Overweight? Risk of Plantar Fasciitis Increases (New Study)

Overweight? You’ve Significantly Increased Your Risk for Plantar Fasciitis

We’re all aware that being obese, or even just overweight, elevates the risk of incurring all sorts of negative conditions. The effects of obesity on the body include hypertension leading to heart conditions and other cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, hernias, and respiratory problems. About 34% of the adult US population is obese, while 68% is overweight.

It’s a little less common knowledge that obesity can cause a multitude of problems in your feet and ankles. Prominent among the podiatric problems related to obesity are chronic heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

How common is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most prevalent presented cause of heel pain. 10% of Americans may seek treatment for plantar fasciitis during their lifetime. Well over 1 million people seek treatment in the United States for plantar fasciitis each year.

What are plantar fasciitis symptoms?

The symptoms of plantar fasciitis include shooting heel pain in the morning upon taking the first few steps out of bed. The pain usually worsens with continued weight-bearing throughout the day.

How do you get plantar fasciitis?

Intrinsic causes of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Advanced age
  • Excessive foot pronation
  • Limited ankle flexibility
  • Obesity

Extrinsic factors include:

  • Occupational prolonged standing
  • Inappropriate shoe wear
  • Rapid increases in levels of activity

All these factors combine to overload the connective tissue called plantar fascia. This band runs from the heel to the toes, underneath the long metatarsal bones that connect the ankle to the toes. Overloading the plantar fascia causes it to suffer an accumulation of micro-tears. This leads to swelling and an increase in the thickness of the heel pad.

In dedicated runners, plantar fasciitis is deemed to be a result of overuse, combined with flaws in training, irregular training surfaces, and biomechanical misalignments of the foot, such as excessive pronation.

What role does obesity play in plantar fasciitis?

Plantar Fsciitis Symptoms

A recent meta-study reviewed 25 studies focused on the relationship between plantar fasciitis and being overweight. The study found that, for nonathletic people, there’s a high correlation between being overweight and chronic heel pain and plantar fasciitis. The more overweight a person is, the higher their risk of disability, according to study author Daniel L Riddle, Ph. D., P. T.

Another study shows that patients with chronic plantar fasciitis are 2.9 times more likely to be obese than is the general population.

The conclusion that obesity increases the risk of disability from plantar fasciitisshouldn’t be surprising. Gravity working like it does, your feet and ankles wind up bearing the brunt of surplus weight, no matter where on your body it’s carried. The pressure of that extra weight on your feet and ankles contributes to the disabling heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

Obesity causes balance problems

It’s well documented that obesity causes balance problems. This in turn leads to changes in gait, such as shorter steps, slower pacing, and wider steps. All these gait alterations combine to increase the factors which cause plantar fasciitis.

Treatment for obesity related plantar fasciitis


The first thing to do, of course, is to lose the extra weight. But there’s a catch 22. Obesity and exercise become complicated when the ability to exercise is hampered by plantar fasciitis and excess weight. It’s like the obesity protects itself.

Plantar fasciitis caused by obesity can present challenges to the treating podiatrist. A treatment plan that’s more aggressive and accelerated than usual might be appropriate. This may help to resolve the condition as quickly and safely as possible, thereby enabling the exercise required for healthy loss of weight.

Conservative treatment such as steroids, bracing, taping, and stretching exercises can be administered simultaneously, rather than sequentially.

When conservative treatment does not quickly yield positive results, surgery may be indicated for the overweight patient.

Every podiatric patient requires and deserves an individualized program of treatment, but the overweight patient with plantar fasciitis may require even more specialized attention.

If you’re experiencing problems with your feet and heel pain, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

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