If you’re one of the 58.5 million or so people in America who have been clinically diagnosed with arthritis, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you know the trials and tribulations that come along with the pain, stiffness, swelling and limited range of motion. Arthritis can be a debilitating disease, especially when it affects the areas and joints you use every single day, such as your feet. Which is why choosing the right pair of shoes when you have arthritis is crucial (more on that in a second).
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With more than 30 joints in each human foot alone, it’s no surprise this area is a common location of arthritis pain. “The feet bear our body’s entire weight and every step that we take creates a jarring shock and the joints of the foot develop a lot of pressure, at times jamming the joint,” explains Brad Schaeffer, DPM, foot surgeon at Sole NYC . “When this jamming of the joint occurs, the cartilage can start to wear down and, once the cartilage wears down, you get bone on bone grinding which can be very painful and debilitating.”
What to look for in shoes when you have arthritis
One of the best things you can do to alleviate the discomfort associated with arthritis in feet is to seek out the right shoe. Stay away from narrow and pointy heels, and anything that creates too much friction. And always make sure you pick a shoe that properly fits.
As Jackie Sutera, DPM, podiatrist and Vionic Innovation Lab Member, puts it, for those with foot-impacted arthritis, shoes are either going to help you or hurt you. “Wearing shoes that are tight or stiff can further irritate the delicate joints and encourage worsening of the disease process,” she says. “Narrow or pointy heels will squeeze the toes and force your forefoot to bear more weight since the shoe shifts body weight forward.” For these reasons and more, proper fit is paramount.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of arthritis-friendly shoes on the market today (and the nice thing about ordering online is that you can easily return and exchange shoes if you find that the style you ordered is too snug or ill-fitting in general). Here are a few brands that podiatrists recommend.
9 Best Shoes for Arthritis in Feet
Oofos Oocoozie Low Shoe — $118.00
For those who can opt for a more casual style on the regular, and especially those who work from home, Najwa Javed, DPM, podiatrist with Silicon Valley Podiatry Group and founder of E’MAR Italy, recommends this supportive slipper. “Built with a rocker sole and their Oofoam Technology, the footwear is meant to reduce shock and stress on the feet and help with natural stride,” she says.
While it looks more like a slipper (and you can wear it as such), it has hard soles so you can easily wear them outside without a worry. They’re also machine-washable!
Allbirds Women’s Tree Skippers — $59.00
Built with sustainability in mind, like using natural materials that help balance emissions, this brand is becoming increasingly popular across all age ranges. Dr. Javed is a fan, especially for her patients with arthritis, because the brand offers a stylish shoe that is gentle on severe and rigid foot deformities.
“The initial designs were too flexible and unsupported, but Allbirds has changed to add more stability and structure to the shoes,” she says. They’re super cushioned and have a S-curve tread that makes a light sole and mimics the anatomical shape of the feet.
Naot Galaxy — $160.00
American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Accepted for promoting good foot health, these supportive, lace-up shoes provide excellent support through the arch as well as across the ball of the foot, notes Tim Oldani, DPM, podiatrist at Missouri Foot and Ankle in St. Louis. His favorite feature? The removable footbed that allows you to place your own custom orthotics into the shoes.
“Many people will wear custom orthotics as a treatment for their painful arthritis, so these shoes are great for these people,” he says. “The knit upper material in the toe box will accommodate bone spurs, which is also a great feature.”
Hoka Bondi 8 — $165.00
Not only are these running shoes super stylish, but they offer a rocker bottom feature at the metatarsals, the area that helps form the arches of the foot, which is a fantastic feature for people dealing with great toe joint arthritis, notes Dr. Oldani. They are also the most cushioned shoes in the Hoka line. “This amount of cushioning helps to absorb shock with each step, which reduces pain in arthritic joints as well,” he adds. For a more in-depth review of the Hoka Bondi 8, click here.
Altra Paradigm 6 — $170.00
These feature the same rocker bottom feature as the Hoka Bondi, which can go a long way towards helping alleviate and limit pain and range of motion at the great toe joint, notes Dr. Oldani. They are also quite lightweight for such a supportive shoe. “These shoes also offer maximum cushioning at both the heel and the ball of the foot, which is helpful for those with both rearfoot and forefoot arthritis,” he says. “The width in the toe box helps to limit pressure on the toes in those with bone spurs.”
Brooks Ghost 14 — $130.00
With 30 colorways to choose from, Brooks Ghost 14 is a go-to choice for so many runners and walkers alike. The brand is known for making very supportive shoes that almost feel like you’re running or walking on clouds. This level of support is huge for people suffering from foot ailments, especially arthritis, according to Dr. Schaeffer.
“Brooks offers different levels of support from neutral to max support which is a great option, since everyone’s feet and needs are different,” he says. “There are also a very good range of sizes and widths, more than most brands.”
Asics Gel-Kayano 28 — $120.00
One of the brands that Dr. Schaeffer recommends for people with a neutral foot type, the most common type of foot, is Asics. “They are good for stabilizing and therefore decrease the pressure from your feet to your knees, to your hips, and to your back,” he says. “They offer lightweight shoes good for those with arthritis.” These shoes are also ideal for people who overpronate, or who put added pressure on the internal area of their foot, which causes their feet to flatten.
Willa Slip-On Flat — $130.00
If you’re looking for a stylish shoe sans heel, look no further than Vionic Willow Slip-On Flat. It provides arch support and has a thicker sole to absorb shock, two features that are ideal for people with arthritis. “This takes stress off joints and protects the natural cushioning of the soles of the foot,” explains Dr. Sutera. They come in seven different colors and fun prints so you can buy a few to mix and match with your existing wardrobe.
Sole Bliss Ingrid — $259.00
A dressy shoe with a heel that is ideal for people suffering from arthritis in their feet is almost unheard of, which is what makes this pair so desired. It features triple-layer cushioning and even has a Bunion Bed that provides extra width accommodation in areas that often cause people pain. When it comes to purchasing the right size, there’s no need to size up or out (in terms of width). Purchase these in your typical size and they should fit just right.
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