Guide to Choosing Footwear for People with Arthritis
Many forms of arthritis usually affect the feet, making it painful and difficult for patients to walk. As you get older, you’re vulnerable to this condition when the cartilage in the joints start to wear. It can also occur due to past injuries and traumas.
Arthritis is a blanket term for over 100 diseases; the most common types that affect the feet include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, psoriatic arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. They lead to several symptoms, including:
- Difficulty in walking
- Joint tenderness, stiffness, swelling, or warmth
The swelling, stiffness, and pain usually occur due to inflammation. Apart from exercises, using inserts, physical therapy, and pain medication, doctors usually advise patients to use custom-made shoes or orthotics. You can also find the right shoes for you in local stores or online.
Basically, choosing the right shoes is important in minimizing the pain. Shoes help to provide a firm grip for the heels, resulting in proper alignment of your bones. Read on to learn how to find the best shoes for arthritis.
Footwear for the type of activity
Making healthy choices for your feet is just much like exercising every day or having a balanced diet. Bear in mind that you’re likely to wear shoes every day. So, you should start thinking of shoes as a key factor in your health, particularly when suffering from any foot problems, including arthritis.
As such, you need to have different pairs of shoes for different occasions or activities.
Regardless of the type of arthritis you have, you need a pair of shoes with a roomy toe box to accommodate the deformed joints, hammertoes, and bunions that tend to accompany the conditions. With the wrong shoes, these pressure points can be quite uncomfortable.
Therefore, you need to pay special attention to the form, make, and material of the shoes when shopping around.
It’s advisable to go for shoes that’s wide or extra-wide if necessary. However, you shouldn’t make the mistake of selecting a larger shoe size just to get extra space. Getting a larger shoe size will likely alter the flex point -- the spot in the shoe’s sole that’s supposed to bend. This can even result in more problems.
Using a paper tracing of your foot while shopping is the ideal way of finding the right shoes for you.
Wearing non-supportive shoes usually lead to pain and sore feet, even if you don’t have arthritis. So, with arthritis, maximum support is vital for easing pain. The more support, the less impact on your foot while walking.
In any shoe, the sole is the most important part when it comes to the foot support. It should be rigid and wide. Plus, it should only bend where the foot bends (flex point). Also, check the heel counter, a little plastic insert used to reinforce the heel cup. It should be stable to prevent pain and friction.
The material of the shoe is particularly important if you have hammertoes or bunions. You’ll want to go for a material that’s soft. Rigid materials usually worsen sores, leading to even more pain. Mesh and leather are good options for many people.
For the best options, go for shoes made with a synthetic stretchy fabric, such as neoprene. These materials are flexible and they don’t put pressure on foot deformities.
Form and Make
People with OA or RA should find shoes that have rocker soles, which have shown to reduce joint pain. These soles are usually slightly curved to help redistribute plantar pressure in a gait cycle. This reduces the strain of walking on the toes, ankle, and foot.
You should also aim to find shoes that are adjustable so that it’s easy to fit. This is vital to accommodate changes in the foot’s shape and size due to the disease. Shoes with elastic laces make a great option than the typical laces. You can tie them easily or slip into already-tied shoes comfortably.
Generally, you can wear any shoes that’s comfortable and supportive when going to work. However, there are certain things you should avoid, particularly when eager to meet your style or fashion needs.
You should ditch high heels - they might be stylish, but they’re not great for foot arthritis. This is because they put the foot in an unnatural position, which is likely to cause misalignment of the foot. However, if you have to wear heels, they shouldn’t be more than 1 to 1.5 inches.
Flats are also not great for foot arthritis -- they tend to be pointy and rigid. If you wear them, find a pair that offers optimal arch support and has adequate shock absorption. The shoes shouldn’t be completely flat.
Caution on Wearing High Heels
The design and structure of the foot are meant to ensure even distribution of pressure when walking. So, when wearing heels, the forefoot gets much of the pressure, and this causes or worsens foot problems.
Bear in mind that high heels don’t affect just your feet only, but also your knees, hips, and the back. In fact, a 2015 study found that high heels increase your risk for osteoarthritis.
For medium-size dinner heels, you should wear them no longer than three hours. If you want to wear high stilettos, avoid having them on for more than an hour, particularly when walking.
If you’re an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, the type of shoes you wear is vital if you have arthritis. Most athletic shoes are usually neutral or stability sneakers. Your choice mostly depends on how your feet pronate.
Note: Pronation - This is the natural movement of the foot while walking or running.
Stability sneakers have a cushioned midsole and heel to control overpronation and motion. They are also dense. While these shoes increase knee stress, they’re ideal for people with foot, knee, toe, or hip arthritis.
