Mastering Your PsA Care

Top Shoe-Buying Tips for Psoriatic Arthritis

Take the pain out of your next shoe shopping trip with these psoriatic arthritis-approved orthopedic tips for the best fit and support.

Medically Reviewed
shoe insert and foot
When psoriatic arthritis symptoms affect your feet or gait, special shoe inserts may help.iStock

While psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can cause joint pain in any part of the body, one of the most common areas affected are the joints in the feet, ankles, and toes. In addition to general discomfort, many people who have psoriatic arthritis also experience swollen toes (sometimes known as “sausage toes”) and changes in nails and skin associated with psoriasis.

To address the pain in your feet caused by walking or standing for long periods, it’s vital to understand and choose the right type of support in order to ease symptoms and prevent further complications.

How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects the Feet and Ankles

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of chronic inflammatory joint condition that affects approximately 30 percent of those living with?psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

People who have psoriatic arthritis may be diagnosed with oligoarthritis (when two to four joints are involved),?polyarthritis (when five or more joints are involved),?and, less commonly, a particularly debilitating form of arthritis known as?arthritis mutilans.

Additionally, people who have psoriatic arthritis at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis, which can lead to bone deterioration and other painful complications.

Psoriatic arthritis may lead to extremely swollen and tender feet — which can prevent them from fitting into standard shoes. In addition, because foot pain often influences a person’s walk, the condition can contribute to ankle, knee, hip, and?back pain.

To counteract this chain of events, many people who have psoriatic arthritis benefit from investing in shoes with special features. For example, swollen toes may require shoes that are roomy and boxy in the toe; special inserts may help correct gait problems.

Devices and Inserts for Shoes

Shoe devices can help relieve pain and prevent gait problems associated with psoriatic arthritis of the feet. A podiatrist, a doctor who is trained specifically to diagnose and treat diseases and conditions of the feet, may prescribe a shoe implant, called an orthotic, for this purpose.

Two types of orthotics are commonly used:

  • Accommodative orthotics?typically cushion sore or tender areas of the feet. They are made from soft material such as cork, leather, foam, or rubber.
  • Functional orthotics?are designed primarily to adjust the functioning of a person’s foot or stride and are made of relatively rigid plastic or graphite. Functional orthotics are usually thinner than accommodative orthotics.

Some people who have more severe psoriatic arthritis may require prescription shoes and orthotics. In this case, a podiatrist will evaluate your feet and write a prescription for custom-made shoes. While some specialty shoe stores may be able to make simple orthotics on-site, others require the podiatrist to order specialized shoes from a lab. When ready, the shoes are delivered back to the podiatrist, who will fit them for you and instruct you on how to use them.

Be Shoe-Shopping Smart

Follow these shoe-buying tips to find the right fit that helps prevent foot pain and helps you avoid worsening problems down the road:

  • Match your shoes to the shape of your foot.?Check the shoes you already have and see if they are properly accommodating your feet. Draw the outline of each pair of your shoes on a piece of paper. Place your feet within the drawings. Your toes should fit comfortably inside the lines.
  • Wear shoes that provide support.?You’re looking for arch support and a sturdy upper. That generally leaves out mules or slip-ons.
  • Look for rubber soles.?The ball of the foot should be flexible.
  • Avoid high heels.?Additionally, people who have psoriatic arthritis may find some relief from pain and swelling by wearing a good pair of running shoes. Local retail outlets for more sophisticated shoes, such as those built specifically for people living with arthritis, can be found by doing an internet search.

When in doubt, if a person’s foot deformity is not very significant, Michael Bozzaotra, owner of Performance Labs in Patterson, New Jersey, recommends looking for stores that sell shoes for people who have diabetes. “A diabetic shoe is going to be an arthritic patient’s friend,” he says. “Those shoes are everywhere.”

With proper foot care, you can ease or possibly avoid altogether some of the more common foot-related?complications of psoriatic arthritis.