The obesity epidemic affects different parts of the body. Thus it has given rise to a lot of foot problems in children. An estimated 16% of the children in United States of America aged between 6-19 are overweight and are consulting doctors for problems pertaining to foot and ankle pains. Obesity and over-weight can damage the nature of children’s feet and risk abnormalities and deformities in their growing years.
A research presented to the conference of Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists discussed that obese children had longer and wider feet than normal children. They were also found to have problems in balancing and they walked at a slower pace than normal children.
Podiatrists looked at 200 children in Glasgow aged between 9-12 years out of which 30 children were overweight, 54 children were obese and 15 children were severely obese. On examining their feet, the Podiatrists found that feet of the obese children were 15mm longer and 7mm wider than the normal children. Another study that examined the foot mechanics of 44 children aged between 9-11 years were found to have unstable balancing while walking.
The members of American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons have found that in overweight children, excess body weight exerts extra pressure on the feet causing them to flatten and strain the plantar fascia causing heel pain.
Overweight children complain that their feet hurt when they play or walk too much and thus they deprive themselves of physical activity and end up being fatter. This way obesity and foot pain becomes a part of the vicious cycle where on contributes to the progression of the other.
The bones of children’s feet are not fully developed till the age of 14 or a litte older. Extra weight can lead to extra strain on the bones, muscles and ligaments resulting in the collapse of the arch and flattening of the foot. Being overweight also makes children susceptible to the Sever’s disease that inflames the heel’s growth plat due to repetitive stress and muscle strain.
Experts have warned that the effects of obesity put children at risk of long-term foot, leg and back problems. They have postulated that the structural and functional changes might increase in terms of severity obesity passes over childhood into adulthood.
Therefore, urgent interventions is required in order to prevent further weight gain and avoid structural and functional complications to the feet.