Gout is a common ailment that affects about 9.2 million people in the United States alone.1 If you count yourself as one of them, rest assured that there are plenty of ways to manage gout during and between flare-ups.
But you might be wondering: what causes gout in feet?
Whether you’re currently managing a gout flare-up or you’re simply interested in what you can do to prevent it proactively, knowing what causes this condition and some smart choices you can make around it is the springboard to success.
What Is Gout?
If you’re wondering, “why do my feet hurt” or “why are my feet swollen?” One underlying cause might be gout. It is a type of arthritis that can affect any joint in the body but most often plagues the joints in the big toe.2 The condition is characterized by regular or occasional symptoms of gout flares or “attacks” that tend to occur at night.
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis, so if you’re familiar with the feeling of arthritis in other areas of your body, gout may feel similar. The inflammation tends to take place in specific areas like your feet.
When you have a gout attack in your feet, the following symptoms, though they may vary in severity, are likely to manifest in your big toe:2
But the most prominent symptom of a gout attack is sudden pain in the afflicted joint. The gout pain can feel like it comes out of nowhere and might even steer you toward the closest chair to sit on until it passes.
Gout attacks generally happen at night, and the symptoms can persist for up to two weeks. Gout patients often remain symptom-free between episodes, although lingering pain and discomfort can occur.
How Gout Forms in the Body
Gout in feet begins with a common chemical compound known as a purine. Purines are essential tools that the body uses to form DNA and RNA molecules.
The body produces most of the purines it needs on its own and stores them directly in cells. These are known as endogenous purines, and they account for about two-thirds of all of the body’s purines. Other purines, known as exogenous purines, enter the body through food.3
When the body metabolizes both types of purines, it produces a waste product called uric acid. Your body doesn’t really need uric acid, so it quickly funnels it toward the kidneys and flushes it out.
But in some cases, the levels of uric acid can become elevated. This generally happens, as a result, of:4
- A surplus supply of purines in the body
- Inefficient disposal of uric acid by the kidneys
Elevated urate levels, in turn, can lead to a condition known as hyperuricemia, which is when that excess uric acid hardens into tiny urate crystals.5 Urate crystals tend to settle in one of two places: your kidneys, causing kidney stones, or in the joints of the body, such as your big toe, which causes gout in feet.
Risk Factors for Developing Gout
Anyone can develop gout, but there are a number of factors that can increase your risk.
For example, gout is more common among men, who are three times as likely as women to develop it. They’re also more likely to develop it at a younger age, likely because men tend to have higher levels of uric acid in their blood.4
That said, a range of medical conditions can also contribute to hyperuricemia that causes gout. Those conditions can include:4
- Congestive heart failure
- Kidney disease
You may also be more susceptible to developing gout if there’s a history of the condition in your family. Consuming foods and beverages that are high in purines can also contribute, as can certain medications, such as diuretics and immunosuppressants.4
Lowering Your Risk of Gout
If you’re in a high-risk group or you’re merely concerned about developing gout, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk. Essentially, it comes down to making wise and healthy lifestyle choices that make it easy for your body to maintain balanced uric acid levels.
As mentioned above, uric acid is produced when the body metabolizes purines. Your body will always make its own endogenous purines, but you are in charge of the number of exogenous purines you introduce into your system.
You may be able to decrease your risk of developing gout by limiting foods that are known to be rich in purines, such as:2
- Red meat
- Organ meat
- Animal protein
You should also limit your consumption of food and beverages that include fructose. Likewise, alcoholic drinks, including beer, are known to be purine-heavy.
Although there is no permanent cure for gout, many treatments are available to help you manage the symptoms and reduce the occurrence of flare-ups. You can also do several things to alleviate symptoms during an attack.
Talk to your Doctor About Medications
When you’re diagnosed with gout, your healthcare provider may decide to put you on medication. Medications are typically used to address two gout-related areas:2
- Uric acid levels – Often, people with gout are prescribed medications that help keep their uric acid levels balanced. Talk to your healthcare provider about these options.
