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What is Plantar Fat Pad Atrophy? | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist


Plantar fat pad atrophy is a common condition that affects the bottom of the foot. It occurs when the fatty tissue under the foot becomes thin or degenerates, causing pain and discomfort for the individual. In this blog post, we will explore the anatomy of the plantar fat pad, the symptoms of atrophy, and some of the treatment options available for those who suffer from this condition.

A pair of feet
The plantar fat pad protects the underside of our feet


The plantar fat pad is a thick, cushioning layer of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It is responsible for absorbing shock and protecting underlying structures while walking, running, and standing. The fat pad is made up of adipose tissue, which is composed of closely packed fat chambers, rich in blood vessels and nerve endings. As we age, the fat pad may begin to deteriorate, leading to atrophy and subsequent pain and discomfort.


The most common symptom of plantar fat pad atrophy is pain and tenderness in the ball of the foot. This pain may worsen with prolonged standing or walking, and it may feel like a bruise or a burning sensation under the foot. Individuals with atrophy may also experience a feeling of instability or a sensation of walking on a hard surface, as the cushioning effect of the fat pad is diminished. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the toes or the arch of the foot.


There are several treatment options available for individuals suffering from plantar fat pad atrophy. In milder cases, a change of footwear can be very helpful. Choosing shoes with a supportive upper, fastening (such as laces) and plenty of cushioning beneath the foot can often be enough to alleviate pain. Over-the-counter insoles or custom orthotics can provide additional padding and support to the foot, relieving pressure on the fat pad and the underlying structures. Stretching exercises and physical therapy may also help to alleviate pain and discomfort. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections or shockwave therapy may be considered to reduce pain and/or inflammation but these options should be used with caution.


Plantar fat pad atrophy can be a source of significant pain and discomfort for those affected. However, with proper treatment and care, individuals can find relief and improve their quality of life. By understanding the anatomy of the fat pad, recognising the symptoms of atrophy, and exploring the available treatment options, individuals can take proactive steps to address this condition and find relief from foot pain.

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