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What is fat pad atrophy?
The fat pad, which is a thick layer of tissue located along the bottom of your foot, serves a critical function. Specifically, it is particularly dense at the ball of the foot and around the heels, providing vital protection from pressure and friction, while simultaneously cushioning muscles, bones, ligaments, and other structures.
However, as we age, the fat pad naturally begins to wear down and thin out due to prolonged use. Unfortunately, this can lead to inflammation and micro-tears, which often result in patients experiencing symptoms such as pain and discomfort.
As a matter of fact, this condition is quite common and has been identified as the second leading cause of heel pain, after plantar fasciitis. If left untreated, fat pad atrophy can have potentially serious complications that may further exacerbate the underlying issue.
Who is at risk of getting fat pad atrophy?
There are several factors that can increase the risk of fat pad atrophy. The following individuals are at a higher risk.
- Diabetics or individuals with connective tissue disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma
- Individuals with high-arched feet or flat feet
- Those who wear tight-fitting shoes
- Individuals with a family history of plantar fat pad atrophy
- Individuals with existing conditions such as plantar fasciitis or a toe deformity
Symptoms of fat pad atrophy
A diagnosis of fat pad atrophy is usually made based on symptoms and a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may suggest an x-ray or ultrasound rule out other causes of heel pain. You may have heel fat pad atrophy if you experience the following:
- Pain in your heel when you walk or stand
- Foot pain that worsens with use (prolonged walking or standing)
- Difficulty bearing weight
What causes foot pad atrophy?
Here are some of the most prevalent contributors to fat pad atrophy:
- Inflammation of the fat pad due to repetitive force or pressure
- Routinely traversing over hard and uneven surfaces
- A gait imbalance or foot misalignment
- Increased body weight and obesity
How do I treat fat pad atrophy?
Orthotic insoles can be extremely effective for those seeking pain relief and an extra bit of shock absorption in their shoes. Wearing foot orthoses help support the feet and improve posture to achieve tissue repair and alleviate foot pain. All orthotics are not made equal, so let’s talk about the kinds of features that would make one suited for someone with plantar fat pad atrophy.
1. It should be long enough to span the entire length of the foot
Your fat pads run down the entirety of your feet. Therefore, your orthotics should do the same. A full-length orthotic will be able to provide support from your heel bone to your toes.
2. Targeted cushioning for vulnerable areas
Look for an orthotic that has extra soft cushioning at high impact areas (e.g. toes, heels, and balls of the feet). A heel cup can also be useful for those with heel pad atrophy.
3. Arch support
Poor arch support is one of the most common causes of foot pain. Find an orthotic that helps to prevent excessive pronation, which is contributing factor to flat feet. This will also reduce the chances of developing plantar fasciitis or heel pain.
4. Be sure to pair your orthotics with a good-fitting shoe
Along with your orthotics, try to wear shoes with a cushioning midsole and adequate support. Soft socks can also help to augment comfort and reduce foot pain.
Other treatment options for fat pad atrophy
In addition to foot orthoses, there are other newer methods of treatment that involve fat grafting and heel fat pad injections. These techniques are continuously being improved and are mainly aimed at thickening the fatty tissue underneath the foot. Currently, foot orthoses remain the most common treatment modality for fat pad atrophy as there have been complications associated with failed adipose tissue engraftment, for example, fat necrosis and infection.
Best Shoe Inserts for Fat Pad Atrophy
The Ergonx Ultra Soft
- Great for flat feet, heel pain, and knee pain
- Relieves pressure and reduces wear and tear
- $49.95 Price (in. GST)
- Antibacterial upper with a polyurethane base
- Has an ergonomic design aimed for wear during general activity and sports
Ergonx Pure Cushion
- Has a thick form layer
- Extremely flexible yet durable
Have more questions about fat pad atrophy and foot health?
If you have more questions about your fat pads, causes of heel pain, fat pad atrophy shoes, or your overall foot health, please feel free to reach out to our team at docpods.com/au. Our team of experts would be happy to hear from you.