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Saying Goodbye to Pre-RA Shoes

Every few months, we receive phone calls from various advocacy organizations who are looking for donations of household goods, such as clothing, books, or small appliances, to sell to raise funds for their organization. Oftentimes I agree to prepare a box or two for donation which provides a good opportunity to go through excess in our house and select items that deserve a new home.

This past week when going through stuff I focused on packing up shoes and clothing. For the clothing, it was not too difficult deciding what items to include because this time around, I chose to let go of items which I had simply grown out of. Well, not really grown out of, but rather lost weight out of. Things that simply didn’t fit anymore even with safety pins.

Choosing shoes to donate was a bit more difficult, or rather more sentimental. There were shoes in my collection that I used to wear as part of my ‘all black concert clothing’ attire. Some of these shoes were the most comfortable when I purchased them: slightly narrow width which kept them snug on my heels, a little extra arch support, low heels, and just the right amount of cushion.

These shoes were cute, and somewhat expensive. I loved them so much that I followed my mother’s advice: “If you find something that works well, and that you love, consider buying backups because they most likely won’t be available when the original pair [of shoes] wears out.”

But over the years, these ‘oh so comfortable shoes’ have become torture devices. Each time I’ve tried to wear them, I end up in such pain and with icky blisters that it’s just impossible to bear.

What has changed? Simply put….RA.

There are stories of women whose feet changed shape after pregnancy, but I’ve never been through that so I don’t have firsthand experience. I’ve heard of women whose feet changed shape simply because of age, but mine had been the same for many years.

We don’t often talk about what RA can do to the feet. Some patients may feel like they are walking on hard rocks due to inflammation in the feet. Some patients develop deformities due to damaged joints in the feet caused by the destructive power of RA.

In my case, RA (and weight gain) contributed to the development of fallen arches. Growing up, I always had extremely high arches in my feet which made finding the right shoes difficult. Luckily for me when RA started changing things up, a podiatrist was able to diagnose my problem and help me do something about it.

At first, he strapped my feet with heavy duty tape to temporarily support the arches and allow them to heal; then he ordered custom made orthotics to place in my shoes. My particular style of orthotic fits athletic or casual shoes, not dress shoes, and I use them daily.

Besides the fallen arches, RA also contributed to wider feet. No longer do I need narrow shoes or 4A width heels. My feet have become extraordinarily average and a half size longer. But when shoes do not fit, the pain is multiplied. So I choose only to wear shoes that fit well.

Before going through the depths of my closet last week, I had totally forgotten about the duplicate, back-up pair of black dress shoes which were awaiting me. But when I discovered them, I hoped that someone with extra narrow feet and high arches who enjoys low heeled shoes would greatly appreciate a brand new pair of cute Munro pumps.

Bye bye shoes. Hello extra space in the closet. I just may need you for the next pair of RA-friendly shoes I buy.

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.


  • maggiecat
    1 year ago

    Hi, I’ve had many foot surgeries and have painful feet. I do have some cute comfy shoes that get lots of compliments though, JBU has pretty sandals (vegan), in a few different colors. They are made in such a way as to help disguise ugly feet. They are supportive and wonderful to walk in. I have some nice Skechers, very comfortable but not for walking far. Many boots are well made and comfortable and can be used for dressing up too! Jambu makes very beautiful, vegan boots that are very comfortable and stylish. Going through the shoes at Payless has led me to some great buys for soft, comfy, and very inexpensive finds!
    So don’t give up!!

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    1 year ago

    Hey @maggiecat! Thanks so much for sharing the brands you love!!

    I haven’t heard of Jambu so I will definitely check them out as I’m always looking for shoes other than sneakers.

    I hope you’re having a good weekend! ~Monica

  • bridgetT
    1 year ago

    Anyone having trouble with slow healing plantars fasciitis with our RA? Yes, I’m soaking in warm water, rolling the ice bottles, stretching before standing up and wearing night brace. Tried a cortisone shot to no avail by my podiatrist. My rheumatologist advises not to get a second one. I’m using my cane to relieve pressure on my foot and resting it. New Vionic shoes do feel wonderful. Think I’ll look into buying more Vionic this Fall.

