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You may not have heard of Plantar Fat Pad Atrophy but it’s a very common condition and chances are you’ll suffer from it as you age. This is a foot issue and as leading practitioners of podiatry in Auckland, it’s something we can help you manage if (or when) you are afflicted by it.

Plantar fat pad atrophy is the thinning or breakdown of the fat pads on the bottom of your feet i.e. at the heel and at the ball of the foot. As you might have guessed, these pads provide cushioning to the bones of your feet and help absorb the significant forces as your feet take on heavy loads each day. Without these fat pads, the bones are placed under much more pressure and are more susceptible to injury.

As you age, your plantar fat pads progressively get thinner. There’s not much you can do about it. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be much of an issue until the later years. However, the causes are not always age-related. They can also include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Abnormal positioning of the bones of the foot that damages the fat pad beneath
  • Conditions like diabetic neuropathy
  • Surgery or trauma, including fractures
  • Certain types of medication
  • Shoes that place pressure on the fat pads such as high heels, or walking in bare feet

When plantar fat pads become thin or start to break down, the bones in your feet will begin to take on a much heavier load and will be unable to absorb shock as effectively. The symptoms of this include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the overloaded bones
  • Inflammation
  • Formation of calluses and/or corns
  • Ulceration
  • The skin on your feet feels thinner
  • Bones become more prominent
  • It feels like you’re constantly walking on a small stone

Damage and thinning to the plantar fat pads are largely irreversible. So, it’s not so much treatment you require but management. Maybe even a bit of both. The focus is on giving your feet good cushioning and shock absorption through a combination of orthotics and decent footwear. When it comes to orthotics, we can help as that is another area of specialisation for us. 

To help relieve the painful symptoms of plantar fat pad atrophy, you should avoid walking in bare feet and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the load on your feet. As we’ve already said, chances are, you will encounter this condition at some stage. If you start to feel the symptoms, contact us and we’ll help you out. 

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