Everydayhealth.com suggests trying these strategies to better manage arthritis in your feet:
See Your Doctor
If you have (or suspect you have) foot arthritis, have your feet checked by a rheumatologist or podiatrist at least once a year, Dennis Frisch, DPM, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based podiatrist. says. “We recommend yearly visits to be sure there aren’t any changes in your feet and to see whether any devices you may have been given, such as braces or orthotics, are working appropriately. And if you’re having pain, don’t wait for your yearly visit. See your doctor right away.”
Pick the Right Shoes
Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes is key. Shoes should be wide enough so that they don’t press on any bunions or calluses. Skip the high heels because they put more pressure on the balls of your feet. Arch support is essential to stabilize joints that are moving more than they should, which can happen with arthritis, explains Frisch. The toning athletic shoes that are popular these days can be a good choice for foot health. “Their rocker-bottom soles do some of the work that the foot doesn’t want to do,” he says.
Stretch Your Achilles Tendons
You probably don’t think about getting your feet in shape the way you do your stomach or your thighs. But exercising your feet can help increase your flexibility and mobility, important when you have arthritis. Good exercises involve stretching your Achilles tendon (the cord at the back of your heel) as well as the tendons in the balls of your feet and toes. A good exercise for arthritic feet can be as simple as wiggling your toes. Frisch has his patients use the TV as an exercise aid. “When a commercial comes on, use that time to wiggle,” he says. Just don’t overdo: “Stretching is good to help joint mobility, but don’t do it to the point where you’re hurting yourself.”
Get a Foot Massage
Aaah ... who doesn’t love a relaxing massage? The soothing effects of massage aren’t just great for your back or shoulders. Massaging your feet may sometimes provide arthritis relief, Frisch says. Knead the balls of your feet as well as your toes, starting at the top and working your way down to the base. You can do it yourself or ask your partner to help you.
Try a Topical
Some people find that topical medications provide relief from foot arthritis pain, Frisch says. Look for topicals with capsaicin, an ingredient found in chili peppers that’s believed to decrease the amount of substance P, which transmits pain in the body. Capsaicin is sold over the counter as a cream, ointment, stick, gel, lotion, liquid, or pad and under different brand names, such as Icy Hot and Zostrix.
Take an Anti-inflammatory Drug
Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce the joint swelling and pain that result from arthritis. Take them according to directions and be sure to let your doctor know what you’re taking, Frisch says.
Use Orthotic Devices
Canes, braces, shoe inserts — your specific problem will determine what you need, Frisch says. Some people find relief simply by taping their toes together. For others, a cane helps with stability. Still others find relief from shoe inserts because they can correct misalignments and distribute your weight more evenly over the bottom of your feet. You can buy shoe inserts over the counter or have them custom-made.
Foot surgery can be helpful, but it’s not a cure-all, Frisch says. “Sometimes problems can recur despite surgery,” he explains. “Surgery should always be a last resort — when your pain is limiting your lifestyle and choice of activities.” The right procedure for you depends on the type of arthritis you have, where it is located, and the impact it has on your joints. “There are two broad categories for foot surgery: joint fusions and joint replacements,” Frisch says. “If the problem is too much movement, you fuse it, and if there’s not enough, you try to mobilize it.”