  • MaryB
    2 years ago

    I was so glad that a member shared about increasing size when your feet are swollen. I went up 2 sizes. Only bad part was seeing all the really pretty shoes, better than in past years. I got clunky, black ones, but they fit and I will decorate them. So there!!!!!!
    Thanks for listening. Shoes and purses used to be my main thing, guess I’ll look for something different.

  • DianeeB
    2 years ago

    Timely article for me – I recently had my ankle fused, bone grafts, etc. I had been walking on the side of my foot for sometime and finally said enough. I knew what the recovery time would be, so that is why I delayed. I will never be able to wear my closet full of shoes – but more mobility would be a blessing. Reading all the comments is always a comfort – to know we are certainly not alone. Hats off to the comments from “Nancy” and her Converse All-Stars – making a bad situation better. Wishing you all find your perfect shoe.

  • jdaph
    2 years ago

    Yes, my feet have changed so much in the last 10 years,, I had to get prescription orthopedic inserts for my shoes as well, and can only wear one kind of gym shoe,, and I even with all that cant stay on my feet for long,, I also have Reynauds,, the past two years I get huge black and blue marks on the feet,, the worst one being just recently and haven’t hit or run into anything. just appears out of nowhere. Ankles swell a lot now as well. So I get the whole foot issue with R.A>

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi jdaph. Sorry your feet are having so many problems. Has your doctor had any thoughts on the marks on your feet? Multiple RA medications have bruising as a potential side effect. Of course, it could be something different/unrelated. Hopefully, your doctor should be able to provide some answers. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • pugpen
    2 years ago

    Sure wish I had all the money I’ve thrown away on shoes that I wound up not being able to wear—I would be rich! lol It’s a real problem for sure, Every time I think “these are going to work!”, they don’t. For years all I could wear was Birkenstocks, now days, not so much (not enough padding). I just bought a pr of ‘Orthofeet’ ugly sneakers, and wore them to church Sunday as I was going shopping afterwards. You should have seen the look on a womans face when she saw them, omg, how embarressing! I realize the rest of me was more dressed up and the big clunky shoes with bright shoelaces didn’t exactly go with my outfit, but so, guess next time I’ll wear more ‘appropriate’ footwear to church. LOL Some people!!

  • Curiousraptor
    3 years ago

    I miss the freedom to choose nice boots, and sandles! I danced and taught World Fusion Dance for years, mostly. Bare footed which encourages spread through the width of your feet. . No bad thing in itself, but made choosing shoes tricky before RA took hold. There are Worse things I know about this crippling disease, But also I only buy animal free, cruelty free products means choice is limited further. Oh boy! Here’s to the memory of lovely pretty shoes!!!

  • Erin Rush moderator
    3 years ago

    I think so many of our members can relate to missing pretty shoes, Curiousraptor! And I think it’s pretty neat that you choose animal/cruelty free shoes! I know that can make an already challenging task that much harder. I hope you are still able to dance at times. Thank you for sharing. Best, Erin, Team Member.

  • Robbi
    4 years ago

    Oh my…I almost cried reading all these posts. I can relate. Always loved shoes and now I am always on the hunt for that comfortable shoe that my grandkids aren’t consider ugly. lol I have found some Algeria shoes to be very comfy and I have several pair of Skechers memory foam sneakers as well. What wears great one day might not wear so great the next day! It’s a toss up. I’ve had bunion surgery on both feet. My right foot is again in need or more surgery after 12 years. The left foot still looks great. I remarked to my daughter once while looking at some cute heels in a upscale department store that “I’m counting on having happy feet again when I get to heaven!!”

