The question of the day is this:
Do your feet think you’re fat?
We have two very important thoughts before we go any further—1) you’ll see why we wonder about this momentarily and 2) WE aren’t saying that you are! Blame the feet.
Even if you’re incredibly tiny, your feet probably don’t recognize that fact. After all, how could they? Feet don’t know much about pounds, kilograms, BMI, or anything of that nature, right?
But here’s what they do know:
How much work they do for you, how much force is placed upon them, and how much they do not like you. (Don’t worry, our feet are in the exact same camp as yours!)
♫♪♬ Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings… ♪♫
So why do feet have these strong feelings? It comes down to what they know—they have to work hard and endure tremendous force loads on a daily basis.
Now, we’ve covered this at other points in our blog and throughout the website, but in case you are new around here or happened to miss it:
A landing foot receives as much as FOUR TIMES(!) your weight in force as it strikes the ground when you take a step. This force can increase up to 6-10 times your weight when running.
With some simple math, you can see that even if you weigh a svelte 110 lbs., your landing foot might have to absorb almost 440 lbs. in physical force! (And that’s why feet might be inclined to think you’re fat…)
Foot Pain and…Chainsaw Juggling?
Knowing this plays a role in understanding why and how foot issues develop. It also provides a basis for allowing us to predict future problems.
When it comes to predicting foot injuries, there’s a simple triangular formula we use:
A small change in any of those three areas can result in a significant problem. This is similar to juggling three identical chainsaws with precise timing, and suddenly substituting one chainsaw with a different sized and weighted object. It simply will not end well.
Upsetting rhythm and balance in life with a new job, exercise program, or weight change can have a profound impact, and this is the case here.
Know Thy Limits
You can think of your body as a machine—one that is designed with certain limits. When those limits are exceeded, problems should be expected. This is why physical failures and injuries happen.
With regards to your feet, such issues can include heel pain/plantar fasciitis, tendinitis (particularly with the Achilles and/or posterior tibial tendons), stress fractures, and toe deformities (such as bunions and hammertoes).
Of course, this also holds true for other parts of the body. You can think about essential organs (your heart, pancreas, kidneys, etc.) as being similar to an engine. Now, what would happen if you took an engine from a smart car and put it into a monster truck? How long would it take for the engine to fail?
Probably not terribly long.
Because the engine is being forced to exceed its intended limits.
When it comes to your body, however, those failures can definitely appear like they started, but they usually take a long time to develop. (We’re talking about months, years, or even decades in this case.)
Perhaps it will help to think of structural issues in this context:
It’s near impossible to break a metal coat hanger with one bend. But small, continuous efforts of repeatedly bending it back and forth will eventually lead to structural failure (and possibly an upset spouse wanting to know why you broke the coat hanger…).
This concept is very similar to most foot problems.
A Body and Motion
Changes in two of the above-mentioned variables, your body mass and activity level, can upset the apple cart and lead to acute foot and ankle problems.
As you can likely understand, podiatrists have a fairly limited influence in both of those areas. Sure, we can recommend exercising on a regular basis and taking measures to manage your bodyweight, but it’s ultimately up to you whether or not you take our advice.
An increase in your total amount of steps—either through work or a training program—per day can potentially lead to a foot or ankle problem (even without increased body mass). Additionally, an increased body mass can cause problems too (even with decreased activity levels).
See, unless you’re run over by a truck—and we hope you aren’t!—your foot structure and biomechanics do not change in short periods of time.
This brings us to the biggest piece of the problematic puzzle, which also happens to be an area where your favorite podiatrist does have the greatest amount of influence and ability to provide the most rapid improvement—biomechanics.
The data simply is not in your favor if you fall in the “biomechanically challenged” group. For example, runners who have pronation irregularities have a 60% injury rate. That is about the same percentage as over-pronators in the general population. However, the good news is that we can help.
Our most serious and dedicated patients are always amazed by how seemingly minor biomechanical changes can produce substantial improvements in comfort, even during physical activity.
Let’s go back to the “body mass” portion of the equation, because here is something to consider:
Overweight and obese individuals have an exponentially higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and pay over double the amount for healthcare costs.
Clearly, this is a big—pun definitely unintended—problem, and a major obstacle in addressing foot pain.
Approximately 80% of individuals who are overweight indicate that they would be more willing to be active if they were not experiencing a foot issue. At the same time, a successful bariatric program can become completely derailed if regular exercise cannot be maintained due to a foot problem.
When that’s the case, simple things that contribute to quality of life—like walking your dog playing with grandchildren, or participating in a fun 5K or half marathon event—are out of reach.
In a cruel twist of fate, people are less likely to have foot difficulty when their weight falls within a healthy range (for their respective height, gender, etc.).
“Just the Facts, Ma’am”
Your feet are quite objective and don’t care if greater amounts of cumulative force come from an increase in physical activities or body mass. Either way, they’ll put up with an abundance of abuse for a long time before warning you of impeding problems. (Basically, they just grumble under their breath as they continue to work harder and harder.)
It’s important that you try to remain aware of the grumbling (symptoms) because it will only get louder (escalating symptoms) until you eventually pay attention because they’ve reached a failure point.
At the end of the day (or “blog post”), this is what we’re looking at:
In all three situations, time is not a benefit. The longer the gravitational forces are exerted in the foot, the greater the amount of soft tissue and bone damage that can occur.
Do not give your feet a reason to hate you!
Love Your Feet (And They’ll Love You Back)
Instead, give them a reason to love you—by seeking podiatric care and treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.
When you’re deciding if you want to reach out and schedule an appointment, it can help to spend some time thinking about everything you could accomplish if your feet didn’t hurt. (This could even be the key to success in your bariatric or weight loss/management program!)
If you want more information, please feel free to give us a call at (317) 545-0505 and we’ll be happy to help you out.