Our feet, with their 52 bones, 66 joints and more than 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments, are high-precision instruments that connect us to the earth, support our skeleton and provide balance and mobility.
Yet we often neglect and even abuse them – forcing them into footwear that doesn’t fit, that sacrifices function and comfort for style, or that is simply the wrong shoe choice for our particular feet. Anyone who has worn a fabulous pair of shoes for a special occasion, only to tear them off at the first possible moment, knows how painful a bad shoe decision can be. That’s especially true when choosing shoes for arthritic feet.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Best Shoes for Arthritis
Making healthy choices for your feet, much like eating anutritious dietor getting regular exercise, can add up to big improvements in quality of life, says Marian Hannan, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-director of musculoskeletal research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging in Boston. “People should start thinking of their shoes as a factor they can modify to help minimize pain and maximize their ability to get out and do things.”
The wrong shoe worn by someone with arthritis in their hips, knees, ankles or feet can exacerbate existing problems and, down the road, cause damage and complications to many joints beyond the feet, she adds.
“The right shoes for arthritis can reduce or eliminate foot pain, which has a huge impact on the body’s function and mobility,” says Hannan.
Kirsten Borrink agrees. After years of struggling with foot pain from rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, diagnosed in her 20s, the former teacher started a website and blog,Barking Dog Shoes,which showcases frank reviews of a variety of shoe styles that Kirsten has personally tried. It includes video demonstrations of the author in action.
To help keep you on your feet comfortably, we teamed up with medical experts who weigh in on the pleasing and painful points of 10 different types of shoes, and with Kirsten, who recommends her top picks in each category. Here’s to healthier feet!
Reviews for the Best and Worst Shoes for Arthritis
Experts are united in their low opinion of high heels, defined as heels higher than 2 inches. “High heels are bad for everyone’s feet, and for people with any kind of arthritis, they’re even worse. They’re hard on the arch and ball of the foot and can wear down joints,” says Bryan West, a podiatric surgeon who practices in Livonia, Mich.
Studies show wearing stilettos and other heels contributes to both foot pain and arthritis. Researchers at Iowa State University in Ames measured forces on the knee in women wearing flats and wearing 2-inch and 3.5-inch heels.Women who made a habit of wearing high heels had an increased risk of knee joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis, or OA. Risk – as well as the frequency of low back pain – rose with the height of the heel, according to their study, presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics.
In a study, published inArthritis & Rheumatism, Hannan found that women with a history of wearing high heels also experienced more foot pain later in life than those who opted for healthier shoes.
Kirsten’s Pick:Earthies, a new line of high heels by earth footwear that features a cupped heel, anatomical arch and cradle toe area to distribute weight evenly.
These can produce the same problems as higher heels, just to a lesser degree. Add a pointy toe and you can have even more discomfort.
“Feet take on the shape of the shoe,” explains orthopaedic surgeon Carol Frey, MD, clinical assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at University of California, Los Angeles. “Pointy toes cause deformities such as hammertoes – a common complication of RA that’s also seen in ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus – and pinched nerves.
Remember, if a shoe hurts, it’s damaging your foot.”If you want to wear low heels, experts recommend those with rubber soles, wedge heels and roomy toe boxes. These styles are more slip-proof, and the greater surface area of the sole helps absorb shock, adds stability and reduces stress on pressure points.
Kirsten’s Pick:Aravon’s offers low-heeled shoes in wide sizes with roomy tow boxes and many have rocker soles, which in small studies have been shown to reduce joint pain.
Experts say these shoes, which are not particularly stable and can increase falling risk, are best for people who do not have problems with their feet or with balance. But flip-flops may offer some benefit to people with knee OA, according to a 2010 study published inArthritis Care & Research.
Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University studying the joint load, or stress, caused by different shoes worn by people with knee OA found that wearing flip-flops (as well as going barefoot and wearing flat, flexible walking shoes) creates significantly less knee stress than clogs and sneakers known as stability shoes, which have cushioning in the heel and forefoot and a firm, dense midsole that supports the middle area of the foot.
“In OA, higher joint loads are linked to more pain and arthritic damage and progression,” says lead study author Najia Shakoor, MD, a rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at Rush University. “Other studies have shown being barefoot is good for knee load, and we found flip-flops reduce knee load by about the same percentage.”
Kirsten’s Pick:The podiatrist-designed footbed ofOrthaheel’s flip-flops provides excellent arch support and pronation control, and has been shown to relieve plantar fasciitis pain.
