Obese older adults suffer foot pain and foot-related functional limitation Academic Article uri icon


  • There is evidence to suggest being overweight or obese places adults at greater risk of developing foot complications such as osteoarthritis, tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. However, no research has comprehensively examined the effects of overweight or obesity on the feet of individuals older than 60 years of age. Therefore we investigated whether foot pain, foot structure, and/or foot function is affected by obesity in older adults. Three hundred and twelve Australian men and women, aged over 60 years, completed validated questionnaires to establish the presence of foot pain and health related quality of life. Foot structure (anthropometrics and soft tissue thickness) and foot function (ankle dorsiflexion strength and flexibility, toe flexor strength, plantar pressures and spatiotemporal gait parameters) were also measured. Obese participants (BMI >30) were compared to those who were overweight (BMI=25-30) and not overweight (BMI <25). Obese participants were found to have a significantly higher prevalence of foot pain and scored significantly lower on the SF-36. Obesity was also associated with foot-related functional limitation whereby ankle dorsiflexion strength, hallux and lesser toe strength, stride/step length and walking speed were significantly reduced in obese participants compared to their leaner counterparts. Therefore, disabling foot pain and altered foot structure and foot function are consequences of obesity for older adults, and impact upon their quality of life. Interventions designed to reduce excess fat mass may relieve loading of the foot structures and, in turn, improve foot pain and quality of life for older obese individuals.

publication date

  • 2015