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The Style Struggle: RA and Comfortable Footwear

Foot pain that can come along with RA often makes finding comfy footwear a real problem. High heels can feel like a menace, sandals often provide too little support, and painful bunions can develop, causing even more stress. We have published articles detailing the frustrations many of our community members go through on a daily basis with their shoe selections, and have recently received an outpouring of comments and stories from everyone on this often tricky subject. Here are a few of your thoughts!

The RA Shoe Struggle

Good Shoes Are Hard to Find

  • “Still searching for the perfect shoe!”
  • “It’s hard to find good shoes.”
  • “I would just like to find comfortable work shoes.”
  • “Oh I SO relate to this!!! It’s a living hell wearing shoes, let alone finding different types for different occasions. I dread people asking me to go out as I have nothing good to put on my feet.”
  • “One of the toughest parts of RA. I can try on a pair of shoes in the store, but I won’t know if they will actually work until about day 3. That’s when my ankles let me know that the shoe is a dud.”

And Cute Good Shoes Are Nearly Impossible

  • “Cute and comfortable? What is that? I have to go with whatever my feet choose. I’ll try on hundreds of shoes to find the one pair that doesn’t make me swear when I shove my foot in. Those are keepers.”
  • “I gave up on cute shoes several years ago…”
  • “I so miss cute, sexy shoes.”
  • “I look in my wardrobe at high heels from more carefree days and they look like torture devices. Time to take them out to the bin I think!”
  • “I work at a corporate center and need to dress the part. I take advantage of good days and wear heels whenever I can. On bad days I wear flats, but they come off as soon as I get to my desk where a pair of comfy slippers awaits.”
  • “If I wear a pair of flat ballet slipper dress shoes, I end up with agonizing cramps in my instep and in my toes.”
  • “My feet are terrible! Style is not an option for me anymore.”
  • “Oh how I miss cute shoes, especially the ones with heels.”
  • “I miss cute flip flops on feet that weren’t puffy.”

The RA Shoes You Like

While having both comfort and aesthetics may be a distant dream, there are a few shoes that you in the community have identified as decent – Crocs, Sketchers, Clarks to name a few. And thought the plight is admirable, many of you have said to heck with style, comfort trumps all!


In Comparison, These Are Actually Pretty Cute

  • “I wish I could live in Nike sneakers, but for dress shoes, Clarks are hands down my favorite. They are actually comfortable for a dress shoe.”
  • “I love Vionic! I can’t always wear the closed toed styles when my feet swell up. They really are a life saver.”
  • “I settled with Abeo’s Bio System sandals for now. Check out their inserts, too. There’s quite a science to it. Wear it with a winsome attitude, anything will look just fine!”
  • “Sketchers Go Walk have been a life saver for me, and though they certainly aren’t what anyone would consider dressy, they are coming out in more colors and styles.”
  • “I have had more luck with Sketchers than anything else.”

They Don’t Look That Great, But They’re Sure Comfortable!

  • “I have been wearing Crocs exclusively…I have no more foot pain and my bunions have gone away. People make fun of them, but I refuse to sacrifice comfort for vanity.”
  • “After having tried all the brands on the market, I can only wear MBT. It’s been very hard for me to accept that I have to wear these not-so-pretty-chunky shoes for the rest of my life, but I do not have a choice. I am grateful that I can still walk on my own.”
  • “Winter is costly cause the only boots wide enough and that fit are UGGs.”
  • “I only wear SAS (San Antonio Shoes). They are SOOOOOO comfortable.”
  • “I started wearing Chacos a few months ago. They are fully adjustable and have amazing support. It took a few days to get used to the extreme arch support, but now I love them.”
  • “My cowboy boots are the most comfortable thing I have to wear… they look a little funny when I wear shorts, ah but who cares!”
  • “Being a fella, I’ve lived in boots for donkey’s years, but with the onset of RA I found that the only footwear I was comfortable in were slip-ons from Merrell.”

Everyone is different, as are their experiences and what works for them. If you have any other comments or suggestions that work for you that aren’t include here, or if we hit the nail on the head for you, feel free to let us know!

