According to the CDC, from 2013 to 2015, about 22.7% of U.S. adults have been officially diagnosed by a doctor with some form of arthritis. Experts also estimate that by 2040, 78 million (26%) of U.S. adults will most likely suffer from arthritis. Plus, considering this condition is also the leading cause of work disability among American citizens 18 and older, it’s clear that arthritis is more prevalent than people think.
While there are many causes for why some people develop arthritis, one, in particular, may surprise you: we’re talking about the shoes you wear. The wrong pair of shoes, either because it is too small, or doesn’t offer proper support, is one of the reasons why some people may develop arthritis. Moreover, adequate footwear is also the most popular non-surgical solution for treating these condition. Whether you’re trying to prevent it from ever developing, or are trying to treat it, here’s everything you should know about arthritis footwear.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Shoe
The right footwear has a lot to say about a person’s health, from keeping their feet in good condition to making it easier to do physical activities and even keeping the body safe from various injuries.
By choosing a shoe that fits you well, you generally get to feel more comfortable, while protecting your feet, legs, and joints.
Here’s what you get from choosing the right shoe:
- It supports the foot, aiding the alignment of your feet when they touch the ground;
- It cushions the foot, at the midsole section. That way, it can control the force that goes through the body;
- It gives extra comfort right from the first wear;
The wrong shoe, however, particularly in someone who already has some symptoms of arthritis, can worsen their condition, and bring forward other issues:
- Increased chances of injury, particularly if you have a very active lifestyle;
- Modification in the way you walk and, as a result, the entire body. When you don’t step correctly, the whole body tries to compensate.
- Inwardly rolled arches.
The Guide for Choosing the Right Shoe for You
Perhaps unsurprisingly, high-heels make the top of the worst shoes to wear list, though it applies to those taller than 2 inches. While they are generally not very kind on anyone’s footwear, they are notably worse for people who already show early symptoms of arthritis.
The body will try to compensate for the feet’s position in high heels and correct balance by placing extra strain on the hips and back muscles. Moreover, these shoes are hard on the arch and ball of the foot and are known to strain the joints. That’s because they place too much weight on that part of the foot, as opposed to having the weight distributed equally throughout the foot.
However, there are plenty of models available that comfort the foot while giving some of the same aesthetic perks other high heeled shoes offer. For instance, those with a short or cupped heel can provide extra support and distribute the body weight better.
Just keep in mind that low heels can have the same effect on your feet as stilettos or high heels, though you may feel the effects only later on, particularly if you opt for a pointy toe model. Your feet take the shape of the shoes you wear, so shoes with a shape that significantly differs from one of natural feet can cause certain deformities after long term use.
Sandals generally don’t offer much support because of their design which doesn’t keep the foot firmly in place as it does for other shoes.
However, there are specific models with extra straps that do a better job at keeping the foot from moving too much while walking. Be on the lookout especially for those that have a back strap to avoid toes from over gripping on the edge of the sandal.
Flips flops are best for people with no pre-existing leg condition, and who do not struggle with balance issues, as they are not particularly stable by nature. Because of its flat surface, it was found that flip-flops place less strain on knees than other footwear, just like going barefoot does.
If you are already struggling with some arthritis symptoms in the ankle area, then boots might be the best solution to provide pain relief, though it’s important to note this applies only to flat-heeled boots.
Boots with low or flat heels are quite stable and don’t place as much strain on your ankles, giving them proper support and relieving some degree of pain. However, when you’re shopping for a pair of boots, remember to look for those with some flexibility in the ankle area, as the more rigid they are, the more you risk further complications.
These types of shoes are generally perceived as the most comfortable, though it’s worth noting that not all flats are equally suitable for your feet health. Even with flats, there still needs to be a certain level of foot protection, cushioning, arch support, and even shock absorption.
Experts recommend testing the flats before purchasing by trying to bend them in half. The perfect flat should have some level of flexibility, but if you can bend it too much, then that particular model won’t do your feet any favors.
Sneakers or athletic shoes generally have a cushioned midsole and are some of the best types of shoes for shock absorption. They are designed to withstand physical efforts. They also take some weight off the ball of the foot, offering people with knee, foot, ankle or even hip problems some degree of relief.
However, just like with flats, there are a lot of different types of sneakers on the market, and you can’t assume they’ll all offer the same level of comfort. From shoes specifically designed for a certain activity (sports, running, climbing, .etc), to those created for everyday use, sneakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The best way to determine which ones are best for you is to test them and see which model provides you with the most support.
Wooden or Other Hard Soles
Lastly, it’s important for the shoes you wear daily to have flexible soles. Hard soles like those found in clogs aren’t ideal for prolonged, everyday use, because the hard surface does nothing for shock absorption. Furthermore, the shape of the sole is also not always ideal and can put extra strain on certain parts of the foot.
Buying New Shoes: What to Consider
The first step you can do when looking for new shoes for comfort is to measure your feet and figure out your exact size. Be aware that your feet may change shape when you stand up, so have them measured while standing. Some shoe shops also have experienced fitters, so definitely ask for their help.
Then, consider trying on the shoes later in the afternoon. Your feet can swell up during the day and increase slightly in size. Don’t pay too much attention to ‘your size’ of the shoe, and try on different pairs to see which fit the best, focusing on the position of the toes, and the comfort of the heel.
It’s also possible that the sizes of shoes found in regular stores to not be appropriate for you. Sizes can differ from brand to brand, and the construction of the shoe can lack the necessary support someone needs for their arthritis. If this is the case, you should definitely consider the option of having shoes custom made for your feet, to get the right length, width, depth, and other specification your condition might need.
Insoles might also let you get away with wearing some types of shoes because they can help support the arch of the foot. These additions often take up half a shoe size, so if you’re considering wearing them, you’ll have to buy slightly bigger shoes to fit you properly. Just keep in mind that insoles aren’t really a magical solution to your arthritis, and if you want to relieve your pain, you should purchase shoes specifically designed for your condition.
Back to You
Even if you don’t currently have any signs of arthritis, it’s still worth your time to acquire a few pairs of shoes that can give your feet a much need break and prologue their health.
Particularly for extended periods, it’s best to opt for the models with the best arch support, to avoid any damages to your ankles, hips or even back. Check out our reviews for the best models that can protect your feet.