Foot Pain Blame: Rheumatoid Arthritis or Shoes?

Community Member

Rheumatoid arthritis gets blamed for a lot of my aches and pains and although  I know that it plays a huge part in  this recent round of foot pain, I have decided to give RA a break from the constant blame and instead put the blame of my foot pain on my SHOES.

Last December,  I received a pair of minimalist shoes for Christmas and began an experiment with the chronic pain in my feet.  Basically the experiment was to get my feet out of supportive shoes as much as possible and build up some strength and muscle in my feet and ankles to see if it reduced the pain in my feet.   I started off by wearing my Vibram Five Fingers when I worked out.   Then I slowly transitioned to not wearing shoes at all when I worked out.   When the weather warmed up in April, I began wearing my Vibram Five Fingers on my daily walks.   Soon, I was walking half the walk in VFF and half of the walk barefoot.  I LOVED It!!

Since I am off work for several months in the summer, I kept shoes off my feet as much as possible.   I went barefoot everywhere I could.   I wore my Vibram Five Fingers on hikes, shopping, and most other places.   When neither barefoot or VFF was appropriate, I wore my beat up Ecco sandals  which  is third in line for creating the least amount of foot pain.   Barefeet is first and VFF is  second.   The results?   Two great things - recently my husband complemented my feet saying they not only look stronger, but my hammertoes look better!!!!     The second great thing, I had little to no pain during the time I was mostly without shoes.

Unfortunately, my feet had to return to shoes in September when school resumed.   I now wear my supportive Dansko sandals or clogs more days than not.   The results?   My hammertoes already look and feel worse and the pain in my feet is awful.   I could blame the foot pain on standing for long hours teaching, but I can feel the pain begin within the first hour of wearing shoes.   The pain begins in my toes, moves up to my ankles and by the end of the day, my legs feel heavy.   Besides my feet and ankles hurting, my knee now also hurts when I finish for the day.   On the weekends when I am barefoot at home or walking long distances in my VFF, there is no pain anywhere.

So, although I know rheumatoid arthritis is ultimately responsible for the inflammation in my feet, ankles, and legs, it seems that for my individual body shoes irritate that inflammation.   I teach at two different schools and although I know one of the schools would have absolutely no problem with me wearing my VFF if it meant I wasn't in pain, they do look a little silly, especially with dress pants.   But, the day is coming fast when I may just not care about looks anymore.

In the meantime, I am doing a few things to help relieve the pain in my feet:

  • Keeping shoes off my feet as much as possible when I am not working.
  • Wearing sandals rather than clogs so that my toes have freedom to stretch throughout the day.
  • Wearing Injinji socks under my Dansko clogs so that my toes aren't bunched up together. Regular fitting socks seem to cut the circulation off in my feet and makes the pain worse.
  • I tried another pair of minimalist shoes, but the effect wasn't as great as with the VFF. I think the key to these shoes is that each toe has its own home. They were a challenge to get into at first, but over time, my feet slid into these shoes and felt right at home.

My feet seem to be a constant source of inflammation and trying to figure out a way to keep that inflammation down is always the key.    What have you found effective for your feet?

For more  reading on RA and foot pain/care check out these posts/book:

Your Wardrobe and RA - Lene  posts some ideas on types of shoes to wear and where to get them along with other wardrobe ideas for RA  folks.

"Oh, My Aching Feet!: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Orthotics  - We each need to find the method that works best for our individual feet.   In this post, V writes about her successful experiences with orthotics.

Hall of Shame:   Shoes that Cause Pain  - Dr. Christina Lasich shares her top shoes to get rid of including high heels and flip flops.   In the comments section she does briefly discuss VFF.   She doesn't approve of them.   However, she doesn't have my feet and doesn't know how my feet  feel in them compared to the regularly suggested supportive shoes for RA.   I have discovered over time that just because an expert says it isn't right, doesn't mean it isn't right for me.

The Barefoot Book:   50 Reasons to Kick  Off Your Shoes  -  This book not only made a lot of sense to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I hope you do too.

Cathy can also be found writing at her personal blog The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo.