Rheumatoid Arthritis and Shoes: No Love Affair with Shoes

Community Member

Many women, it seems, have a love affair with shoes.   Not me.   In fact, I don't know if shoes even rate as my friends.   It has been years since I have looked longingly at a pair of shoes.  Rather than looking at them for their beauty and style, I now see them for the pain they will afflict on my feet.  Even now, when my body is feeling better than it has in a long time, my feet feel the pain that comes from combining rheumatoid arthritis with a pair of shoes.

Although not necessarily my friends, I have found a few pairs of shoes that have become companions that I can rely on.   These simple pairs of shoes can be worn knowing that the pain won't be as extreme as with other shoes.     I found my first pair in 2008 after my husband found me crying at the computer.   I was sure I was destined for a life of "grandma" shoes.   His search found something different.   He found a shoe store in the Chicago area that specializes in orthopedic problems and we headed out for new shoes.

I came home with two pairs of Dansko's.   The dressier, more fashionable pair has only been worn two or three times (the salesman warned me that pair wouldn't give me the support I needed, but they were cute.)   The other pair, Dansko clogs, comes as close to being my friend as a shoe on arthritic feet can be.   I have been wearing this same pair of clogs from October to April every year since 2008.   In three years, they look as good as the day I bought them, even though they are worn day after day.   In my opinion, they are a lot more attractive than a lot of shoes I found online for those of us with feet issues and I can wear them with both dress slacks and jeans.

One day though, a coworker asked, "Oh, is RA the reason you have to wear those shoes?"  I let the comment slide because when I have to choose between shoes that are high on the "style" side and shoes that don't make me want to scream in pain, there is absolutely no choice.   Plus, I have run into numerous people wearing the exact same shoe as me without any feet issues.   They just like wearing shoes that support them throughout the day.

The only problem I have experienced with the Dansko clogs is they don't keep my feet warm.  Since I live in the Chicago area and already have feet that are sensitive to cold, I require warmth.   I double up on socks sometimes, but the lack of blood flow creates new feet problems.   The majority of time though, I am walking from my car to a building and I can handle the cold.   For long winter walks, I wear my Merrell insulated boots.   With new insoles, they came close to being my friends for a few years.   This winter though, I was in a lot of pain.   I will definitely be looking for a new winter boot next year.    Any suggestions?

During the spring and summer, my "go to" shoes are a pair of Dansko sandals and a pair of Eco sandals.   Both pairs of shoes work well when my feet are swollen as I can loosen up the straps and then tighten them up when things are going well.   Plus, with sandals, I can quickly take them off and on which is a definite plus.

The one thing I do caution you about is trying out the shoe before making a final decision.   Not all Dansko's or all Eco's work with my foot.   Sometimes they work in the house but when my foot hits the pavement; my feet feel completely different inside the shoe.   When looking for a shoe, find someone that specializes in feet issues and share your own with them so they can help you.

Recently my feet have been giving me a lot of trouble again.  I have felt like my entire selection of shoe options has been failing me and as the weather warms up I am opting for NO SHOES at all.   For Christmas I received a pair of Vibram Five Fingers which are a minimalist shoe.   I have been wearing them around the house all winter and have mixed feelings on them.   My left foot LOVES them every time I put them on.   They are light and feel like I am walking barefoot which my foot loves.   My right foot hasn't yet decided if it likes these shoes any better than other options or not.   My right foot is a little more unique physically which makes the hammertoes and spread out toes a challenge to fit into this glove like shoe.   Plus, once on, the toes on my right foot become numb and the ball of my foot hurts as in other shoes.   My intention is to wear them on long dog walks in the morning and hiking.   The verdict is still out on whether that will be a possibility or not.

We had a really warm day last week while visiting my hometown.   My toes were absolutely killing me, even in my reliable Dansko clogs.   I took my shoes off and walked barefoot.   I loved it.   Over the winter I spent time reading the benefits of going barefoot in the The Barefoot Book and have been gearing myself up to go without shoes whenever possible this spring and summer.

A love affair with shoes does not exist for me.   However, finding a few simple pairs of shoes (or no shoes at all) that are reliable is comforting.    I think you have to do some research on what works for you because one brand does not necessarily mean success across the board.   It might depend on the specific shoe or even the specific day as to how well a shoe will want to combine with rheumatoid arthritis.    Good luck and happy walking.