Medically reviewed & written by Dr. Neha Sawant (PT) — Research Associate Masters in Neurophysiotherapy

Medically reviewed & written by Dr. Jude Dsouza (PT) — Research Associate Masters in Neurophysiotherapy




Arthritis is characterized by the inflammation of the cartilage and synovial lining of the body’s joints. Inflammation causes pain, redness, warmth and swelling. Arthritis is one of the major causes of foot pain since each foot has 33 joints, all can become affected by the disease. Literature suggest that arthritis affects 15% people i.e. over 180 million people in India and one in three adults over the age of 45 years suffer from foot pain related to arthritis.  The knowledge of the underlying types of arthritis is essential for availing the best treatment. Three most common types of foot arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Gout.



Rheumatoid Artritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease (disease caused by body’s own immunity).It can develop at any age and there is no known specific cause for this condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most disabling form of the disease that can affect people of all ages. It can result in stiffness and 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 and claw toes.




Osteoarthritis causes excessive stress and the destruction of cartilage in the joints of the foot. Movement becomes painful and restricted. The pain and swelling worsens while weight-bearing activities like standing or walking, and stiffness usually occurs after periods of rest.



Gout is another form of arthritis that contributes to foot complications. Excess crystals of uric acid collect in and around the joints of the big toe. The big toe joint is commonly site, due to the strain and pressure it experiences during walking and other high impacting activities. This often leads to severe pain, stiffness and swelling in the big toe.




There are several causes of arthritis. Heredity is a major factor. However, arthritic symptoms can develop due to other factors like bacterial and viral infections, certain 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 due to the destruction of the affected joints.


Treatment and Prevention


Conservative treatment (non-surgical treatment) of the arthritic foot includes appropriate footwear and orthotics. Arthritic footwear should have Removable and flexible insoles with the option to insert orthotics if necessary. Footwear with high and wide toe box should be recommended. Rocker Soles designed to assist walking and to reduce pain at the ball-of-the-foot should be used. 
Arthritic footwear should also accommodate swelling of the foot. A 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 are recommended.


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