Arthritis and Your Feet

Arthritis affecting joints in the feet can have far-reaching effects on other parts of the body. All soft tissues, including ligaments, tendons and muscles are forced to work harder to maintain stability of your feet. This can cause overuse injuries including ankle sprains, torn ligaments and a greater risk of falls. Another key concern for arthritis sufferers is chronic pain, which has huge effects on overall health. Severe pain not only limits movement, but also disturbs sleep and can lead to problems with mental health and well-being.


Osteoarthritis is common in the elderly, but can also occur during early to middle age. It is generally a direct result of wear and tear over time, particularly in the weight-bearing foot and knee joints that have endured a huge amount of pressure or previous sporting injury. Osteoarthritis is a general breaking down of the joint and usually causes pain and discomfort around the affected area. You may also find that your range of movement is not what it used to be. Your ability to walk could also be affected.

Maintaining good foot health with Osteoarthritis

The key to maintaining good foot health if you suffer arthritis in the feet is a well-fitting shoe. If you have Osteoarthritis, the structure of your feet can sometimes change. A shoe with adequate cushioning and support will help keep you walking.

Footwear Tips

  • Ensure there is enough space (a minimum of 2cm) between the end of the longest toe and the front of the shoe.
  • Ensure the heel is stable and supportive and the shoe uppers soft and flexible to match the shape of your foot.
  • Ensure the widest part of the shoe matches your foot.
  • Do not purchase shoes that require “breaking-in.”
  • The heel should fit comfortably and the shoes should not ride up and down on the heel when walking.
  • Buckles, laces or Velcro straps help secure the shoe to your foot.
  • Leather or elasticised fabric upper and linings can reduce the likelihood of developing skin irritations.
  • Some special-depth shoes can accommodate deformed arthritic toes and prevent painful corns and callous developing


Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition that causes the body to work against itself, breaking down joints and resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity around joints. Rheumatoid arthritis usually presents itself earlier in life, but gets progressively worse over time, making it a much greater problem for older patients. Again, range of movement and mobility can be severely affected as toes can become deformed and hammered, making walking extremely uncomfortable. Rheumatoid arthritis can be accompanied by arch collapse and a widening of the forefoot.
Where the foot is badly splayed, or where joints have become swollen, it is important that all shoes are able to accommodate a wider foot area.


Treatments are available to alleviate and reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Our Podiatrists carefully assess the severity of the illness and can recommend footwear, either off-the shelf or custom made, to provide problem joints with more room to move. This will reduce the risk of other injuries, such as blisters, corns and callous that can be caused by shoes that rub on swollen areas.
Foot Orthotics can also be custom made to provide your feet with extra support and stability, making it easier to get around. Our Podiatrists may also prescribe an exercise program to help keep joints moving and relieve any stiffness and pain. These treatments can greatly improve your quality of life and your general comfort and mobility.