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If you live with arthritis, you know it’s no fun for your feet. It can cause pain and stiffness and make walking, running and other activities uncomfortable. Fortunately, finding a pair of the most comfortable shoes can help you keep pain at minimum and lower the impact on your joints. But before you go hunting for the best shoes for arthritis, it’s important to know what type of arthritis you have.
What Is Arthritis and How Does It Affect Your Feet?
Arthritis generally means joint inflammation. When it comes to your feet, arthritis can affect the ankle joint, as well as the three joints that involve the heel bone, including the inner and outer mid-foot bone, and the joint of the big toe and foot bone, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Top Shoes for Arthritis for 2022
Hoka Bondi 7 Women’s Shoes
Best Shoes for Arthritis
- Sizes: women: 6-10; men: 9-12
- Colors: women: white, blute/grey, aqua blue, black, black/fuchsia, bright orange, and black/white; men: blue/grey and white/yellow
- Pros: Offers a wide toe box and rocker bottoms
- Cons: Might feel clunky wearing them
The Bondi 7 Women’s Shoes has a memory foam ankle collar to help keep your ankle in place while providing some comfort. It also offers a wide toe box and Hoka’s signature meta-rocker technology, which makes it a great choice for both men and women with big toe arthritis since it helps with smoother transitions between steps. The flexible and breathable upper helps prevent chafing for patients with forefoot deformities, while the thick soles help with shock absorption, says Dr. Andrew Wilson, a podiatrist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
“I have developed arthritis in both feet and walking has become so very painful. My podiatrist doctor recommended HOKA the Bondi 7. I purchased my first pair and I was very impressed with the support and the comfort these shoes delivered. I have since purchased a couple more pairs. I still have my issues, but my HOKA Bondi 7 have helped tremendously like no other brand was able to do,” one reviewer writes.
Birkenstock Arizona Men’s Sandals
Best Men’s Sandals for Arthritis
- Sizes: women:5-11.5 ; men: 8-13.5
- Colors: women: beige, taupe, green, fuchsia, orange, dark grey, and stone grey; men: light brown, dark brown, black, and grey
- Pros: Offers wide toe box, cushioned footbed, and adjustable straps
- Cons: The straps might feel stiff and rub against your skin
Dr. Alex Kor, a podiatrist at Witham Health Services in Lebanon, Indiana and fellow of the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons, generally doesn’t recommend flip flops and very flat shoes for people with arthritis, but these classic slides from Birkenstock provide arch support and have cushioned, contoured footbed.
“They have great shock absorption and can mold to your feet with a cork, memory foam, and polyurethane footbed. This makes them a great option for offloading minor foot prominences, which is common in osteoarthritis,” Dr. Wilson says.
Birkenstocks also come with a wide toe area to accommodate bony prominences and hammertoes and have adjustable straps so you can find the most comfortable fit for your feet.
Vionic Marcy Moccasin Women’s Shoes
Best Women’s Work Shoes for Arthritis
- Colors: light brown, charcoal grey, black, and dark red
- Pros: Slip-on and removable EVAinserts
- Cons: Low heel might be uncomfortable
This slip-on design on these loafers make them a great option for people with RA who may find it more difficult to tie the laces on their shoes due to pain in their fingers. The durable rubber outsoles feature durable treads that provide traction, and the footbed comes with a removable EVA insert, which you can replace with your own orthotics.
If you have bunions or hammertoes, the wide, rounded toe box may also help prevent discomfort. Available in half sizes, you can find the perfect fit for your feet.
“I bought these because they have a rounded toe, which is much more comfortable than the more tapered toe on most of the Vionic loafer styles,” says one reviewer.
Mbt Kabisa 5 Oxford Men’s Shoes
Best Men’s Dress Shoes for Arthritis
- Sizes: 6-13.5
- Colors: black, coffee brown, and mahogany brown
- Pros: Has a rocker and breathable footbed
- Cons: Not available in larger widths and pricey
Mbt is a brand that Dr. Alissa Kuizinas, a podiatrist in Concord, Massachusetts, often recommends for people with arthritis. They feature curved rocker soles that give an extra spring in your step, as well as a breathable footbed and durable, grippy outsole. These oxford dress shoes also have special sensor technology in the heel and midfoot that helps absorb shock.
“I have worn cartilage on the ball of my left foot where my big toe meets my foot. I had to have a modified walk in order to walk without too much pain. With these shoes, I was not only able to walk normally without pain, but I could even run too!,” a reviewer writes.
Dansko Maddy Cork Wedge Women’s Sandals
Most Comfortable Women’s Dress Shoes for Arthritis
- Sizes: 5-12
- Colors: black, ivory, aqua blue, orange, purple
- Pros: Offers a comfortable EVA footbed and rocker soles
- Cons: Narrower fit and uncomfortable arch support for some
Heels are generally not recommended for people with arthritis because they can put pressure on the toes. But these cork-based wedge sandals by Dansko are a good alternative because they have adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the fit and a comfortable EVA footbed. They also feature a rocker that helps with smooth transitions between steps.
