How Does RA Affect Your Feet?

How Does RA Affect Your Feet?

Last updated: March 2023

As many of our community members know, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects everyone differently. The feet are one of the most common places where RA causes pain.

When RA affects the joints of the foot, it can make a range of common, everyday activities difficult or even impossible. We asked our community members how RA has affected their feet, and the feedback was incredible! So many of our community members responded that we wanted to compile some of your feedback.

Change in feet appearance

Living with RA can lead to many changes to the feet, including swelling, inflammation, destruction, and deformities. Many of these issues can change the appearance of your feet, which can be embarrassing and frustrating.

  • “My feet now have bone spurs.”
  • “I have bone erosion in my toes.”
  • “My toes have fused themselves in the first joints on my right foot, and the bunion that I have doesn't help so that toe eats into the other one. My feet embarrass me horribly.”
  • “Significant bone loss in my feet, and my right big toe has been numb for so long now I don't remember when it wasn't.”
  • “I developed claw toe on my left foot and plantar fasciitis not long after . . . Since then the top of my left foot has curved some.”
  • “I have bone damage and my toes curling.”
  • Rheumatoid nodules and hammertoe have left me with only one choice of shoe style.”
  • “I have a rheumatoid nodule on my big toe and my toe joints are starting to deform. Sometimes, I have to use a power wheelchair.”

Size and shape fluctuations

RA can lead to a need to change shoe size, fit, or brand. For some, these may be simple changes. But for others, an entire, frustrating overhaul of footwear is needed. Many of our community members shared with us the shoes and sizes that work best for their RA-affected feet.

  • “Sketchers are great for me, but I miss my pretty shoes!”
  • “I swell in my right foot due to RA. I ruin shoes very early in my right foot. If I could only buy a right shoe it would be great.”
  • “Inserts seem to work for me.”
  • “My feet are so swollen and inflamed that I am wearing a whole size and 1/2 larger.”
  • “Custom orthotics, orthopedic shoes and only New Balance sneakers work for me.”
  • “No cute shoes = no cute outfits.”
  • “New balance is what I wear have for the last 4 years. Thankfully, they make wide width for the swelling.”
  • “I remember the day I had to throw out all my cute heels. Such a sad day.”
  • “I wore a size 5 shoe until RA changed that. I now wear a size 6 1/2. I have spent hundreds of dollars trying to find a comfortable shoe for my feet. I finally gave up and wear only sneakers.”
  • “Crocs are my best fit. After bone removal from all toes, and big toes broken then fused together, they help with balance.”
  • “I wear Birkenstock mules sometimes. They slip on and the footbed is comfortable.”
  • “Pre-RA, I was a shoe-aholic. One of the many things I miss but I think it’s on the top of my list. I used to wear cute heels all the time. Now it hurts looking at anything other than sneakers.”
  • “Shoe issues have been my primary concern lately, and I don't even know how many pairs I've ordered and returned.”
  • “Every shoe kills. But I keep searching.”

Everyday activities

In addition to the outpouring of comments on shoe changes, tips, and tricks, we also received a lot of feedback on how RA foot pain can affect daily living and mobility.

  • “I feel like I’m walking on stones all the time.”
  • “I cannot walk in bare feet.”
  • “I can walk about 20-40 feet on a good day until the pain just becomes unbearable. Then I am stuck in a wheelchair.”
  • “My feet hurt so bad I can't walk without pain . . . no matter what shoes I'm wearing.”
  • “It's a horrible thing. I lost all mobility in a year.”
  • “I feel like I am walking barefoot on sharp stones most of the time.”

We appreciate everyone’s feedback on how RA affects their feet and what, if anything, helps them find some relief. We hope you continue to share your journey with us! Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to share about your RA and foot frustrations.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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