When you lose weight, you usually think of your hips, waist and thighs shrinking. The size of your feet may also reduce when you drop considerable pounds. Depending on how much weight you lose, you may need to invest in shoes of a new size as well as smaller clothes. Even if your feet don't get smaller, losing weight can help relieve foot pain caused by being overweight or obese.
Foot Concerns Due to Weight
When you carry a lot of extra weight, your feet obviously suffer; they absorb about 120 percent of your weight, explains The New York Times. Over time, the excess weight of your body stretches out connective tissue; your foot muscles strain to support you, and natural fat pads that cushion the soles of your feet wear down. You might experience plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of your foot, and heel pain.
A large body size can exacerbate edema, or abnormal swelling, of the feet, ankles and legs. This can make your feet seem larger than their actual bone structure.
If you're diabetic and overweight, your feet are at particular risk of complication. As they are far away from the heart, circulation and feeling may wane so that wounds don't heal properly, which sometimes leads to amputation.
How Weight Loss Affects Your Feet
Losing weight can alleviate some or all of your foot problems. If you drop just 5 to 10 percent of your weight, you can reduce blood sugar issues, which can help you better control diabetes complications, along with blood pressure and cholesterol.
Your feet will be carrying less weight and some of the pain will likely reduce. Losing weight reduces the gravitational pressure on your lower body and feet, reducing swelling and, as an effect, you fit into smaller shoes. The actual bone structure and length of your feet don't change, but the width could.
Not just any weight loss will have such remarkable foot effects, however. Usually, people who lose a large percentage of their body size experience the greatest relief. If you have just 10 or 20 pounds to lose, you may not notice much difference in the size or feel of your feet.
Your Feet During Pregnancy
Your foot size can expand by a half size or more during pregnancy, explains Bret Ribotsky, president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine in Parenting magazine. Your body produces a hormone called relaxin to loosen the connective tissue of the pelvic region to provide room for childbirth, and this hormone can also affect the ligaments of the foot -- causing them to expand slightly. As you gain weight in pregnancy, your arches may lower, creating a longer, wider foot. Pregnancy also often results in swelling in your feet, which makes your foot feel larger. Once you give birth, much of the swelling is likely to reduce. But even after you lose the pregnancy weight, any foot growth due to changes in your arches and ligament size will remain.
How to Help Your Feet When Losing Weight
Moving more helps you burn calories to lose weight and helps the health of your feet. When you have foot pain due to your size, this movement can be painful. Talk to your doctor about ways to alleviate discomfort and keep your feet healthy as you exercise to slim down. Compression stockings and a low-sodium diet may give you relief from swelling, for example.
Also, seek out calorie-burning activity that puts less pressure on your feet. Water exercise, cycling and a rowing ergometer may be options for you.