Arthritis is a disease that affects the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints. The types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, affect the joints in different ways. Arthritic problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to cartilage, which may cause joint weakness, instability and visible deformities. Good walking shoes can help relieve arthritic symptoms in the feet by decreasing the risk of painful foot deformities, such as bunions and hammertoes. Although proper shoes may relieve arthritis pain, they should not be viewed as a replacement for arthritis treatment.
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Osteoarthritis breaks down bone cartilage between joints. As the cartilage deteriorates, exposed bones rub against each other so that the joint no longer functions in a smooth movement. Osteoarthritis may cause pain and limping when walking and climbing up and down stairs. In patients with osteoarthritis, cartilage in the foot loses elasticity and begins to feel stiff. Soon, the cartilage breaks down altogether from wear and tear on the joints; inflammation, pain and swelling develop. The best walking shoe for osteoarthritis includes shock absorption to minimize strain on the cartilage, and good arch support to prevent the foot from fully flattening and weakening cartilage further. The shoe should fit comfortably around the toe to minimize pressure points, and be wide enough to accommodate swelling. Consider a stretchable shoe for a changing foot size and shape due to excessive swelling.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the immune system. The immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake, filling joints with fluid, and causing pain and inflammation. Eventually, cartilage wears and bones erode, resulting in limited function and mobility. Rheumatoid arthritis may cause severe swelling, stiffness, ball of foot pain and flat feet. Consider a walking shoe with a rocker bottom to reduce stress to the ball of the foot. Also, choose a shoe with proper arch support and shock absorption to minimize further damage, joint strain and inflammation. A loose fitting shoe, particularly around the big toe, will alleviate pressure points. To accommodate arthritic fingers, choose an adjustable strap or shoes without laces. If a custom orthotic is prescribed, make sure walking shoes have extra depth and removable insoles to accommodate it.
Arthritis of the Knee
The most common form of knee arthritis is osteoarthritis, which progressively causes deterioration of joint cartilage. A walking shoe that reduces the load on the knee joints can help relieve pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, flat, flexible walking shoes create less knee stress than stability shoes, such as clogs and sneakers. For arthritic knees, choose a flexible shoe with a low non-slip heel.
For a perfect fit, shop for walking shoes when your feet are swollen. Move your foot to the front of the shoe and insert an index finger behind the heel; if there is just enough room for your finger, the shoe fits correctly. Choose a shoe with a wide toe box, because a narrow toe box may aggravate deformities or swelling of the toes and cause additional pain.