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This article is part of the supplement: 3rd Congress of the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics Community

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Effects of weight loss on foot structure in obese adults: a pilot study

Jinsup Song1*, Gary Foster2, Reagan Kane1, Dana N Tango1, Stephanie Vander Veur2, Naomi Reyes2, Caitlin LaGrotte2, James Furmato1 and Eugene Komaroff2

Author Affiliations

1 Gait Study Center, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2 Center for Obesity Research and Education, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2012, 5(Suppl 1):O48  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-5-S1-O48

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:10 April 2012

© 2012 Song et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Excessive body weight can have a profound influence on weight bearing structure and function, including pain, disability, and compromised quality of life. A prospective cohort study of 5,784 people over the age of 50 years, showed that obesity was a strong predictor of the onset of severe disabling knee pain.[1] Similarly, increased weight was found to have an association with chronic plantar heel pain syndrome.[2] No study to-date has conducted an objective prospective examination of the differences in foot structure and function during significant weight change.

Materials and methods

In this randomized controlled prospective pilot study, 41 obese subjects were randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group. Subjects assigned to the treatment group received weekly education plus pre-packaged portion-controlled meals while the control group received monthly education only. Foot structure measurements (malleolar valgus index and arch height) were assessed at baseline and 3-month. Repeated ANOVA (Matched Pairs by Group) analysis was performance using JMP 9.


The mean age of study participants was 56.2 years old. While there was no difference in body mass index between the two groups at baseline, the treatment group lost significant weight at 3-month, see Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of foot structure measures of the control and the treatment groups at baseline and 3-month

thumbnailFigure 1. Linear correlation of (a) body weight and standing arch height at baseline [StdArchHt = 4.036 + 0.020 * Weight, p<0.0001], (b) body weight and arch drop at baseline [Arch drop= 0.075 + 0.003 * weight, P=0.006], and (c) change in weight and change in standing arch height [ ∆StdArchHt = -.0114 + 0.016 * ∆ Weight, P=0.013]


No significant changes were noted in measured structural foot parameters at 3-month follow up between the two groups as a function of observed weight loss. It is not clear if a larger weight reduction would have yielded significant changes. Several foot dimensions (including standing arch height and arch height drop from the sitting to standing conditions) were linearly correlated with body weight.


Nutrisystem, Inc. provided the pre-packaged portion-controlled meals for the study.


  1. Jinks C, et al.: Disabling knee pain – another consequence of obesity: Results from a prospective cohort study.

    BMC Public Health 2006, 6:258. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  2. Irving DB: Obesity and pronated foot type may increase the risk of chronic plantar heel pain: a matched case-control study.

    BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2007, 8:41. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL