8 Spring Shoes for People With Psoriatic Arthritis

by Cheryl Kramer Kaye Health Writer

It’s time to put some spring in your step, because there’s nothing like kicking winter boots to the (no longer slushy) curb. But if you live with psoriatic arthritis (PsA)—a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints, tendons, and ligaments—new shoes can feel like “pedi” torture chambers. PsA affects different parts of the body, but achy, swollen feet plague nearly two-thirds of people with this condition—many of whom adore a trendy flat or strappy sandal with the best of ‘em. So, what’s a PsA shoe addict to do?

shoe shopping

Walk This Way

For starters, making informed shoe purchases is particularly important for PsA patients: “If you’re wearing the wrong shoes, it can compound the problems caused by psoriatic arthritis,” says William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of podiatry in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital-Northwell Health in New York City. In addition, the location of PsA inflammation can change quickly, so you’ll want to have options at your... toe-tips?... to be sure you’re always as comfortable as possible. These eight fab footwear finds can help resolve your PsA aches and pains (and give you choices, to boot).

Cole Haan 2
Courtesy of Cole Haan

Don’t Be Caught Flat-Footed

“If you have psoriatic arthritis and heel pain at the bottom of your foot, it’s likely plantar fasciitis,”says Dr. Speilfogel. That’s the spot where your plantar fascia, the connective tissue along the bottom of your foot, connects to the bottom of your heel bone. “Flip-flops or flats with zero arch support will cause the fascia to flatten out and continually pull off the heel bone.” Ouch! This playful, snakeskin Cloudfeel Vero Espadrille Sandal (Cole Haan, $130) is cushioned to contour to your foot, blunting the force of each step, so you’ll never be literally pounding the pavement.

J Crew not approved
Courtesy of J.Crew

Love an Arch Rival

Given that 10% of PsA patients cite heel pain as a “significant” symptom, we wanted to offer you an additional option for when plantar fasciitis strikes: the color-block-cool Chaco® X J.Crew Z1 classic sandals (J. Crew, $105). Originally created for outdoor adventures, the Chaco Z1 sandals were designed to be super-stable in all terrains, with grippy outsoles and adjustable straps for a secure fit that minimizes extraneous joint movement. Like all proper plantar protectors, these sandals sport contoured arch support that keeps the fascia where it should be—and the fashion-forward crowd moving in the right direction.

Nine West
Courtesy of Nine West

Meet Your Achilles’ Heel

The famous weak spot for the mythological Greek hero, the Achilles tendon (which attaches to the heel bone) can also be a literal sore spot for PsA sufferers. “When you wear a flat shoe, it tightens the Achilles tendon,” explains Dr. Spielfogel. “If you suffer from Achilles tendonitis, you’ll actually feel better in heels because they relieve the stress on the tendons,” he explains. The Pruce Women’s High Heel Sandal (Nine West, $79) stand tall at 2.5”, but the heel is stacked for stability. The padded footbeds makes this pair comfy—the perfectly wearable companion to a summery frock.

Merrell edit
Courtesy of Merrell

Go Toe-to-Toe

We all played “this little piggy” with our toes as kids, but, unfortunately, there’s a grownup version that’s a common symptom of PsA: dactylitis, a.k.a., sausage toes. “The joints in the toe swell up and the toe—sometimes all the toes—become inflamed, causing a sausage-like appearance,” explains Dr. Spielfogel. The worst thing you can wear? Pointy-toe pumps. Choose a shoe with a high, wide toe box to give those swollen piggies plenty of wiggle room. Try the Women’s Encore Breeze 4 (Merrell, $95), which also has a cushion in the heel and a rubber outsole for the ultimate comfort and stability.

DrSchollsLifestyle-ORIGINALIST2-H6153S1250-Sand Dollar-7tp
Courtesy of Dr Scholl's

Aim for a No-Pressure Situation

“One of the most common changes that you see on the feet during a flare up of PsA is thickening of the toenails,” says Dr. Spielfogel. The pressure of a closed-toe shoe against thickened nails can be painful. Set your tootsies free in the American Lifestyle Originalist 2 Slide Sandal (Dr Scholl’s, $49.95), a modern reimagining of the O.G. slip-ons with a snake-print finish, cushioning for comfort, and an adjustable buckle for when you need to stretch out a bit. P.S. for PsA: Dr. Scholl’s also makes insoles and orthotics that turn nearly any pair of shoes into friendly footwear.

Vionic blue 2
Courtesy of Vionic

Breeze Along in Airy Ballet Flats

“Up to 80% of PsA patients have pitting, like little divots, in the nail,” says Dr. Spielfogel. Discoloration of the nail is common, too. And while these issues aren’t painful, they can make some people with PsA a little self-conscious. If you’re more comfortable covering up, you’ll still want a shoe that lets in a breeze, like this Robyn Flat (Vionic, $119.95) with cool—and cooling—cutouts. Dr. Spielfogel is generally not a fan of the ballet flat, but Vionic is known for its “Vio-Motion” footbed, giving arch support, cushioning, and stability to its shoes—and this pair comes in six summery shades.

Reef 6
Courtesy of Reef

Go on a Real Plaque Attack

Approximately 30% of people with psoriasis go on to receive a diagnosis of PsA. And psoriatic plaques—those red, dry patches of skin—can show up anywhere on the body, including the feet. That means you want to avoid rubbing against your already irritated skin to prevent further discomfort. Luckily, avoiding friction is easy: “Wear socks,” recommends Dr. Spielfogel. And while there was a brief phase when Mary Janes with white anklet socks were a thing, socks are best worn with a casual or athletic shoe like these soft, supportive, surf-and-sand-ready Cushion Sunset (Reef, $60) lace-ups.

Hoka One One
Courtesy of Hoka

Try These, Just for Kicks

The ultimate, all-around PsA shoe star is something that has “good support, good stability, and a good thick sole,” says Dr. Spielfogel. Sounds suspiciously like a sneaker. “The problem now is that sneakers are such a big category. You have these casual or dress sneakers that don't really have a lot of support.” Here’s a pair from a brand that he doctor does (heh) support: All Gender Stinson ATR6, (Hoka One One, $160). He likes Hoka for its rocker bottom (that reduces movements of your joints) and the shoe’s heavy, thick sole. Lucky for you, all-white kicks remain the rage.

Meet Our Writer
Cheryl Kramer Kaye

Cheryl Kramer Kaye is a veteran writer, editor, and on-air personality, with twenty-five (gulp!) years of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle stories under her belt. She’s currently the beauty director for NextTribe.com, a website for women aging boldly, where you can watch her “That Beauty Series” videos and enjoy cameo appearances by her 10-year-old twin boys and hunky husband.