- Gout symptoms – Other medications are focused on treating the symptoms of a gout attack. These medicines target symptoms like inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Avoid Sugar, Alcohol, and Extra Movement
During a gout attack, it’s important to abstain from consuming sweet drinks like sodas and juices, as well as alcoholic beverages. These will only raise uric acid levels and aggravate your symptoms.
To manage the foot pain associated with a gout attack in your feet, you can:2
- Place ice on your toe
- Elevate your toe
- Swap sugary drinks for water
- Trade alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic cocktails
- Avoid excessive walking or standing
Wear Comfortable, Supportive Shoes
Additionally, the right pair of shoes may help you get around easier while you’re waiting for your gout symptoms to subside. For people with gout, the best shoes are supportive, comfortable, and have features that help you control your range of motion.6
That means avoiding shoes like high heels, plastic clogs, and flip-flops. Instead, go for the following styles:
- Active sneakers
- Walking shoes
- Orthopedic shoes
Our selection at Vionic offers an incredible array of stylish shoes with cushioning support for gout pain. We carry athletic shoes, slippers, and insoles to personalize your footwear experience to what feels best in your lifestyle.
Determining if You Have Gout
Gout is a treatable condition, so if you experience the symptoms of an attack, you should discuss the issue with your healthcare provider. They’ll perform an examination, discuss your symptoms, and rule out other joint conditions.
How Gout Is Diagnosed
Healthcare providers rely on a range of tests and procedures to diagnose gout. A personal description of your symptoms and an exam are two ways, but your provider may also take a blood sample to measure your uric acid level.
Doctors may also use ultrasounds, MRIs, or X-Rays to get a closer look at the joint. In some cases, they may extract a small amount of fluid from the joint and examine it under a microscope for urate crystal deposits.2
If a diagnosis is made, your provider will go over your treatment options and may offer suggestions for extra-medicinal ways of managing your symptoms.
The Importance of Care
It’s important to remember that gout won’t go away on its own. Medical attention is the best way to prevent the long-term effects of gout. Seeking treatment for gout can help reduce the chance of the condition developing into:2
- Other forms of arthritis
- Kidney stones
- Heart disease
The bottom line: To manage and relieve gout in feet, partner your medical advice with a healthy diet and a reliable pair of shoes to live comfortably and maintain proactive foot health. Finding a pair (or two) of supportive footwear can set you ahead when a gout flare-up comes your way.
Vionic: Where Caring Comfort Meets Style
Gout attacks usually come at night, but the foot pain and discomfort can last for weeks after a gout flare-up. If you’re living with gout, you need shoes that are prepared to soothe your joints when symptoms arise.
In other words, you need Vionic.
At Vionic, we believe that the shoes you wear should support not only your feet but your entire well-being. That’s why we developed our patented Vio Motion Technology for shoes that offer incredible arch support, cloud-soft cushioning, and unbeatable stability in every step.
We walk great lengths to ensure our shoes look as good as they make you feel. Our shoes for men and women are available in the latest styles so that you never have to sacrifice your sense of fashion for the sake of comfort.
Are you ready to experience the Vionic difference? Start shopping today.
- Yip, Kevin et al. “What Is Gout?” JAMA Patient Page. 28 December, 2021. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2787544#
- “Gout.” Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4755-gout#management-and-treatment
- Frank, Judith. “What Are Purines?” Arthritis-Health.com. Updated 28 September, 2020.https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/gout/what-are-purines
- “Gout.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897
- “High Uric Acid Levels.” Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17808-high-uric-acid-level
- “Shoes for Gout: What Is the Best Footwear If I Have Gout in My Feet?” Mitigare.com. https://www.mitigare.com/blog/shoes-for-gout-what-is-the-best-footwear-if-i-have-gout-in-my-feet/