Arthritis is a disease characterized by the
inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the body’s joints.
Inflammation causes redness, warmth, pain and swelling. There are about 40
million Americans who suffer from arthritis. The National Institute of
Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, estimates that by the
year 2020, about 60 million Americans will have arthritis. The primary
targets for arthritis are people over the age of 50. Arthritis is a major
cause of foot pain because each foot has 33 joints that can become
affected by the disease.
There are many different types of
arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis
causes excessive strain and the wearing away of cartilage in the joints of
the foot. Movement becomes very difficult and painful. The pain and
swelling worsens while standing or walking, and stiffness usually occurs
after periods of rest.
Gout is another form of arthritis that also
leads to foot complications. Excess uric acid crystals collect in and
around the joints of the big toe. The big toe joint is commonly the focal
point due to the stress and pressure it experiences during walking and
other weight bearing activities. This often leads to severe pain in the
big toe. Men are more likely to develop gouty arthritis than women.
Another type of arthritis is rheumatoid
arthritis. It can develop at any age and there is no known cause for this
condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most crippling form of the disease
that can affect people of all ages. It can cause severe deformities of the
joints with associated fatigue of the entire body. People who suffer from
rheumatoid arthritis often develop severe forefoot problems such as
bunions, hammer toes, claw toes, and others.
There are many causes of arthritis.
Heredity plays a major role. However, arthritic symptoms can develop due
to many other factors. Some of these include bacterial and viral
infections, prescription and illegal drugs, traumatic injuries, and bowel
disorders such as ileitis and colitis.
Forefoot problems such as hammer toes, claw
toes, mallet toes, and bunions often develop as a result of arthritis,
particularly Rheumatoid arthritis. Problems can also develop in the heel
and ankle area due to the erosion of the involved joints.
Treatment and Prevention
Conservative treatment (non-surgical
treatment) of the arthritic foot includes proper footwear, orthotics,
and/or forefoot supports. Arthritic footwear should provide the following
- High, wide toe box (high and wide space
in the toe area)
- Removable insoles for fitting
flexibility and the option to insert orthotics if necessary.
- Rocker Soles designed to facilitate
ambulating (walking) and to reduce stress and pain at the
Arthritic footwear should also accommodate
swelling of the foot. Orthotics designed to provide comfort, support and
extra cushioning are also recommended. Orthotics made with a material
called Plastazote are often recommended because they mold to your feet to
provide customized comfort. The proper footwear and orthotics will reduce
pressure to provide a comfortable and healthy environment for the foot.
Forefoot supports such as gel toe caps, gel
toe shields, gel toe straighteners and others can often provide relief.
If the problem persists, consult your