Comments

  • wontgiveup
    2 months ago

    Wow a lot of these comments were two and three years ago. I’m new on here I have yet to find a comfortable shoe. They have to be wide in toe box. I buy men’s in my size in athletic shoes to get the wider toe box. Right now nothing is comfortable I have to have foot surgery for bunion and bone spur on top of same foot. I have to use KT tape just to be able to wear shoes. By the time I get home I want both socks and shoes off. I’m not suppose to walk barefoot even in the house but do only time I feel good. Has anyone tried Bunion Corrector Platform Sandals from inspireuplift.com or gravity defyer athletic shoes?

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 months ago

    I know I’m late to the party but thought I’d add my two cents to all the great recommendations already listed. I love shoes and sandals and…I’m a boot lover. The only thing I don’t like about summer is that I can’t wear my fall/winter boots. RA has put a serious cramp in my boot wearing ability (no pun intended) but I find that sometimes the light compression of a good boot actually helps me. They can’t be too tight (I wear zip-up boots to ease getting them on). And the toe box needs to be wide enough, though I have a narrow foot, so I can’t wear the pointy tips but a square toe works well.

    Another thing I recommend is to definitely visit a Custom Shoe Shop. I went to a Foot Surgeon who x-rayed my feet. Talk about scary, even my husband looked away and not much frightens him. The surgeon suggested I visit a local Custom Shoe Shop. When we arrived we had to wait the line was so long. But it was well worth it. I had on a pair of Merrell Walking Shoes which are great but a bit heavy nowadays. The owner who waited on me took out the removable insoles from my walking shoes and in 35 minutes produced a custom pair of insoles that I can use in the walking shoes or most any pair of shoes, boots or sneakers I wear. It was a lot less costly than a brand new pair of custom insoles (less than $100). It took me about two weeks to get accustomed to the new insole but the difference has been miraculous.

    He also taught me how to lace my sneakers. Yes, I was lacing them wrong my whole life. You see, I have an extremely high arch. I had been lacing my sneakers like I was taught, right, left, under, over, repeat. Well, he explained there is a nerve that runs over the top of your foot. A great deal of my pain came from the pressure of the shoelace over that nerve. His advice? Skip the hole/s there. Figure out where the, “hump” is on the top of your foot and don’t lace over it, simply jump to the next hole or the one after. When he re-laced my shoes the pain in that area of my foot disappeared. Obviously, it won’t work for everyone but if you have high arches try it. It just might help you too.

    One other thing for the flip-flop lovers because I love them too. I live in them in the summer because I can no longer go barefoot and no I don’t in Florida. I’ve tried nearly every flip-flop on the market and the best so far for me are Okabashi made in the US. They’re vegan, washable and have textured footbeds. They’re very inexpensive and some drugstores even carry them but they do have a website. I’ve had some pairs for years and they are still as comfortable as ever. They also carry sandals and mocs.

    This post is a bit longer than I planned but if there’s one thing I love, it’s footwear. Best wishes!

    CynthiaV Site Moderator RheumatoidArthritis.net Member

  • JoMartin
    8 months ago

    I have lived with RA and been blessed to stay in “ok” shoe status until last few years, but have found shoes that work with plantar facist addition to feet,
    B-Zees. Sandals and even a dress shoe that are not the slim heels but can walk in them for awhile! Best part, they are made with a soft fabric and can be washed, air dry! Sole is made to incorporate air pockets to add comfort. Found slip on wedges in “Bob’s” brand at Sketchers. B-Zees had boots and nice walking boot for winter!

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    8 months ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your shoe recommendations JoMartin! So glad you’ve found some options that are helping you feel better. I know others here in our community will appreciate you sharing. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team member

  • Mia10
    8 months ago

    Living in Phoenix i wear flip flops almost year round and have bunions so my feet are a mess! I used to not want to spend so much on my shoes but I realize how important good shoes are. I get these lumps on the bottom of my feet that come and go. Must be the RA ! I would love to wear heels agian but am ok with it.

  • Peggy B.
    9 months ago

    I buy my shoes on line to get the 2X width that I need. Easy Spirit has great styles that are very comfortable. I also like Propet and New Balance for walking shoes.

  • bagglady
    11 months ago

    I either wear Danskos or Algeria’s both are comfortable and actually have some cute styles. They also have men’s shoes. My husband does not have RA and he loves the men’s shoes.

  • tanyae
    2 years ago

    I have found Keen’s are super comfy. The toe is really wide and I went up an extra size. They are slip on but even with the extra size they don’t slip on my heel and my toes NEVER reach the end of the shoe so it saves all the pressure and rubbing that most shoes cause me. Now to find some summer shoes that are cool (temperature… not style!) and give me the same comfort.

