Tips to Choosing the Right Footwear for Arthritis – Flexiseq

Tips to Choosing the Right Footwear for Arthritis

If you have arthritis, you know how painful and challenging it can be to do simple tasks like walking, climbing stairs or standing for long periods. Arthritis can affect any joint in your body, but especially those in your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

Over 20 million people in the UK (around a third of the population) live with a musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis and lower back pain. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and it is estimated 8.75 million people aged over 45 years in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis can limit your mobility and make it harder to walk. It’s really important that you’re setting yourself up to succeed by choosing the right footwear so that you’re not putting extra and unnecessary strain on your joints, which can be painful in the short term and cause more damage and complications in the long term.

“The impact of arthritis on daily life may be difficult to manage,” says Marion Yau, a Harley Street Celebrity Podiatrist known as Miss Foot Fixer on Youtube. “With the right footwear, you may be able to reduce pain, improve mobility, and thus live a more fulfilling life.” In this article, we will give you some tips on what to look for and what to avoid when buying shoes for arthritis.

Remember if you are experiencing arthritis or joint pain you can ask your doctor to be referred to a podiatrist who can examine your gait and can prepare custom orthotics. Once you have these you can take these with you to ensure the shoes you’re looking to buy are right for you and that your orthotics will fit inside them.

What to look for in footwear to support joints

When shopping for shoes, here are some features you should look for to support your joints:

  • A good fit: Your shoes should fit snugly but not too tightly. They should have enough room for your toes to wiggle and not cause any pressure points or blisters. You may need to try different sizes or widths to find the best fit for your feet.

  • A cushioned sole: A soft and flexible sole can help absorb shock and reduce the impact on your joints. Look for shoes that have a thick and padded sole, preferably made of rubber or foam. Avoid shoes that are too thin or hard, as they can increase the stress on your joints.

  • Non-slip soles. “Non-slip soles, coupled with a good grip, can help provide balance and stability, so falls and injuries are less likely,” says Marion Yau.

  • A low heel: A 2010 study found that women who frequently wore high heels had an increased risk of knee joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis. A high heel can shift your body weight forward and put extra pressure on your toes, balls of your feet, ankles and knees. A low heel (less than 2 inches) can help keep your body weight evenly distributed and reduce the strain on your joints. Avoid shoes that are completely flat, as they can lack arch support and cause foot pain.

  • A supportive arch: “Footwear with good arch support and cushioning can help distribute body weight evenly and reduce joint pressure,” says Marion Yau. “As a result, joint damage can be reduced or prevented and pain and pressure can be reduced.” A good arch support can help prevent your foot from rolling inward or outward, which can cause pain and inflammation in your ankles, knees and hips. Look for shoes that have a firm and contoured arch support, or use orthotic inserts if needed.

  • A wide toe box: A narrow toe box can squeeze your toes together and cause pain, swelling and deformities such as bunions and hammertoes. “With wider toe boxes, the forefoot and toes have more room to move, which reduces pressure, pain, and joint damage caused by arthritis,” says Marion Yau. “Laces can also be replaced with an adjustable strap or velcro strap which are easier to adjust than laces.”

What kind of shoes to avoid

When shopping for shoes, here are some types that you should avoid or limit wearing if you have arthritis:

  • High heels: As mentioned above, high heels can put a lot of stress on your joints. High heels aren’t really good for anyone’s feet, but when you have arthritis they can be really bad. High heels can also affect your posture and balance, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. “The ankles, metatarsals, and toes will be put under a lot of pressure when wearing heels with narrow toe boxes,” says Marion Yau. “When shoes squeeze the foot and toes together, it can cause pain and discomfort, which can lead to falls as it alters the natural gait, but it can also cause inflammation.”

  • If you really want to wear shoes with heels, try going for wedges that have a wider toe box. This type of footwear is more stable and puts less pressure on specific parts of the foot.

  • Ballet Pumps: “Ballet pumps do not have arch support,” says Marion Yau. “There is no support provided by these shoes for people with arthritis. Foot instability can result from excessive rolling in and outwards, but too much pressure in the legs and feet over time causes pain due to inability to evenly distribute weight.”

  • Flip-flops: Flip-flops may seem comfortable and easy to wear, but they offer little to no support or cushioning for your feet. They can also cause you to grip your toes to keep them on, which can strain your muscles and tendons. That being said, going barefoot can be helpful for people with osteoarthritis in the knee, and wearing flip-flops may have similar benefits for the knee. If you want to wear flip-flops, consider investing in some orthopaedic options that have arch support.

  • Sandals: This type of shoe can be great in terms of keeping your feet cool in hot weather, but they often don’t give your foot much support. If you want to wear sandals, go for ones with adjustable, comfortable straps to give your foot more support - particularly a back strap to avoid your toes over gripping.

  • Worn-out or broken shoes: Shoes that are old and worn out can lose their shape, cushioning and support over time. They can also become uneven or unstable, affecting your gait and alignment. You should replace your shoes regularly, depending on how often you wear them and how much wear and tear they show.

Comfort is key

The most important thing to remember when choosing footwear for arthritis is comfort. You should wear shoes that make you feel comfortable, confident and pain-free. Function over look should be your priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style. There are many brands and models of shoes that offer both comfort and style.

What kind of shoes do you wear and do you feel that they help with your arthritis? Let us know on Facebook.

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