Arthritis is a common disorder that affects your joints. It can cause pain and inflammation, making it difficult to move or stay active.
There are many types of arthritis. Each form causes different symptoms and may need different treatments.
While arthritis usually affects older adults, it can develop in men, women and children of any age.
What Causes Arthritis?
The two main types of arthritis — osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — damage joints in different ways.
The most common type of arthritis, OA involves wear-and-tear damage to a joint's cartilage — the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones where they form a joint.
Cartilage cushions the ends of the bones and allows nearly frictionless joint motion, but enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement.
This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection. The OA also causes changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone and hold the joint together.
If cartilage in a joint is severely damaged, the joint lining may become inflamed and swollen.
In RA, the body's immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts.
This lining (synovial membrane) becomes inflamed and swollen.
The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
What are the Symptoms?
Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. They can be mild in some people and severe in others. Joint discomfort might come and go, or it could stay constant. Common symptoms include:
- Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness.
- Inflammation in and around the joints.
- Restricted movement of the joints.
- Warm red skin over the affected joint.
- Weakness and muscle wasting.
How is Arthritis Treated?
When it comes to easing the symptoms of arthritis, one solution can be found in your closet. “The role of footwear in managing arthritis is super important,” says Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a podiatric surgeon in New York City.
To understand why, think back to the old song that explains how the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone, and so on. Feet are the foundation of the body and everything is connected to them (in medical lingo it’s called the kinetic chain).
“When your feet are supported, it sets the stage for the rest of your skeleton to be in better alignment,” says Dr. Sutera. Learn more about how different kinds of arthritis affect your feet here.
The upshot: Even if your arthritis is in your knees or hips, wearing the right shoes can have a very significant effect on the way it affects you.
Tips for Buying the Right Shoes for Arthritis
- Make sure the shoe shape matches your foot shape.
Whether you have inflammatory arthritis like RA or the more common OA, many people need a shoe with a roomy toe box to accommodate the bunions, hammertoes, and deformed joints that often accompany their disease.
“These pressure points can be excruciating for already tender arthritic feet,” says Jeffrey Hurless, DPM, a podiatric surgeon in Thousand Oaks, California.
To avoid aggravating problems (or creating new ones), pay special attention to the fit of the shoe’s width. Make sure to purchase a wide or extra-wide shoe if necessary.
Don’t make the mistake of just going up a shoe size to get extra space. If you just get a longer shoe you’ll alter your flex point, a predetermined spot in the sole of the shoe that’s supposed to bend where your toe joints bend.
“If your shoe bends in a spot it shouldn’t that can create another set of problems,” explains Dr. Hurless.
- Look for shoes that offer lots of support.
“I can’t tell you how many people come through my clinic with sore feet and they’re wearing the mostnon-supportive shoes,” says Dr. Hurless.
Maximum support is paramount for easing pain in people with arthritis. “The more support a shoe provides, the less work the foot does with every single step,” he says.
You get support primarily from the sole of the shoe — it should be wide, rigid, and only bend where your foot bends (at the toes) — and a stable heel counter, the back of the shoe that cups your heel and keeps your foot in place, which helps to prevent friction and pain.
- Get the right type of material
Especially if you have issues like bunions or hammertoes, pick a shoe made of a material that’s soft and accommodating.
“A rigid material will absolutely cause pain and potentially even sores where those prominences are,” says Dr. Hurless. Leather and mesh can be good options but also look for shoes designed with a synthetic stretchy fabric, such as neoprene, which literally allows deformities to pop out.
- Look for shoes with removable insoles
Orthotics are one of the main treatments for people with arthritis. “They help to more evenly distribute weight throughout the foot, taking pressure off of painful spots like the big toe joint or the midfoot,” says Dr. Hurless.
Shoes with removable insoles allow you to put in your own customized or over-the-counter orthotics without making the shoe too tight.
Another smart feature for arthritic feet with severe deformities like hammertoes are shoes that offer extra or added depth, which allows your foot to go in ¼ inch or ½ inch deeper than it would in a standard shoe.
This gives you more room in the shoe (so hammertoes won’t rub on the top of the toe box) and provides adequate space for a custom orthotic.
- Aim for easy adjustability
The more adjustability to a shoe, the easier it is to fit. This is important since you may need to accommodate changes in foot size and shape during arthritis flare-ups.
Tying shoes can be difficult if you have arthritis in your hands, so consider elastic laces, which can ensure a snug fit with one pull and even allow you to slip into already-tied shoes.
Other options include Velcro closings or zipper fastenings, which can be done up and/or adjusted with only one hand. Shoes with elastic inserts can also provide feet with more stretching room.
With a wide toe box, FitVille trainers have both wide and extra wide widths.
The patented PropelCore™ soles provide more support on every single step and the caring removable insoles allow wear with any model of orthotics. Shop now on FitVille for the arthritis: https://thefitville.com/collections/shoes-for-arthritis