How to Banish Rheumatoid Arthritis-Related Foot Pain

When you have rheumatoid arthritis—or any other type of rheumatic disease—you’re more prone to developing foot issues. But you don’t have to live in pain; read on to find relief!

Jean Weiss

Feeling hampered by pain when you walk? A slew of annoying culprits—from bunions to hammertoes to gout—could be the cause. And if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or other rheumatic conditions, you’re even more likely to develop these problems. But there are ways to find relief from these common offenders. Just read on . . .

Pain offender: corns and calluses
These thickened layers of skin are caused by repeated pressureor friction and are a common problem for people with arthritis. Luckily, they’re easy to treat.

Pain reliever: remove excess skin
Extra skin can be simply and safely removed with a blade. But go to a podiatrist, not a pedicurist, to remove them—especially if you have foot pain. “Most pedicurists have no training with surgical instruments,” says Dr. Reid. “And they don’t know how to recognize what a corn or callus really is.”

Pain offender: hammertoes, mallet toes, claw toes
Which problem you have depends on which of the two joints in your toe is bent downward. You have a hammertoe when the joint near the base of your toe is bent down. A mallet toe results when the joint near the tip of your toe is bent. And it’s a claw toe when both joints are bent.

Pain reliever: stretched leather shoes with a spacious toe box
Wearing leather shoes—which are more flexible than man-made materials—that can be stretched to fit around your toes may reduce the pain associated with these conditions, says Dr. Reid. “You also need a deeper toe box because the toes bend upward,” she adds. If your shoes are not roomy enough, you can always have them stretched. Dr. Reid says, “Just as with bunions, you can ask your doctor about standard pain relievers and cortisone injections to reduce pain and inflammation, or surgery can straighten bent joints.”

Pain offender: gout
This happens when uric acid—normally flushed out of the body—pools around joints. Gout can strike any joint, though it often occurs in the big toe.

Pain reliever: ice the painful joint
Sudden attacks of gout are extremely painful, and icing your toe throughout the day can ease the inflammation. If the pain won’t go away, Dr. Reid suggests asking your doctor to recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory.     

April 2013