What is Osteoarthritis In the Foot?

Arthritis is the inflammation of joints and can impact the small joints and surrounding tissue of the foot and ankle, making it challenging to move without pain. The joints of the feet enable a wide range of movement and are often surrounded by cartilage, which helps bones glide smoothly over one another when a person moves. Arthritis cannot be cured, however there are many options available to treat the symptoms and slow its progress to reduce pain. There are many types of arthritis which can impact the foot and ankle. Two common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is a degenerative condition often experienced by middle-aged people. The cartilage in the joint disintegrates over time, becoming rough and minimising the protective space between the bones. As a result, the bones may rub together which causes the joint to become painful and inflamed.

In the foot, osteoarthritis most frequently impacts the big toe, although it occasionally occurs in the midfoot and ankle.


The below are common causes of osteoarthritis:

  • Obesity and a family history of the condition.
  • An injury can lead to osteoarthritis in 15% of cases – such as kicking or jamming the big toe, dropping something on the midfoot, or a fracture of the ankle. This is called post-traumatic arthritis.
  • Atypical foot mechanics – flat feet or high arches which cause strain on the joints.
  • A single macro trauma

Osteoarthritis In the Foot Symptoms

The condition develops gradually and results in pain and stiffness to the area that gets worse over time. People with osteoarthritis will usually find it difficult to walk, bear weight or bend the joint without pain. Bone spurs can also develop as a result of osteoarthritis.


Dan Everson Podiatry can diagnose osteoarthritis through history taking, a physical examination of the foot and ankle and a Biomechanical Assessment to study your range of movement, look for swelling in the joint and pain experienced through movement. An X-ray, MRI or CT scan may also be recommended to evaluate the stage of the illness.

Osteoarthritis In the Foot Treatment

Your podiatrist will typically suggest one or more of the following treatment methods:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Kinetic Orthotics may be prescribed to help the foot move more freely or for cushioning support to provide pain reduction.
  • Weight loss may be recommended for overweight patients.
  • Shoe modification.
  • A foot brace to protect the foot from movement and support the joint can reduce pain during walking and help prevent disfiguration.
  • A cast to restrict movement while the inflammation improves.
  • Your podiatrist can recommend certain exercises to strengthen and stabilise the area, and minimise risk of injury.
  • Surgery may be recommended in some cases with osteoarthritis has progressed to an advanced stage or when other forms of treatment have not improved the condition.


Dan Everson Podiatry recommends the following activities to prevent osteoarthritis in the foot and ankle.

  • Control your weight to lessen the strain on the joints.
  • Avoid foot and ankle injuries by wearing appropriate shoes, avoiding hard surfaces when exercising and landing with knees bent.
  • Treat any joint injuries as quickly as possible.
  • Keep joints moving
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