“Comfortable, easy to slip on but adjustable enough to keep them on. These sandals have made my difficult feet very happy. The footbed is soft, and the straps fit perfectly and are very comfortable. The color is beautiful!,” a reviewer says.
OrthoFeet Hunter Waterproof Men’s Boots
Best Men’s Hiking Boots for Arthritis
- Sizes: 7-14 x-wide
- Colors: black and brown
- Pros: Provides a wiide toe box, ankle support, and mild rocker
- Cons: Some customers complain of lack of durability.
Although Dr. Wilson advises against wearing shoes with high tops because the extra ankle support might prevent the normal function of your ankle muscles, certain activities, such as hiking can put additional ankle stress.
These Orthofeet hiking boots are a great option for people with arthritis because they have a wide toe box to accommodate bunions and hammertoes and have removable orthotic insoles with arch support. Moreover, they have a mild rocker to help prevent pain from forefoot arthritis.
Choose from standard, wide, and extra wide widths.
“The boots are indeed wide enough, and the toe box high enough and flexible enough for my wide feet and hammertoes. The accompanying inserts help make small adjustments as needed. I am very pleased, thank you!,” a reviewer says.
Orthofeet Delta Women’s Boots
Best Women’s Hiking Boots for Arthritis
- Sizes: 5-12 x-wide
- Colors: brown and black
- Pros: Provides a wiide toe box, ankle support, and mild rocker
- Cons: Some customers say they don’t as much traction.
Much like its men’s counterpart, Orthofeet’s Delta boots for women are designed with a wide toe box, removable orthotic inserts, and a mild rocker to help propel you forward with each step. The durable rubber outsole also provides traction and stability on slippery surfaces.
Reviewers with a variety of foot issues rave about how these boots don’t require any “breaking in” time.
“I love these booties! No break-in period. Comfortable all day. I have so much trouble finding shoes that don’t hurt because of severe RA, bunions, hammertoes, and overpronation, but Orthofeet feel great! Wish I had them sooner,” a reviewer says.
FitFlop Sumi Stretch Shaft Knee High Women’s Boots
Best Knee-High Women’s Boots for Arthritis
- Sizes: 5-11
- Colors: Black
- Pros: Versatile and cushioned insoles
- Cons: Baggy at the ankle
These sleek-looking knee-high boots are one of the most versatile pairs you can have in your closet. They can be dressed up or down and go with anything from a pair of jeans and a button-down shirt to a chic dress for the office.
What’s great about these shoes for arthritis is that they have a stretchy back shaft and sole that encourages heel-to-forefoot strides to diffuse pressure. They also have a cushioned insole and side zippers for an easy closure.
“I liked them so much I bought a pair for my daughter in law! I went up half size to wear them with thick socks-plenty of room,” a reviewer says.
Mephisto Twain Slip-On Men’s Shoes
Best Men’s Slip-Ons for Arthritis
- Sizes: 7-13
- Colors: Hazelnut brown
- Pros: Round toe box, cushioned insoles, and slip-on design
- Cons: Runs larger
For more polished shoes you can wear out to a nice dinner, these Mephisto slip-on shoes elevate any casual outfit. Mephisto is a French brand that’s known for is luxurious and comfortable shoes. These slip-on shoes not only feature a round toe box, but they also have shock-absorbing insoles and grippy rubber rocker soles.
Reviewers say these shoes are both comfortable and stable while still being stylish. Basically, you can’t go wrong with these shoes.
“I have worn Mephisto shoes for about 25 years and these are the most comfortable. The workmanship and fit have always been great and these shoes are no exception,” a reviewer says.
Hoka Arahi 6 Women’s Shoes
Best Walking Shoes for Arthritis
- Sizes: women: 5-11; men: 7-14
- Colors: women: black/white, fuchsia, light blue, beige/yellow/purple, and neon yellow/coral; men: black/white, blue/neon green, white/yellow, light blue, and beige/yellow/purple
- Pros: Stability features and rocker soles
- Cons: Feels narrower than earlier iterations of the same shoe
These everyday walking shoes are great for running errands and standing for significant periods of time for both men and women with arthritis. They have all the stability features you need while still providing balanced cushioning. Thanks to Hoka’s J-Frame technology, these shoes help prevent overpronation (inward rolling), and many people with arthritis need stability to limit excessive motion in arthritic joints in the foot to prevent pain.
The Arahi 6 also comes with a meta-rocker to ensure an easier transition between steps and a breathable mesh upper. Reviewers say the shoe does feel narrow, so make sure to purchase them in a wide width, which is an option for these shoes.
Hoka Arahi 6 Men’s Shoes
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis in the foot. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis because there’s a distinction in symptoms between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and how they impact your surrounding joints.
For example, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Osteoarthritis will typically manifest in the great toe joint, midfoot, or ankle, but it can be seen in any joint in the foot,” says Dr. Kuizinas. “Osteoarthritis can be due to a previous injury or chronic wear and tear on the joint.”
OA pain in the foot is also most likely to happen on only one side and symptoms build up over time, says Dr. Wilson.
