Excessive Weight Bearing Compromises Foot Structure and Function Across the Lifespan

  • Julie R. SteeleEmail author
  • Diane L. Riddiford-Harland
  • Karen J. Mickle
Part of the Studies in Mechanobiology, Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials book series (SMTEB, volume 16)


The base of support for the musculoskeletal system during most physical activities is the feet. Feet are highly unique and flexible structures, which are required to perform extremely diverse functions, particularly during weight-bearing tasks. Although feet that are structurally sound can usually perform tasks of daily living with ease, deviations from normal foot structure or alignment can compromise foot function and, in turn, cause discomfort or pain. Extensive research has confirmed that obesity negatively affects foot structure and function. Obese individuals have been found to have broader, thicker and flatter feet; generate significantly higher dynamic plantar pressures; and alter their foot mechanics during walking relative to their non-overweight counterparts. The need for overweight and obese individuals to bear excess body mass has also been associated with the development of musculoskeletal pain and discomfort in the feet, which can be severe enough to limit these individuals from participating in activities of daily living, work and recreation. As this can perpetuate the cycle of obesity, the compromised foot structure of obese individuals is deemed a major health issue. In this chapter, we review the effects of bearing excessive body mass on foot structure and function across a lifespan and, where possible, highlight the impact of this excessive weight bearing on the ability of individuals to perform activities of daily living. Based on the studies reviewed we recommend that evidence-based interventions be designed to reduce excess fat mass in overweight and obese individuals, focussing on non-weight bearing activities to relieve loading of their foot structures and, in turn, improve the quality of life of these individuals.


Obese Child Plantar Pressure Plantar Fasciitis Obese Participant Heel Pain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank Sheridan Gho for the artwork in Figs. 2 and 3.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie R. Steele
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diane L. Riddiford-Harland
    • 1
  • Karen J. Mickle
    • 1
  1. 1.Biomechanics Research Laboratory, Faculty of Science, Medicine & HealthUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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