Effects of arthritis
Arthritis affecting joints in the feet can have far-reaching effects on other parts of the body; your ligaments, tendons and muscles are forced to work harder to maintain stability. 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 overall well-being.
Osteoarthritis is common in older people, as it is 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. 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.
During the fitting process for new shoes:
- 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 lumpy arthritic toes and prevent painful corns and calluses.
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.
Maintaining good foot health with Rheumatoid arthritis
If Rheumatoid arthritis affects your feet, good shoes can help relieve pain and keep you mobile. The constant changes in foot shape associated with this condition will necessitate frequent review of footwear.
When buying shoes look for:
- A stable and supportive heel counter.
- Space around the toes, with an extra-depth leather toe box or stretch upper to accommodate any changes in the toes.
- Lightweight and flexible material in the soles and uppers to help match the shape of the foot.
- Few or minimal seams, as these can become pressure or friction points.
- Buckles, laces or Velcro straps to hold the shoe onto your foot so your foot doesn’t have to do the work.
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, the shoe must be able to accommodate a wider foot area.
During the fitting process for shoes:
• Make sure there is enough space (minimum of 2cm) between the end of the longest toe and the front of the shoe.
• Ensure the widest part of the shoe aligns with the ball of the 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.
Treatments are available to alleviate and reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Your podiatrist will carefully assess the severity of the illness and can recommend footwear, either off-the-shelf or custom made, to give problem joints more room. This will reduce the risk of other injuries, such as blisters, corns and calluses that can be caused by shoes that rub on swollen areas.
Orthoses can also be specially made to provide your feet with extra support and stability, making it easier to get around. Podiatrists may prescribe an exercise regimen to help to keep the joint moving and relieve any stiffness and pain. These treatments can greatly improve your quality of life and your general comfort and mobility.