Over the weekend, my husband and I took his little cousins to the Museum of Science and Industry. The draw was the Walt Disney exhibit, but we always love walking through the various exhibits. They've made some awesome updates since we were there last and we also like to check in and make sure the separated bottle of Pepto Bismol is still on the elements wall - and walk through the model train exhibit. While searching around the YOU! exhibit, we found where all the body slices (previously in one of the stairwells) had been moved. This area has been revamped with a few Body Worlds-like exhibits too, but (nerdy as I am) I was happy to find the foot slice on display. The picture (see below) demonstrates how much fat there is in the feet.
Why do we need fat feet? The bottoms of our feet have fat cells that are oriented in a way that allows optimal absorption of shock while walking. It protects the underlying bone and ligaments. In the aging population, especially, people can begin to have pain in the heels and balls of the feet, especially when walking barefoot or with shoes that have little to no cushion.
As we get older, from prolonged walking and standing, the well designed fat cells begin to lose that special orientation that allows them to absorb shock. The fat pads in the ball of the foot even transfer forward to rest in the sulcus of the foot (which is just under the base of the toes). When these fat pads are no longer able to perform their protective duties, this exposes the underlying bone to added stress and this can be very painful! There is also a correlation with this fat pad transfer and chronic use of high heeled shoes. The added pressure on the ball of the foot pushes that fat pad and adds stress to this area.
There are some ways to make your feet more comfortable once the fat pads of the feet have atrophied (or thinned). Through various paddings and inserts, walking can become a less painful reality for many people. If you have pain in the ball of the foot or the heel, call us at Prairie Path Foot and Ankle Clinic and get back to your regular routine, without pain!