  • janlorraine
    4 years ago

    I am not surprised so many people have commented on this topic. I immediately felt a response as well. I still keep shoes in my closet that I can barely stand to try on because I love them so much. Some years ago while shopping I came across a lovely pair of Ferragamo shoes with a low heel on sale and in my size. Just as I was slipping my foot in to try them on the woman sitting next to me said, “You shouldn’t buy those shoes.” Surprised, I asked, “Why ever not?” She replied, “Because you have a bunion.” Of course, I had heard of bunions, but didn’t really know anything about them. She pointed to my foot and I saw what she meant. I chose to ignore her advice, but now I understand very well what living with a painful bunion is like. I have never been able to wear the shoes and someday someone in a thrift shop will be very happy to find a brand new pair of very expensive dress shoes. I hope she doesn’t have a bunion or, if she does, has sense enough to restrain herself.

  • Lynne
    4 years ago

    I am waiting for to be referred to a rheumatologist. Was tested for ra several years ago and was told test was negative. I was relieved at the time, but I believe I do have it. Have the symptoms in both hands (middle joints) with huge sacs of rubbery fluid on two fingers. One was surgically removed and the other went away after several months. However, my real issue is my feet. Bunions and hammertoes on both feet. Had a complete dorsiflexor tendon rupture over a year ago in my left foot. It was surgically repaired and in a year my entire foot has deformed badly. Ankle is weak and big toe has turned dramatically underneath second toe. I have spent almost $1000 in the last year to find shoes I could wear. Has been really rough. Had to quit working at age 60. My job required me to stand and walk for 8 hour shifts. Between ankle weakness from surgery and my foot so deformed I couldn’t do it any longer.

  • lhlegz
    4 years ago

    Yep, all my 3-inch heels are LOOONNNGGG gone. I’m on the constant hunt for cute flats with hidden support. But each new pair presents a new problem: I’ve learned to avoid sewn-in instep labels, weirdly placed seams, etc. The RA has made my bunions more pronounced, and now the third and fourth toes on one foot are crossing. I have to use paper tape to separate them if I am going to be walking long. And Christmas?? Thank goodness for cyber shopping!!

  • Darla
    4 years ago

    Finding comfortable shoes is a challenge for me. Most if the the time I wear my Saucony’s. My foot pain seems to flare unbearably, and I am at Podiatry
    for orthodtics , feel as if I am walking on rocks…then it subsides. I can walk again.So unpredictable RA. Remember a line from a John Denver song “Some days are diamonds, some days are stones, some times the hard times, won’t leave you alone.” My Grandsons wedding is in November, so I am searching for some pretty shoes.

  • Lisa Emrich author
    4 years ago

    Hi Darla,
    I’ve spent the entire summer in New Balance shoes with my orthotic inserts. Those inserts really do help. But when the RA flares down in those toe joints, nothing is comfortable. Even going barefoot hurts. Congratulations on your grandson’s wedding and good luck on finding some pretty shoes.

  • Merry
    4 years ago

    Oh how I relate to this post. I spent a small fortune on shoes that were comfortable, stylish, had high arches and heels. I wore them 12-18 hour days! In the last couple years, I’ve gone to flat shoes, orthotics (aka grandma shoes)and expensive sandals to find comfort and arch support. I’ve shipped off to my daughter a couple pair of boots that have a low heel that make my feet feel tortured just to try on.

  • Lisa Emrich author
    4 years ago

    Hi Merry,
    It’s surprising sometimes how shoes that were once great can now be torturous. With fall/winter approaching, it’s time to go find a pair of stylish boots or sturdy (non-athletic) shoes to go with pants/jeans since I just purged all of those that were falling apart as well. I’m hoping to find some that are heavenly comfortable and don’t break the bank. Fingers crossed.

  • Carla Kienast
    4 years ago

    Oh, man. I’m sorry. I wore 3″ heels at least five days a week for decades. I loved really cute shoes. Now I can’t. 🙁 I hope your new shoes make someone wonderfully happy as they once did you.

  • Nanci Burns
    4 years ago

    I danced professionally, in 2 & 3 inch heels. Now I wear Converse All-Stars. I will keep wearing them as long as I can bend over to tie my laces.

  • Lisa Emrich author
    4 years ago

    Hi Carla,
    Thanks. I can’t imagine wearing 3″ heels ever. I’ve always been more of a low-heel person. But I was hoping the same thing about the person(s) who end up with my shoes. I hope that they make someone very happy.

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