Many sandals offer little more than a sole and a few thin pieces of leather to keep your foot in place. If you have arthritis in your lower extremities, look for sandals with more support.
“The strappier the better,” says New York City podiatric surgeon Jacqueline Sutera, an associate of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. “Straps let you adjust the shoe for a secure, custom fit. One of those straps must go across the back of your ankle. Without a back strap, toes overgrip the edge of the shoe, and this encourages foot strain and hammertoes.” Avoid sandals with straps that cut across sensitive areas of your foot, she adds.
Kirsten’s Pick:Wolky’s Cloggy sandal has adjustable instep, forefoot and heel straps and a memory-foam footbed. Wolky’s Jewel sandal has a removable footbed to accommodate orthotics, which makes them a great fit for medium to wide feet.
Most athletic shoes fall into two categories: stability sneakers and neutral sneakers. Stability sneakers have a dense, cushioned midsole and heel that help control motion and overpronation, a tendency for the foot to roll inward more than it needs to for optimal weight distribution and shock absorption.
Although Dr. Shakoor’s study found stability shoes increase knee stress more than flatter shoes do, they still can be a good choice for some. “Stability shoes take weight off the ball of the foot, which is important for people with hip, knee, foot or ankle OA, RA, toe arthritis, or pain in the footpad,” says Dr. Frey.
Foot structure matters, too. “Stability shoes provide good cushioning and motion control for people who overpronate,” Dr. West says.
If you’re not sure whether you have normal pronation, Dr. West advises checking with staff at a store specializing in athletic shoes. “Bring in an old pair of running shoes. They can determine your pronation by looking for the distinctive wear patterns caused by abnormal pronation.” He notes that some stores offer high-tech digital foot scans that can pinpoint biomechanical issues.
A neutral shoe is one that doesn’t correct for over- or underpronation, says Dr. Frey. “They offer good shock absorption and cushioning that people with arthritis can benefit from,” Dr. Sutera says. “Their neutral design typically allows them to easily accommodate an insert or custom-molded orthotic, often prescribed for patients with arthritis.”
Dr. Frey says neutral sneakers are best “for walkers and runners with normal pronation and no biomechanical problems. If you over- or underpronate or have issues caused by injury or age, you’re better off with a shoe with attributes that address your problems.”
Kirsten’s Pick:Running and athletic shoe styles change every year. Asics, New Balance, Avia and many other brands offer stability and neutral shoes in a variety of widths with a variety of features. Try on several at an athletic shoe store to find the ones that feel best and suit your needs.
Dr. Shakoor’s study showedclogs increase knee stress. And Dr. West, who doesn’t often recommend clogs, particularly lightweight plastic varieties, says, “They’re not a good everyday shoe for people with arthritis in the arch, big toe or ankle, or who have stiff, swollen foot joints.”
Well-made clogs with a rubberized sole, a closed back and heels lower than 2 inches can be a reasonable choice for people without knee or foot arthritis, says Dr. Sutera. “They must have a closed back. Foot strain and toe deformities can result if your toes have to grip to stay in any shoe.”
Kirsten’s Pick:Dansko offers several closed-back clogs with tons of support.
Boots can be a healthy, stabilizing option for people with ankle arthritis or other ankle issues, says Dr. West, though he is quick to add that this does not include high-heeled styles. “People with arthritis should choose boots with low, more stable, rubber-soled wedged heels or flatter boots with good arch support. Hiking boots are generally sturdy and give good ankle support,” he says.
Sturdiness is important, but hiking boots also need some flexibility. “If they’re so stiff you can’t flex your foot, they’ll prevent a normal walking motion,” Dr. Sutera says.
Kirsten’s Pick:Clarks’ offers comfortable and stylish ankle boots.
These strange-looking shoes – which look something like rubber-soled slippers with a space for each toe – are relatively new to the footwear scene. They feel similar to being barefoot, but provide protection from items on the ground that can injure feet.
Dr. Sutera saysfoot gloves, often marketed as alternatives to running shoes, are not a good choice for people with arthritis. “They don’t offer any shock-absorbing protection for your skeleton as your foot hits hard surfaces.”
Kirsten’s Pick:Vibram FiveFingersfoot gloves might not offer support, but they protect feet and provide traction. Consider them for the beach.
Not all flats are created equal. “You need three things in a flat: cushioning, arch support and shock absorption,” Dr. West says. “A good test for a flat is to see if you can bend it in half or wring it like a dishtowel. Flexibility is also important, but if you can easily contort the shoe, pass.”
