What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis is more likely to develop as people age. Inflammation and injury to the joint cause a breaking down of cartilage tissues, resulting in pain, swelling, and deformity. The changes in osteoarthritis usually occur slowly over many years, though there are occasional exceptions.
How Does Osteoarthritis Affect the Foot and Ankle?
The following are the most common foot joints affected by osteoarthritis:
- The three joints of the foot that involve the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, and the outer mid-foot bone
- The joint of the big toe and foot bone
- The joint where the ankle and shinbone meet
What Are the Symptoms of Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis?
Symptoms of foot and ankle osteoarthritis often include:
- Tenderness or pain
- Reduced ability to move, walk, or bear weight
- Stiffness in the joint
- Swelling in the joint
How Is Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis Treated?
Foot and ankle osteoarthritis can be treated in many ways. Nonsurgical methods to treat foot and ankle arthritis include:
- Steroid medications injected into the joints
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling in the joints
- Pain relievers
- Pads or arch supports
- Canes or braces to support the joints
- Inserts that support the ankle and foot (orthotics)
- Physical therapy
- Custom shoes
- Weight control
Tips on Foot Care With Osteoarthritis
The most essential element of foot care for people with foot and ankle osteoarthritis is to wear shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable. The following are things to look for in finding a comfortable shoe:
- Shoes shaped like your foot
- Shoes that have support — for example, no slip-on shoes
- Rubber soles to provide more cushioning
- Proper fit — ask the salesperson to help you with this
Exercise can help keep your feet pain-free, strong, and flexible. Exercises that can be good for your feet include:
- Achilles stretch. With your palms flat on a wall, lean against the wall and place one foot forward and one foot back. Lean forward, leaving your heels on the floor. You can feel the pull in your Achilles tendonand your calf. Repeat this exercise three times, holding for 10 seconds on each repeat.
- Big-toe stretch. Place a thick rubber band around your big toes. Pull the big toes away from each other and toward the other toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
- Toe pull. Place a rubber band around the toes of each foot, and then spread your toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
- Toe curl. Pick up marbles with your toes.