If you are overweight and experience heel pain, obesity may be a contributing factor. Depending on the tendons involved, the pain can be severe and eventually become chronic. Because the impact on your feet is more than what you weigh, being overweight adds more pounds of force (stress) with each step you take when you walk. Consequently, it helps to know what kinds of heel problems your weight can cause.
Thinning Foot Pad
Since your feet act as shock absorbers, just walking can strain the joints, connective tissue, and natural fatty padding in the soles of your feet. Each time your foot strikes the ground, excess weight that compresses this layer of tissue thins it out. Over time, as you lose fat from the pad that cushions the heel of your foot, you can experience pain when you walk or press on the area in the middle of your heel.
Being overweight puts more than the normal stress on the plantar fascia – the ligament that supports the arch on the bottom side of the foot – making the heel vulnerable to inflammation or injury. The condition also can cause swelling and heel pain.
Whether pain occurs in the front, back, or bottom of the heel, too much stress on the heel bone and muscles and ligaments that connect the bone to the ball of the foot often is the cause. Excessive strain on these soft tissues can lead to a heel spur – a calcium deposit that causes a bump on the bottom of the heel bone that can hurt when you walk.
Although anyone can get heel fissures, the added pressure that extra weight puts on your feet can make your heels more prone to cracking. Cracks in the skin on the heels of your feet can be painful, bleed, and become infected.
Because of the number of joints in the feet, it isn't uncommon to develop arthritis in the feet and ankles. If you already have arthritis, being overweight can make it worse. Arthritis breaks down cartilage in joints, but the added pressure that extra pounds put on your bones can wear down the joints faster.
Finding Relief for Heel Pain
Since any weight gain puts added pressure on your heels when you stand or walk, diet plays an important role in the treatment of heel pain. The loss of just a few pounds can relieve some of the pressure that being overweight puts on your feet.
If extra pounds are contributing to your heel pain, your doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles. Stretching exercises to increase flexibility of the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel, are important too.
You can reduce the strain on your heels and arches by wearing shoes with padded soles. Your podiatrist may recommend custom orthotics to provide extra support and cushioning for the heel. Orthotics also serve to more evenly distribute the weight on your feet. Contact a podiatrist, like Accurate Foot & Diabetic Care, for more help.