There are upwards of 100 forms of arthritis, and in the U.S., an astonishing 23% of adults struggle with the condition.¹ Characterized by inflammation, pain, and swelling throughout the joints and nearby soft tissue, arthritis often affects the feet, big toe joints, ankles, and knees. Some of the most common types affecting the lower extremities include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. For more information on what gout feels like or how to prevent gout, visit Vionic today. Learn more about how the proper footwear and even the right pair of comfortable sandals can impact your recovery below.
As you can imagine, arthritis in the feet, ankles, toes, and knees can have a major impact on a person’s mobility. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 60% of individuals with arthritis are of working age.¹ Since the condition can make it difficult to move around, stand for hours, and climb stairs, it’s one of the leading causes of work disability.¹
If you or a loved one are suffering from chronically inflamed arthritic joints, you might be wondering, is walking good for arthritis in the feet? While it may sound counterintuitive since the condition can limit mobility, walking can actually be immensely beneficial for managing arthritis and reducing uncomfortable arthritis symptoms in feet.
Why is walking good for arthritis, and what’s the best way to start a routine when it hurts to move? The team at Vionic encourages you to speak with a doctor before beginning any type of therapeutic exercise regime, but we’re here to offer answers to these questions and helpful guidance for walking with arthritis.
Why Is Walking Good for Arthritis?
Arthritis slowly eliminates the soft, smooth cartilage that cushions the joints. This causes the bones to begin rubbing against each other and eventually wears them down. The process can be incredibly painful—especially when moving around—and over time, the joints may no longer function like they used to.
It’s normal to avoid actions that aggravate a painful condition or make it feel worse, which is why lots of folks with inflammatory arthritis in the feet tend to forgo exercise. Though this makes sense on a logical level, a lack of physical activity could actually make the condition worse. According to a report by Harvard Health Publishing, walking regularly can alleviate arthritis foot pain and potentially improve other arthritis symptoms.²
What’s more, a review of the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease program concluded that daily walks are one of the best ways to manage arthritis symptoms. After six weeks, participants reported reduced arthritic pain, stiffness, and fatigue. And after one year of consistent walking, the benefits remained.³
Walking is a relatively low-impact form of exercise, which is crucial for arthritis. Cycling, swimming, and water aerobics are also great low-impact workouts, as they don’t put a lot of pressure on the hips, knees, and ankles.
The Importance of Staying Active
Most people know regular exercise is beneficial, yet unfortunately, lots of folks still struggle to keep up with a routine. A national CDC survey found that more than half of individuals with arthritis don’t walk at all for fitness, and around two-thirds walk fewer than 90 minutes a week.⁴ About 150 minutes a week (or roughly 20 minutes a day) is recommended for most people, including those with arthritis.
The benefits of daily walks include:
- Strengthened muscles and ligaments surrounding the joints
- Improved and maintained bone strength
- Improved balance
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Maintained mobility
- Reduced joint pain and stiffness
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased energy levels, endurance, and stamina
- Weight loss and management
- Better sleep
- Enhanced quality of life
Not only is exercise good for arthritis in the feet, but lack of physical activity can actually make arthritic pain, stiffness, and other symptoms worse.⁵
The Proactive Approach to Arthritis
If you’re not used to walking regularly, taking a long stroll may be painful. However, avoiding physical activity altogether can weaken the supporting muscles surrounding your joints and ultimately create more strain.
While arthritis pain and stiffness can create a barrier to fitness, there’s a good chance these very symptoms will improve with a regular routine. Further, walking regularly is considered a proactive approach to managing the symptoms of arthritis and preventing the condition from worsening.
All that said, it’s vital to start slow and work your way up to 20 or more minutes a day. This will allow you to build up muscle strength and stamina while helping you avoid debilitating pain or potential injury.
Creating a Walking Routine for Arthritis
Anyone looking for at-home remedies for foot arthritis should consider a walking routine. We recommend checking in with a healthcare provider before implementing a regime. A doctor or physical therapist can help you create a custom routine.
That said, arthritis experts have developed a few excellent CDC-approved programs available to virtually everyone.⁶ This includes the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease, Exercise, and Aquatics programs, along with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Fit and Strong! Program, and the Cooper Institute’s group-based Active Living Every Day (ALED) program.
The FIT Formula for Arthritis
The FIT formula can be helpful when creating a walking routine for arthritis in the feet.⁷ The acronym stands for Frequency (how often you walk), Intensity (how fast you walk), and Time (how long you walk).
Generally speaking, it’s best to start small and slowly increase your levels. This means you won’t walk daily at first—maybe two or three times a week for the first month or two, then adding an additional day every month until you reach daily walks.
Additionally, you should walk at a comfortable pace until you build muscle and cardiovascular strength. Lastly, you’ll want to walk only a few minutes each session at first and increase your time by a minute or two each week. (Instead of measuring time, you can also use a step counter.)
Check with a Healthcare Provider
As we mentioned, it’s always best to chat with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise plan. While daily walks are beneficial for most individuals with arthritis, the condition and its many forms affect people very differently. Your physician or physical therapist can collaborate with you on a fitness program that suits your unique needs.
The Best Shoes for Arthritis in the Feet
Proper footwear is a crucial component of any walking routine. If you have osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, or another form of arthritis affecting your feet, you should definitely consider orthotic shoes.
The podiatrist-designed styles from Vionic feature expertly engineered orthotics built right into the footbeds. This means each pair offers ample arch support and stability while promoting natural alignment and a healthy stride.
In addition to foot arthritis and ankle arthritis, Vionic shoes can help relieve discomforts associated with plantar fasciitis (heel pain), Morton’s neuroma, and overpronation. From comfortable sandals and work shoes to trainers and casual sneakers, we have it all.
Shop our men’s and women’s supportive footwear collections today!
- “How CDC Improves Quality of Life for People With Arthritis”. CDC.https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm
- Patrick J. Skerrett. “Exercise is good, not bad, for arthritis”. Harvard health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/exercise-is-good-not-bad-for-arthritis-201305086202
- Wyatt, Brooke et al. “Impact of the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease Program on arthritis symptoms in African Americans.” Preventing chronic disease vol. 11 E199. 13 Nov. 2014, doi:10.5888/pcd11.140147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4232333/
- “State-Specific Prevalence of Walking Among Adults with Arthritis — United States, 2011”. CDC. May 3, 2012, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6217a3.htm?s_cid=mm6217a3_w
- “Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness”. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971
- “Physical Activity Programs”. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/interventions/physical-activity.html
- “Building a Walking Workout”. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/walking/building-a-walking-workout
- Hootman, Jennifer M et al. “A public health approach to addressing arthritis in older adults: the most common cause of disability.” American journal of public health vol. 102,3 (2012): 426-33. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300423 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3487631/