What’s on this page?
- How to choose footwear
- What to think about when buying shoes
- Footware adaptations
- Common foot problems and solutions
- Where to buy shoes
Many people with arthritis develop foot problems at some stage. If you develop foot problems ask to see a Podiatrist. Having good shoes is vital. Good shoes help reduce aches and pains and enable you to walk more. If your job involves standing and walking, good shoes reduce foot, leg and back pain.
Check your feet regularly. Are you developing any foot problems? Toes bending up or drifting? Painful ball of foot? Dropped arch? Ankle changing shape? Callouses? If yes then ask to see a Podiatrist.
For an on-line foot health course see:
What to look for:
- insoles with good shock absorption,
- thick but flexible soles to protect the feet from the ground underneath,
- smooth lining without seams
- plenty of depth to accommodate the toes,
- soft uppers of leather or fabric
- lightweight soles and heels.
Comfort should be the main consideration when choosing shoes, although for most people it’s important that their footwear looks good too. If your feet are painful or unusually shaped you may need to compromise a little on style. Shoes that don’t fit properly can damage your feet, and high heels or shoes that pinch your feet are likely to cause deformities such as bunions or hammer toes.
Your feet may change shape as you get older, especially if you have arthritis, so you may need to try a different size or width fitting.
- Have your feet measured if they’ve become wider over the years or have changed shape. Have them measured while you’re standing because they may change shape when you stand up. Many shops have experienced fitters who can help you with this.
- Try shopping later in the afternoon. If your feet tend to swell, they’ll be at their largest at that time.
- Judge a shoe by how it feels on your foot and not just by the size marked on the shoe. Size varies between shoe brands and style. Think about how the shoe fits around your toes, under your soles and at the backs of your heels.
- Always buy your shoes to fit your larger foot – many people have one foot bigger than the other. You can use an insole in the other shoe. There should be at least 1 cm (3/8 inch) of room at the front of your longest toe.
- Try shoes on with the type of socks or stockings you normally wear or with any insoles or orthoses you normally use. Some insoles may need extra depth, especially around your toes.
- Don’t buy shoes to break-in later – the right shoes for you will be comfortable when you first try them on.
- Soles should be light, hard-wearing and flexible. The sole should be able to bend along an imaginary line drawn from the base of your big toe to the base of your little toe.
- Buy shoes that have both leather uppers and inners (the inner lining) if possible. These are more breathable than inners made of synthetic materials and will help you to avoid dampness and fungal infections.
Look for dark colours and a suede finish if you’re worried about the appearance of your feet – they’ll help to disguise the problem.
You may need insoles in your shoes for a number of reasons:
- to pad out the shoe of your smaller foot if you have one foot bigger than the other
- to support the arch of your foot
- to help arthritis in the joint across the middle of your foot (the midtarsal joint).
Insoles will often take up half a shoe size, so take along your largest shoes when you go for an insole fitting. Sometimes you may need to buy bigger shoes to fit your insoles, although this isn’t always the case. Take your insoles along when you buy new shoes.
Lace-up shoes can be difficult to fasten if you have arthritis in your hands. Here are a few alternatives:
- Elastic laces can be easier to use because one pull ensures a snug fit and they don’t need to be tied.
- Many shoes are now available with Velcro fastenings, which can be done up and adjusted using only one hand.
- A zip fastening can be easier to manage than laces or buckles, and a ring (such as a keyring) added onto the zip can make it easier to pull up.
Many people prefer to wear slippers in the house. However, slippers aren’t a good idea for those who have to wear special insoles, and they may increase your risk of having a fall. The uppers of slippers are often soft, so they’re comfortable for hammer toes and prominent joints, but the soles may not have enough cushioning and grip.
Like outdoor shoes, slippers should fit properly and shouldn’t be too loose. You should avoid backless or high-heeled slippers. The features of the ideal slipper are generally the same as for the ideal shoe. Always wear shoes when you’re outside to make sure your feet are properly supported.
If you have difficulties getting shoes to fit it is possible to have footwear prescribed for you by your consultant, GP or HPC registered podiatrist. You must have a medical reason for the prescription. People who have been given a prescription will be provided with either readymade, modular or made-to-measure footwear. These shoes are usually made by an orthotist. You can also choose to see an orthotist or orthopaedic shoemaker privately. . It may also be possible to have high-street footwear adapted by an orthotist so ask them for advice. Each NHS hospital trust will have its own arrangements for footwear referral and entitlements
The diagram below demonstrates different lacing techniques:
To understand more about the role of a podiatrist please click here