Dr. Shakoor found flat,flexible walking shoes are one of the best choices for people with knee OA. “If you need a little more cushioning, add an over-the-counter insole.”
Kirsten’s Pick:Naot’s Matai provides solid support and pronation control and includes a removable, cork-and-latex, anatomical footbed that accommodates orthotics.
Meet the Tester: The Shoe Whisperer, Kristen Borrink
After enduring years of excruciating foot pain from RA, Kirsten Borrink’s hunt for comfortable, fashionable footwear ended in September 1998 with a Dansko brand shoe that fit her like a glove.
“When I saw that the style name was Kirsten, I nearly cried. For the first time in 14 years, I was walking in shoes without pain – and I looked stylish!” says the former middle and high school Spanish teacher. Diagnosed with RA in her 20s, the disease had severely affected the small joints of her feet and toes, limiting the pretty, blue-eyed blonde’s fashion options.
The little black clog changed all that, and inspired her to seek other manufacturers that catered to feet like hers. The list grew, as did Kirsten’s shoe wardrobe, prompting her husband to suggest she blog about her mounting expertise.
Kirsten’s blog,Barking Dog Shoes,went live to the world in August 2007 and now includes an extensive listing of shoes, boots, sandals and more with reviews of them all. Kirsten has turned the family’s suburban Chicago den into a veritable shoe store as manufacturers send their wares for review.
“When companies send me their shoes to try on and assess, they know they will get an honest opinion, as do my blog’s viewers,” says Kirsten, whose personal shoe wardrobe of vetted types and styles has grown from two pairs to more than 40, ranging from casual athletic shoes and flats to dressy heels and boots.
“My criteria are simple. Aside from being stylish, a shoe must have a roomy toe box, solid arch support and good cushioning, specifically for the ball of the foot,” she says. —Judy Alexandra DiEdwardo
There's a host of shoe manufacturers known for being an especially good fit for people who have arthritis. Clark's, Vionic, Orthofeet, and Klogs are some of the brands both recommended by members the CreakyJoints community and approved by the foot experts we talked to. Mephisto, Drew, and Ecco are other good options.
It can sometimes help define not only causes of foot pain but also causes of ankle, knee, or hip pain. In general, running shoes are often an advantage because of their light weight. Proper shoes can provide welcome relief and often improve function for patients with foot damage from arthritis.
- Steroid medications injected into your joints.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to help with swelling.
- Pain relievers.
- Pads or arch supports in your shoes.
- Canes or braces for support.
- Shoe inserts that support your ankle and foot (orthotics)
- Physical therapy.
- Custom-fitted shoes.
Pumps, stilettos, and other high-heeled shoes “In general, heels are a no-no if you have knee osteoarthritis,” Dr. Shakoor says. These types of shoes may even increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis, according to a study published in March 2015 in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.
Although you may not think it at first, arthritis does impact the feet and can make walking becomes very difficult and painful. Arthritis is more well-known for its effect on joints such as hips, knees, and wrists, but those who...Read more
In general, shoes that offer arch support and don’t have any problems staying on your feet are best, such as walking shoes and running shoes.. Wolky Women’s Jewel SandalWomen$$$ If you have arthritic feet, your doctor will either ask you what type of shoes you tend to wear, or examine those shoes themselves.. People who wear high heels and other shoes for special occasions understand that shoe choices can be painful.. If your shoes have pointy toes, this can lead to even more discomfort and pain, as your toes and feet tend to take on the shape of the shoes you wear the most.. Clogs and sneakers are known as stability shoes, and they provide cushioning both at the forefront of the shoe for your toes, and at the back for your heel.. Not a lot of room in the toe; toes may dig in to the mesh and cause pain Material around the ankle may fray Sole may wear quickly Some users found that wearing these shoes led to knee pain, or pain along one side of their foot Little arch support. If you’d like to wear a clog, or mule style, shoe that helps your arthritis, especially if you work on your feet all day, this is the shoe for you.. Since the shoe is unisex, may not fit well for women or for people with smaller, more narrow feet Strap can slide too high on the foot Straps may be uncomfortable at first, especially between the toes Not very durable; tend to break soon, especially at the straps Long break-in period considering that they are flip flops. Whether the arthritis is located in your feet, ankles, toes, knees, hips, or even lower back, shoes that provide support can not only help to alleviate your symptoms and pain, but also help you achieve the mobility and the ability you want in the long run.. Look for shoes that have a secure fit and won’t fall off your feet, provide good arch support, have roomy toe areas, and that spread the impact or force of your activities, so not all of your weight falls on the balls of your feet.