Neutral sneakers have great cushioning and shock absorption. However, they don’t correct over- or under-pronation. Their design allows users to wear them alongside custom-moulded orthotic or inserts for arthritis. They make the best option for runners with normal pronation.
When shopping around for the best shoes for sports, there are several things you need to consider, including:
- Wide toes - Go for a pair with a wide toe box for comfortable running. The extra space helps to minimize toe rubbing while you’re running. Avoid narrow shoes as they’ll lead to swelling.
- Custom fitting - In some cases, your foot doctor might recommend custom-fitted shoes for you. Custom-fitted options tend to retain their shape and also promote proper joint movement.
- Padded heels - You should also look for running or exercise shoes with padding and arch support. When running, the feet act as shock absorbers. Arthritis compromises this ability, and for that reason, always opt for shoes with added padding to prevent discomfort.
Whenever you’re at an athletic shoe store, be sure to try on several options before choosing the ideal pair. You should find a pair that addresses your specific needs.
After exercise foot care
Whether you’re a casual or avid runner, it’s important to take care of your feet after your daily sessions. Repetitive exercises can lead to swelling, blisters and even injuries. So, here are tips you should use:
Cool them Down
The feet might be achy after running due to excessive tension and stress. You can soak them in cold water to constrict the blood vessels and muscle fibres. This helps to reduce soreness and swelling. Some runners add Epsom salt to the water to reduce swelling. However, you shouldn’t use it often as it can lead to dry feet.
After cooling them down, you can moisturize them using a foot cream. Be sure to use the cream while the feet are still damp. Moisturizing helps to prevent drying as well as other issues, such as heel fissures and blisters.
Massaging the feet also eases soreness. You can massage them yourself or get a professional massage. A light massage will work - don’t go for the deep-tissue version. You can also use foot rollers on your legs -- the effect is similar to that of a massage.
Take Care of Blisters
After your exercise session, be sure to inspect your feet for blisters and other problems. If you have a blister, clean it well with a soft piece of cloth. Apply a pad to the area to cushion and protect it. Most blisters require no treatment -- they heal on their own.
However, if you have a blister that’s not healing, you can drain it yourself using a clean, sterile needle. Be sure to apply antiseptic and cover the area with a bandage.
You should also watch out for injuries -- they can be open or closed. Closed injuries are the most common ones due to muscle strain. If the pain persists, take a week off to allow it to clear up. Apply ice to the area for 10 to 20 minutes three times a day.
If the pain doesn’t clear up after a week, it’s important to visit a doctor, particularly if there are other symptoms, such as swelling and redness.
In some cases, you might not need to buy a new pair of shoes. All you need is to get the necessary support items to ensure optimal support and comfort. Here are the items you may need:
Also known as inserts, inner soles or foot orthosis, insoles help to realign the placement of the feet in the shoes. This helps to manage pain in the feet, hips, knees, and lower back. You can use them daily. Since they are removable, it’s vital to have several pairs.
For arthritis patients, elastic shoelaces are the best options. Once they are tied, you’ll hardly need to tie them again, unless you untie them. You simply need to slide in and out of the shoes whenever you’re using them. Other options, such as nylon, polyester, and cotton, are great, but they can exact pressure on the foot.
Best alternatives for elastic laces are zipper fastenings and Velcro closings, which can be adjusted with only one hand. Alternatively, you can always opt for shoes without laces.
You can also wear socks to relieve pain, stiffness, and aches associated with foot arthritis. Be sure to opt for socks that are soft and breathable. Padded socks are ideal if your feet hurt when walking. The extra cushion reduces impact and pressure when you walk.
Compression socks are less stretchy than typical socks, and they are great if you have swelling in the feet. If you’re struggling to put them on, you can use a sock aid to pull them up over your foot.
It’s possible to manage foot arthritis with shoes -- what matters is the type of shoes you wear. Generally, you need supportive, sturdy, and comfortable shoes that have little to no heel. They should also provide a proper fit -- the side-to-side fit should be snug, not tight. Women with wider feet are usually advisable to try men’s or boy’s shoe sizes or they can opt for custom-fitted ones.
While you can wear slippers in the house, they provide little support. Also, the “shuffling” movement associated with slippers inhibits proper use of the joints. You can work with a pedorthist to find specialist/prescribed footwear, which you can use indoors.
More importantly, be sure to replace your shoes as needed. It’s recommended to change them after every 300 to 400 miles or six months.
Find the Best and Worst Shoes for Arthritis
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Best Shoes for Arthritis: 8 Rules for Buying the Right Pair (and 3
Mistakes to Avoid)
I have problems with shoes – HELP!
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Heidi Godman - Beating osteoarthritis knee pain: Beyond special shoes
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FEET, FOOTWEAR AND ARTHRITIS