What are the best shoes for rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis. RA can cause a person’s joints to swell, causing pain, instability, or deformity. If the symptoms are affecting the feet, a person may experience pain when walking. Wearing the appropriate footwear can provide relief in such cases.

There are many forms of arthritis, including RA. This type of arthritis occurs when a person’s immune system is not working properly and attacks the synovium, the lining of the joints.

As a result, the synovium becomes inflamed and thickens, making the affected joint tender and painful. A person with RA may notice that their joint has become red and swollen and is difficult to move.

Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to pain when walking, especially if a person is wearing inappropriate shoes. Wearing certain shoes, insoles, or orthopedic shoes can help relieve pain from RA in the feet.

This article explains how RA affects a person’s feet. It also discusses features to look for in a PR shoe and shoes to choose and avoid.

According to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS), about 90% of people with RA develop symptoms of the foot or ankle.

When RA affects the feet, a person may notice symptoms first appearing in their toes and around the soles of the feet. These symptoms of RA can then develop in the middle and back of the foot and eventually in the ankles.

RA in a person’s feet can cause symptoms such as:

RA usually affects the joints symmetrically, so if symptoms appear in one foot, they will likely develop in the other foot as well. Rheumatoid arthritis of both feet can make walking difficult and painful.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause other foot problems, such as:

Developing additional conditions in the foot can cause a person with RA to experience additional pain or discomfort when walking.

Shoes can be important when a person has RA. If a person is unable to walk without pain, it can lead to a decrease in their quality of life.

If a person with RA wears the wrong shoes, it can make their condition worse. Inappropriate shoes can also make bunions or corns more pronounced or painful.

The American College of Rheumatology claims that frequent, low-intensity exercise, such as walking, can help build muscle strength. Increasing muscle strength can improve a person’s health and reduce the strain on their joints. If a person is unable to walk regularly due to foot pain, they can lose these health benefits.

When choosing shoes to help relieve the symptoms of RA, a person should consider a few things.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that shoes with rigid soles and rocker bottoms can reduce pressure on the foot, as well as pain. A rocker-bottom shoe is a shoe with a thick, rounded sole that helps redistribute pressure in the foot.

A 2014 study found that among a sample of 166 people with RA, nearly 60% wore the wrong size shoes. Researchers have noted that many people with RA wear shoes that are too narrow. It is important that a person with RA has enough space inside their shoes to avoid painful rubbing.

The AOFAS suggests that a person with RA may benefit from shoes with deep toes. The toe box is the front part of the shoe where a person’s toes rest. Having a larger toe box helps prevent the shoe from rubbing against hammer toes, bunions, or corns. The AOFAS also mentions that gentle arch support and firm heels can help relieve symptoms of RA.

2019 research asked healthcare professionals to comment on what women with RA find important about their shoes. These features included:

  • wide and deep mouthpiece
  • adjustable ties
  • easy to put on and take off
  • breathable material
  • comfortable upper material
  • removable insole
  • no seams on pressure areas to avoid chafing

A healthcare professional may be able to recommend certain shoes to help a person with RA. A person may also wish to discuss with a healthcare professional what type of footwear is best for them.

People with RA should avoid wearing certain types of shoes. Too tight shoes can cause bunions and corns to form, leading to additional pain. They can also be painful for people with hammer toe.

High heels are not recommended for people with RA. High heels put pressure on the sole of the foot, which can worsen the symptoms of RA. Additionally, closed high heels force a person’s toes into the toe of the shoe, which can cause pain, corns, or bunions.

Wearing high heels can also make balancing more difficult. As RA may cause instability, a person with this condition who wears high heels may have an increased risk of falling.

Information from the Arthritis Foundation indicates that pain caused by RA in the feet can spread to areas such as the shin, knee, and lower back. Wearing shoe inserts, also known as orthotics, can help redistribute body weight and reduce stress on the lower body.

Insoles can help by:

  • pain reduction
  • function improvement
  • improve a person’s gait
  • provide support
  • correct or prevent abnormalities of the foot

Insoles are available over the counter in some stores and drugstores. A person can also obtain a custom insole from a specialized professional, such as a podiatrist, to meet their specific needs. The podiatrist can also insert the insole into a person’s shoes and make sure it is comfortable.

Custom insoles can be expensive and a person’s health insurance plan may not cover them. A person should discuss the best sole options for them with a healthcare practitioner.

RA is a type of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. RA can cause a person to have swollen and painful joints in the feet, which can lead to the development of bunions, corns or hammer toes.

Wearing suitable footwear can be especially important for someone with RA. Shoes that are too tight or too high can cause other problems.

A person with RA should look for shoes that have wide toes, rocker socks, and flexible arch support. Shoes with adjustable straps and comfortable, breathable material can also be beneficial for a person with RA.

Some people with RA may also benefit from insoles. A person should discuss with a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist, what type of insole is best for them.

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