Arthritis can affect any of the movable joints in the feet which can result in foot deformities such as enlarged swollen joints or toes becoming crooked and causing problems when walking in shoes.
In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the toes and the forefoot joints are the most commonly affected. These joints can become displaced and deformed and often the muscles and tendons shorten causing the toes to become hammer shaped or clawed.
Pain associated with osteo-arthritic changes in the feet will vary with the type and duration of the condition. The pain may be acute as in the initial stages of gout, with the affected joints inflamed and swollen. The pain may present with morning stiffness and limited joint movement, which increases on weight-bearing in rheumatoid arthritis. Joint movements may be lost altogether due to bony deformity of the joints with osteo-arthritis, resulting in limited movement and pain experienced with normal day to day activities.
It is important to recognise that arthritis can affect other areas of the body, which results in poor posture and restricted movements. It is sometimes difficult for the feet to operate correctly as weight-bearing structures that support and propel the body forwards, when some of the key joints such as the hips or shoulders are affected.
Correct washing and drying of your feet is vital in maintaining foot health. It is most important to clean well between toes, lifting each toe and thoroughly clearing out any debris.
Foot exercises are essential to help keep the joints moving and reduce joint stiffness that can make a person unsteady and liable to fall more easily.
Nails should be cut regularly following the natural separation line of the nail plate and not cutting down at the corners. Corns and callouses if painful, can be treated professionally by a podiatrist, and pressure and friction over these areas can be relieved by protective devices such as tubular foam and other padding. Cushioning soles can be used in all footwear to provide some shock absorption against all hard walking surfaces.
It is important to buy footwear that provides the best comfort with protection and support for you. It is often a good idea to get yourself professionally measured and fitted with suitable footwear at least once a year, especially as changes can occur in a short time with all forms of arthritis. Shoes should be lightweight, flexible and allow the air to circulate around the foot.
The ideal materials are leather and canvas, however most modern materials are well designed to accommodate feet. A good example of a lightweight shoe that can accommodate foot deformity is the common jogger or running shoe that is easy to put on and secure with laces or velcro straps to suit arthritic fingers.
Shoes must have a broad deep toe box that will provide additional comfort and reduce frictional points that can cause corns and callouses. Heel height ideally should not exceed half an inch, or two centimetres. Soles should have a non-slip grip pattern.
Always choose the right shoe for the job (such as for walking or gardening) to protect the arthritic foot and support them during the activity.
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