How obesity affects your feet

How obesity affects your feet

Angela Davis

Saturday, April 08, 2017

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Obesity is a big problem in Jamaica and indeed around the world. Being overweight puts you at high risk of developing diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and many other ailments.

Carrying around those extra pounds makes it more likely that you will suffer with foot, ankle, knee, hip and back pain.

Overweight people will have an altered gait leading to more strains, sprains and breaks. There will be reduced mobility and poor balance. This means they will be more vulnerable to falls and injury.

Studies show that more than half of people suffering with osteoarthritis are obese. This causes joint pain and inflammation which makes it difficult to exercise and shed the weight.

Gout is another type of arthritis that is more common with obese people. Gout is the build-up of uric acid that the body struggles to expel.

Flat feet are almost inevitable when you are over-weight. This can aggravate general foot pain and conditions like plantar faciitis and tendonitis.

A major contributing factor in developing type 2 diabetes, is again, obesity. Diabetes affects the blood and nerve supply to the feet. The loss of sensation means patients are often unable to feel cuts or blisters, and this can lead to ulcers that may not heal and possible amputation.

General circulatory problems such as swollen feet, venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins are also more common in obese people.

Skin problems like cracked heels will be seen due to the excessive pressure on an area where the skin is fairly tight. This can be an extremely painful condition and requires treatment by a foot health professional.


1. Lose weight by following a healthy balanced diet low in sugar and salt and high in fruits and vegetables. Speak to a dietitian or your general practitioner for advice on how to sensibly lose weight.

2. Exercise! Again, speak to your health care provider or go to your local gym. Develop a realistic programme and stick to it. Increase your physical activity by walking instead of jumping in the car or a taxi. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

3. Avoid walking barefoot, even at home, to prevent injury. Check your feet daily. If you do sustain a cut, clean the wound immediately and seek medical assistance.

4. As obesity is associated with diabetes, check your blood glucose levels regularly.

5. Practise good foot hygiene. This is a much more challenging task when you are overweight as it is difficult to reach and see your feet. Ask family members for assistance. Take care to dry between your toes carefully and in the folds of skin as these are common areas for fungal infections to develop.

6. Purchase shoes that can accommodate your feet. It is likely that your feet will be much wider than average, so try to buy shoes that have Velcro straps and laces that can be loosened.

Being obese will increase your vulnerability to foot and lower extremity conditions, so be sure to get regular foot examinations from your podiatrist.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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