“OA is the result of years of wear and tear on your joints from regular activity and/or a history of trauma to the joint, so it makes sense that your chances of developing it increase with age,” Dr. Wilson says. “If you are in the later stages of life and broke your ankle when you were younger, this is your best bet.”
Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder, in which your immune system attacks the joints, soft tissue that surrounds the joints, and the synovial fluid (nutrient-rich liquid that lubricates the joints); you can develop RA at any age.
RA often presents in multiple joints in the foot, commonly in the toes, as a bunion or claw toes (when toes bend in a claw-like shape), Dr. Kuizinas says.
“RA causes errosions of the joints by affecting the lining of the cartilage and soft tissues, and there are cystic formations around the joints. RA also causes soft-tissue nodules that can happen anywhere on the foot,” says Dr. Kor.
Because RA can damage or weaken ligaments (bands of tissue that connect bones and joints), it can also cause hammertoes, which are abnormal bends in the middle joint of the toe, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery.
“OA more often develops slowly through time and you will notice an achy feeling that gradually increase, whereas RA can develop more quickly and you are more likely to have swollen, painful joints,” Dr. Wilson says.
OA pain is also limited to the joints that are affected, such as your feet and ankles, but RA can affect multiple joints throughout the body and cause fatigue, depression, muscle pain, and weight loss, Dr. Wilson says.
What to Look for in the Best Shoes for Arthritis
It’s important to get a proper diagnosis before you shop for shoes so that your doctor can offer recommendations based on your symptoms, gait, and alignment. With this knowledge, your doctor can share what type of features to look for that will help improve your symptoms and make movement more comfortable for you.
“The best type of shoe depends on where the arthritis is located,” Dr. Kuizinas says. “For those with osteoarthritis of the great toe, painful bunions, or claw toes, a stiff soled shoe with a forefoot rocker is very helpful. This will allow the foot to propel without having to bend through the toes.”
For those with RA nodules, a cushioned and accommodating insole is important to offload bone prominences, she adds.
If you choose shoes that aren’t a good fit for you, then you risk creating new problems.
“For example, if the addition of a modification to a shoe for a patient with osteoarthritis, which is designed to limit movement of a joint to prevent pain, is used in a patient with RA with a normal joint at this location, it can lead to loss of range of motion from disuse and new symptoms can develop,” Dr. Wilson says.
When shopping for shoes, try them on later in the day when your feet have swelled. This helps you get a proper fit for your feet.
Below are key elements to look for when shopping for shoes for arthritis
- Cushioning and support: When shopping for shoes, the best pairs are going to be those that provide some cushioning as well as support, Dr. Kor says.“I like cushioning, but it shouldn’t be a detriment to support. The midsole and shank should be sturdy enough and not bend a lot. This isn’t good for people with RA who overpronate,” Dr. Kor says. “I like to see a rigid heel counter to help control the foot.”
- Soft, breathable, and flexible upper: This helps prevent chafing in people with forefoot deformities and improves pain, Dr. Wilson says.
- Wide toe box: “You can have a wide shoe and not a wide toe box,” Dr. Kor says, so it’s important to look for a pair of shoes that specifically have wide toe boxes. The extra space in the toe area will be especially helpful for relieving pressure for those who have hammertoes, bunions, and bony prominences.People with RA also tend to have swelling in their feet as the day goes on, so it’s important to choose shoes that are especially roomy. Wearing compression socks can help with the swelling, but make sure to speak to your doctor about the right fit for you as pairs that are too tight can be uncomfortable for people with rigid toe abnormalities, Dr. Wilson says.
- Velcro straps or slip-on design: Dr. Kor says people with RA may find it difficult to lace their shoes because of pain in their hands and fingers, so going with a velcro strap will help make it easier.
- Rocker bottom: Wearing shoes with a rocker bottom can be especially helpful for people with OA and RA, who have forefoot deformities, such as hallux rigidus (stiffness in the big toe joint), because they allow you to move smoothly from one step to the next while limiting excessive motion. It also reduces the stress on a rigid or painful toe joint, Dr. Wilson says.“Another option for a rigid arthritic big toe is the addition of a Morton’s extension (insole for when your second toe is longer than your big toe), which limits the motion of this joint,” he says.
- Semi-rigid orthotics: Most shoes for arthritis will have removable inserts. In this case, consider replacing them with semi-rigit orthotics. “Research has shown that when comparing an RA patient with metatarsalgia who wore supportive shoes along with semi-rigid orthotics to those who only wore supportive shoes, those who included semi-rigid orthotics had a greater degree of pain relief,” Dr. Wilson says. As the disease progresses, your foot may develop deformities. For example, your arch may collapse or your heel may rotate outward from under your ankle if your foot isn’t properly supported, Dr. Wilson explains. That’s where a semi-rigid orthotic can come in to help provide cushioning for pain relief and prevent further deformity.
Equally important, there are several things to avoid when shopping for shoes for arthritis.
- Soles that are too flexible: You want to prevent excessive motion of the arthritic joint, which can cause pain.
- Lack of structure: Shoes that lack stability and support or have a pointed toe can add stress to the toes.
- High-top shoes: The extra ankle support can prevent the muscles from functioning normally.
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