  • BeckyKay
    2 years ago

    I have found Monroe shoes that fit and feel good. They have a large range of sizes plus about 5 widths. Soft soles plus a steel shank for support. Super services!

    Also New Balance athletic shoes work if I put their orthotic insoles with them. Also available in a wide range of sizes and widths.

    I wear size 10N so it’s hard to find shoes.

  • mcadwell
    2 years ago

    I miss being able to go barefoot (my favorite) – all it took was stubbing my toe ONCE and that stopped that.

    I learned a long time ago, if I find a pair of shoes I like, get 2 pair right now…unless they’re on sale, then get 3 pair. That way I won’t have to hunt for shoes for awhile.

    And, after trying who knows how many shoe inserts, I finally found a pair online that are made from terry cloth, help keep my feet from sweating, are washable, AND affordable.

  • David Advent moderator
    9 months ago

    I’m right there with you, mcadwell! I live in Florida and not being able to go barefoot sets me back… alas, I’m glad you’ve been able to find shoes that are affordable and comfortable! Thank you for being a member of this community! -David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • mcadwell
    2 years ago

    Oh, I forgot to say, I haven’t been able to wear heels or cute shoes in so long that wearing “ugly”, yet comfy shoes no longer bothers me. Comfort will win each and every time.

  • GingerS
    3 years ago

    I have a wonderful foot Dr. Some of the advice he has given me is : Never go barefoot!! Even on short trips. Exercise your foot and ankles. He gave me specific instructions for the exercise. Also he sent me to a specialty shoe store. At which I was able to get “comfortable” shoes. They measured my feet. Then brought out pairs of shoes for me to try on. I definately am going back for my next pair of shoes.
    Also, recently I was at my PT Dr when she recommended a change in diet. To low carbs no sugar. At three days on this diet. My foot pain was decreased by 50%. It feels so good to put pressure on my right foot and not feel like I’m being stabbed by a knife. Hope this helps. 🙂

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing GingerS! So glad to hear that you’ve found some relief in your comfy shoes!! Wonderful! Also, so glad that the change in your diet is helping you feel better. We appreciate you being part of our community! Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • melody123
    3 years ago

    I keep trying. I tried these comfortable flats made of vinyl but made a mistake as they were not supportive enough and I tripped, twisted my ankle and fell on my face on the sidewalk. Have a huge black eye. Oh dear. Back to my asiacs tennis shoes

  • Erin Rush moderator
    3 years ago

    Ouch, melody123! I am sorry you had that experience! I hope you recovered well from your fall and are feeling comfortable (and stable) in your asiacs! Thanks for sharing with us! Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

  • malmooge
    3 years ago

    This article is great! If there are those out there with small/odd sized feet. I’ve had success with Naot brand for “work appropriate” shoes. They carried the wide *4.5* in Women’s that I needed. (I could only afford one pair)

    The other thing that has helped my feet and possibly stave off foot surgery a few more years… is Correct Toes- toe spacers. Over time, I’ve trained my feet to wear them almost 24/7 and they help with my balance and pain. They only fit in shoes that are wide enough anyway!

    Also…crocs are my “go-to” for casual footwear. (Thought I would whisper this phrase in my 70s…but no… it’s my 30s)

  • Sampia
    3 years ago

    My favorite brand is Ahnu. I have 4 pair and want to buy more. I tried on a pair of all weather hiking boot ( all I do is walk my dog at the nature park LOL, but a girl can dream) and I literally gasped because it was so comfortable. My son even bought a pair to wear around college. Of all my Ahnu shoes, it is still the most comfortable and I even wear the lightweight boots shopping. Stylish and comfortable. Not cheap, but well made

  • tulugaq
    3 years ago

    Aetrex Berries are wonderful – but very expensive. I live in mine and am constantly watching for sales.

  • Catnip@36
    3 years ago

    Inused to weat Birkenstocks with the soft footbed. They are harder to find so I tried Allegria- they make nurses shoes and they have some cute funky styles. They have a removeable foodbed but the footbed is wonderful.

  • jillianglick
    3 years ago

    Aerosols and fitflops ( they have cute boots and shoes) are great and don’t look awful!

  • bagglady
    11 months ago

    I either wear Danskos or Algeria’s both are comfortable and actually have some cute styles. They also have men’s shoes. My husband does not have RA and he loves the men’s shoes.

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