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Foot Health / Problems

Arthritis, which literally means “joint pain,” is one of the principle causes of disability among Americans. Arthritis, including arthritis in your foot and ankle joints, can occur at any age, though certain types of arthritis may be more common in older or younger individuals. Arthritis is the general term used to describe pain within your joints, and there are numerous types of arthritis that may manifest in your body.

There is no cure for this health problem, although there are many treatment options available. Treating your arthritis in its early stages may better help you manage your symptoms, maintain a high quality of life, and avoid surgery and certain health complications.

Condition Information

Three principle types of arthritis may cause pain and other symptoms in your feet or ankles, including:

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or wear and tear arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis affecting your feet and ankles. Osteoarthritis involves a wearing away of your smooth joint cartilage over years, causing your cartilage to become worn and frayed. Osteoarthritis is a progressive health problem that may cause bone spurring in some parts of your body.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis affecting your feet and ankles. Other types of inflammatory arthritis that may affect your feet and ankles include gout, psoriatic arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome, and ankylosing spondylitis. In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis-related symptoms first manifest in your toes and forefeet, then at the back of your foot, and eventually in your ankles.
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis: Post-traumatic arthritis may occur after you injure your foot or ankle, and it can develop even years after you experience a fracture or severe ligament sprain. Post-traumatic arthritis involves cartilage damage, just like osteoarthritis. Your physician may order X-ray imaging studies to assess your problem and rule in or rule out a diagnosis of post-traumatic arthritis.

Causes and Symptoms

Foot and ankle arthritis may be caused by numerous factors, and the underlying cause of your arthritis depends on the specific type of arthritis you have.

Factors that contribute to osteoarthritis include advanced age, bone deformity, muscle imbalances, obesity, sedentary living, and a family history of this condition. Other health problems—diabetes, Paget’s disease, underactive thyroid—may also increase your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition whose true cause is unknown. Like other autoimmune conditions, rheumatoid arthritis is a health problem in which your own immune system targets and attacks your healthy joint tissues.

Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by direct trauma or injury to your feet or ankles.

Common signs and symptoms associated with foot and ankle arthritis include:

  • Pain in your involved joint
  • Joint tenderness and stiffness
  • Decreased joint flexibility
  • Bone spurs
  • A grating sensation in your affected joint
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint deformity and instability


Foot and ankle arthritis cannot be cured, although many treatment methods, including conservative measures, may be beneficial in controlling your symptoms. Possible treatment techniques include:

  • Footwear modifications (wearing shoes that are wider in the toe box and less restrictive)
  • Correct Toes (to improve circulation, alignment, and flexibility of your toes)
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Lifestyle changes (exercise, diet, sleep, weight loss)
  • Chiropractic care
  • Physical therapy (hot/cold therapy, etc.)
  • Braces
  • Acupuncture
  • Nutritional supplementation

Speak with your podiatrist about all relevant treatment methods to help control your foot and ankle arthritis-related symptoms.


In his 18 years as a podiatrist, Dr. Ray McClanahan has learned that most foot problems can be corr...