balance. It provides leverage to the foot when doing activities like walking, running, dancing, and pedaling.
A bunion is a deformity of the big toe which causes pain and swelling in the foot. It forms when tissues or bones at the joint of the big toe lose alignment.
The condition can develop as a result of prolonged, unnatural pressure on the foot, something that happens regularly with obesity.
This type of arthritis develops due to the accumulation of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid occurs naturally as a by-product of the breakdown of chemicals known as purine.
Uric acid is unwanted in the body, and it is the role of the kidneys to excrete it. If it accumulates, it forms crystals in the joints, resulting in inflammation and pain.
The condition mostly affects the base of the big toe. Chances of developing gout increase with body weight, with the obese having the highest risk.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disorder that prevents the body from producing enough insulin, or the cells to become insulin resistant. Most people know the relationship between obesity and diabetes, but how do feet get involved?
Diabetes can have severe effects on your feet, including neuropathy. Neuropathy is the inability of the nerves to feel sensations like touch, pain, or temperature. People with this problem often sustain injuries since they cannot respond to harsh conditions.
Another consequence of diabetes is inadequate blood supply to various parts of the body. This hinders the body's ability to fight infection and robs the skin of its healing power.
These factors put your feet at high risk of getting infected. Foot ulcers, for example, frequently occur in people with diabetes. They are circular open sores that form on the feet.
The center of the circle turns red, while its circumference gets callused. Touching the area is often painful. If the sore gets infected, it leaks pus and produces a stench.
Foot ulcers may bleed and swell. They can develop into the diabetic foot, which can lead to lower leg amputation eventually.
If you didn't know how obesity affects your feet, you now have another reason for maintaining a healthy weight. You can keep fit by engaging in regular physical exercise and watching your diet. Start with low impact exercise to avoid too much stress on your joints.
There are several ways of coping with the discomfort and pain that comes with obesity. First, don’t walk barefoot even while indoors to avoid hurting your soles and soft tissue. Padded socks can go a long way in protecting you against foot injury.
You have seen how diabetes can lead to severe infections. Check your blood sugar and keep it under control to reduce the risk of foot ulcers. If they occur, seek medical intervention immediately.
Since obesity is a threat to your feet, visit your doctor for foot examinations periodically. Observe foot hygiene and look out for bruises, sores, cuts, and so on.
For specialized correction of all your foot and ankle problems, talk to an experienced orthopedic specialist.