For those of us old enough to remember, and for the new generation exposed via Netflix and Hulu, one episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” comes to mind whenever I think about feet. The episode, entitled “The Return of Edwin Carp,” contained a humorous little poem about feet. The main point about our feet was we take them for granted; we still do, even though that show was written fifty years ago. We do take our feet for granted, expecting them to carry us around all day with no complaints. Our feet have good reason to grumble, especially if we have arthritis in them. Below is an explanation of arthritis, and five ways to ease your foot pain:
Arthritis is the disease causing tissue and cartilage destruction in the joints, along with the loss of joint-lubricating fluid. It also causes tissue inflammation, pain, and stiffness, resulting in a loss of mobility. When the pain and stiffness is acute, it can lead to disability. There are over one hundred forms of arthritis, but the two most common ones are osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the outcome of years of wear and tear on the joint. As the normal motions of life occur, damage to the cartilage begins, and after years of usage, osteoarthritis forms in the joint. Osteoarthritis can have an early onset if the joint is injured or broken. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder, and usually attacks joints in pairs – both knees, both wrists, both ankles, for example. Osteoarthritis usually affects only one side of the body in a joint, but rheumatoid arthritis is bilateral. Rheumatoid arthritis results in inflammation, swelling, and redness around the affected joints, causing pain and stiffness, often in debilitating levels. One other form of arthritis we should mention is gout. Gout results from a high uric acid level, causing uric acid crystals to precipitate into the blood stream. When they accumulate at a joint, an acute attack of inflammatory arthritis results. Gout typically occurs in the feet, in the joint at the base of the big toe; gout is also known as podagra, because fifty percent of all cases involve the big toe.
Take a Load Off
One of the best ways to get relief from foot pain, arthritic or not, is to maintain a healthy weight level. The more weight you carry, the bigger the burden on your weight-bearing joints, especially the feet and ankles. For every pound of weight loss, four pounds of pressure are removed from your joints; keeping your weight at the level suggested by your height and build is a really good way to reduce the load on your feet.
Support Your Local Feet
Whatever your weight, your feet need good support, in the form of good shoes, and orthotics. If you buy really good athletic shoes, they will have arch support built into the soles; dress shoes, on the other hand, are not noted for providing good arch support. Some brands do – Easy Spirit was the first brand of dress shoes for women to really provide a comfortable, well-supported dress shoe for the working woman – but you will have to research brands before you go shopping. If you can’t afford the price of really good shoes – and it can run into hundreds of dollars – try putting orthotics in the best shoe you can afford. Dr. Scholls has started putting machines in big box retailers, and larger grocery stores, for you to measure your feet. The machine registers your pressure points, and recommends the appropriate pair of Dr. Scholls inserts. The better Dr. Scholls inserts are also expensive, but you can find a good pair of Dr. Scholls on the foot products aisle that give arch support, and they run between ten and fifteen dollars. The point here is to find a pair of inserts giving good support for your feet. You can replace inserts relatively inexpensively, or you can bite the bullet and go to a podiatrist and get fitted for a pair of custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are high – they also run into the hundreds of dollars – but once you have a pair, they will fit in any shoe you purchase, and you can wear them until they wear out. They have a long life, and over time are more cost-effective than getting inserts at the store, but they require a large upfront investment. Choose whichever option best fits your budget, but give your feet the support they need.
Make Some Spa Time
One of the best things you can do for your feet, and for yourself as well, is to invest in a foot bath and give yourself a little spa time at home. Kicking off your shoes and putting your feet into a warm bath, especially with aromatherapy oils in the water, is a primary way to relax and care for your feet. Keeping a proper pedicure prevents ingrown toenails, keeps corns and bunions to a manageable level, and keeps dead tissue from building up on your heels.
Give Your Feet Some Air
There are a multitude of reasons to wear shoes, but your feet were never intended to be confined to a dark, smelly box. Going barefoot whenever possible is good for your foot health, and it can also help correct problems with pronation and supination when you walk. The air keeps your feet dry, reducing the environment for fungal growth, and walking on bare feet toughens the soles. Going barefoot keeps pressure off of sore and inflamed joints, easing arthritic pain, and increasing your mobility. If going barefoot is not your thing, wear open sandals as much as possible or open-toed and open-backed shoes.
Happiness is a Clean Foot
Soaking your feet in a warm tub bath provides relief from joint pain, as the heat soothes your inflamed tissues and tired muscles. Keeping weight off of your feet in a tub, as opposed to a shower, also helps reduce your arthritic pain. Bathing your feet on a regular basis keeps the skin from drying out and calluses from forming. Calluses cause additional foot pain, as they change the fit of your shoes; this can cause an increase in arthritic foot pain as more pressure is applied to the affected joints.
Take good care of your feet. You only have the one pair, and they are always ready to take you wherever your life demands you go. Be nice to your feet, and they will return the compliment, giving you years of pain-free travel. Should you develop arthritis in your feet, you will need to take care of them more than ever, with proper shoes, topical analgesics, and some spa time. You will definitely reap what you sow when you give your feet the attention they deserve.
- Firestein GS, et al. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1807/0.html. Accessed Jan. 3, 2013.
- The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD,
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 27, 2013.
- Foot Health Information. (2012). American Podiatric Medical Association. Retrieved July 4, 2012, from http://www.apma.org/learn/FootHealthList.cfm?navItemNumber=498