Are you a runner with flat feet? Me too! Don't worry, here's our selection of the best running shoes for flat feet in 2020.
The additions of PWRRUN cushioning and a new upper turned a great stability trainer into one of the best.” Recommended for I recommend the Saucony Guide 13 to those looking for a mid stability trainer for either a half or full marathon.. They are a well balanced shoe that provides excellent stability no matter the distance or the pace.” Recommended for I would recommend the Kayano 27 to a runner who would like a daily trainer with reliable stability that’s built to last.. Reasons to buy Sturdy shoe with superb heel support Comfortable with springy toe off Appealing design. It is a very comfortable shoe both for running and for walking/standing up.. Just because you have flat feet it doesn't mean you can't run fast, in lightweight running shoes.. “The New Balance 870v5 is a straightforward lightweight stability trainer.. These shoes are some of the most supportive out there.. The height of the arch determines pronation and foot type.The arch height of the foot can easily be checked using the wet feet test .. Support is what a flat foot runner needs.. I would advise runners to start in a stability shoe and only later experiment with a neutral shoe.. If you still experience pain after wearing the right shoes, consider custom orthotics .. Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet 2021
Having arthritis of the knee doesn't mean giving up your favorite exercise. Here's how to safely practice popular moderate- and high-impact exercises.
Although people with knee osteoarthritis can run safely, Bell advises leaving this sport to those who have been running for a while.. If running hasn’t been a part of your exercise routine and you find that you’d like to start, talk with your doctor.. If you haven’t engaged in high-impact activities before, talk to your physical therapist before starting now.. Although walking up and down stairs may hurt, it can be a good strengthening exercise for your leg and hip muscles.. There’s another benefit to exercise, and that’s having a protective effect on joint or articular cartilage.. As a person ages, this cartilage can wear away, leading to joint pain and swelling, or osteoarthritis.. Your doctor or physical therapist can provide a personalized recommendation suited to your needs.
How to Start an Exercise Program
About Arthritis What Is Arthritis?. How to Start an Exercise Program. Try an exercise DVD, such as the Arthritis Foundation’s "Take Control with Exercise," to help boost your confidence in getting active.. How can you learn from them and challenge yourself as they did?. Exercise feels less like exercise when it’s a social event,” says Bryant.. To get the most from your walking workout, consider the Arthritis Foundation's Walk With Ease program.. It helps you develop a walking plan suited for your needs, helps you stay motivated and teaches you to exercise safely.. Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.. Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.
We hear all the time "why does my foot hurt?" Learn about 10 common causes of foot pain, plus causes, prevention, and treatment options!
morning foot pain just after waking foot pain after intense exercise sharp pain in the heel with the first few steps in the morning or foot pain after sitting for an extended period of time heel pain when climbing stairs. pain, blisters, or calluses on the top of the toes curled toes ball of foot pain. pain alongside the inside of the foot and ankle activity (such as running or walking for long periods of time) makes pain worse outside of the ankle pain. Heel pain is often a contributor to metatarsalgia; pain in the heel makes you adjust the way you walk which can result in pain of the metatarsal heads (essentially your toes’ knuckles).. Signs of Infection: redness, warmth, and tenderness in an area of the foot Open Wounds: especially with pus or discharge Severe Pain: if it’s too painful to do daily activities, over-the-counter medications aren’t helping, or the pain lasts several days Not Healing: if a wound isn’t healing or improving, see a healthcare professional (especially if you’re diabetic or have another condition that inhibits healing)
A condition that refers to the loss of fat pads on feet and thinning of the protective cushioning that sits under the bones, in the ball of the foot.
Similarly, there is a fat pad under the heel bone, as we stand or walk, the body weight is transferred through the heels and ball of the foot, so both these areas need protection.. The thick pad between the skin and the bone of the heel is called a ‘fat pad’ because it’s made up primarily of fatty tissue.. This fat pad is kept in place by fascia, if this structure becomes stretched or damaged the fat pad can spread out reducing the cushioning under the heel, resulting in Fat Pad Syndrome.. If symptoms subside your diagnosis of fat pad atrophy have been confirmed Deep heel cups to hold the fat pad in place, ordered from your podiatrist .. Chronic cases may need to be treated with custom foot orthoses with a deepened heel cup to stabilise the bones of the feet and provide more restricted fat pad containment, heel protection and cushioning.