What shoes should you wear if your feet hurt? How to reduce rheumatoid arthritis in the feet?

Yesterday, Donna asked me inside Rheumatoid Support what shoes should she wear? Her podiatrist is recommending doing arches inside some special shoes, and she’s looking at spending quite a lot of money with consultations and with inserts and all these sorts of things. This is what I responded to her, I wanted to share this same information with you so you can benefit as well.

Choosing The Right Shoes

Now what do you do about the shoes and how do we improve our feet? Well, this has been a passion topic of mine since I was diagnosed in 2006. It started in the feet, so at the time of recording 16 and a half years of experience with thinking about feet issues. And I at one point thought that I may never be able to walk barefoot on hard surfaces again. I was scared of walking on the tiles here at our house. I used to wonder if one day I’d never be able to walk on the tiles again barefoot, thinking about soft slippers, ugg boots and things like this over the years. So when Donna asked me which shoes should she buy, I was able to provide this response. So first of all, you don’t want to irritate the feet throughout the day whilst they’re not being engaged when you’re wearing shoes. And what I mean by that, is when you’ve got feet in shoes, you are not exercising your feet. The shoe surface because it is fixed against the foot, is not allowing your foot to go through any reasonable range of motion. So you can think of shoe-wearing as being completely inactive feet. And so if your elbow is swollen or your knee is swollen and during periods of inactivity during the day, you wouldn’t then press on it into that synovial, which is swollen or tender, and you wouldn’t deliberately or even want to accidentally bump into that area. Thus you would also therefore not want to irritate the tender metatarsals of your feet whilst they are inactive whilst they’re in your shoes.So I don’t think it matters too much what brand of shoe or whether or not there are insoles or not. Whilst your feet are in shoes, they’re inactive and you want to keep them protected from pain. That is rule number one. Okay.

Rule number two is, how do we actually improve the feet? How do we make it so that we are actually being able to use our feet through a proper range of motion and interestingly, improve the toe strength, which in turn helps our arches? So what we’ve got to do, first of all, and you’ve heard me talk about this before, is we need to do barefoot walking. If you think about the evolution of human, there were far many centuries when we were walking barefoot. Then the last period of time, perhaps since the maybe the 1950s, sixties or so, where we’ve started to use rubber style more fixed firm shoes. So we had we’ve probably over the course of evolution were done mostly barefoot and then into potentially some leather hide kind of soft, you know, sandal type of things that are very, very simple. Um, and when I was in Peru, Melissa and I were over there and we saw the footwear that’s used by the Sherpas, if you like, who assisted us to go through the Andes Mountains to climb Machu Picchu, and they’re all wearing like just a piece of the leather that’s wrapped underneath the bottom of the foot and around and tied at the top again with leather. These simple shoes allow a tremendous amount of movement through the foot. So the foot is able to experience a natural range of motion. And so barefoot walking is our number one way of achieving this. And I can hear you telling me right now, hey, it hurts to walk barefoot. We need to get out on really soft grass, long soft grass or short grass that is a little wet, a little boggy underfoot. And what this does is it enables you to get that natural range of motion through the metatarsals. If we don’t exercise the metatarsals, it’s silly to think that they’re ever going to improve. We need to get movement through the joints, all of the things that we all know, things like motion is lotion. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. All of these little catchy phrases, it’s all true. There is a really little bit of anti-inflammatory activity, very small bit of anti-inflammatory activity as a consequence of the release and the compression of the synovial fluid in every joint, which includes those little metal metatarsals. So if they aren’t being moved adequately, we cannot expect them to ever improve because the oxidative stress that is associated with the inflammation in the joint creates little nano levels, which is ten to the minus nine of destruction, to the joint tissue, the joint cartilage. If we’ve got this going on and this inflammation, oxidative stress, we have to clear that out.

Walking Barefoot

So first of all, got to move the joint, this is like no-brainer 101. A barefoot walk on the softest ground you can find every day for 5 minutes and then build up from there. Okay. Now, just doing that alone, as well as doing the Paddison Program and other systemic exercise or full-body exercise workouts, I was able to slowly increase the duration and the firmness of the barefoot walking that I was doing. And just a few days ago, for the first time, I want to say like, Oh gosh, I can’t even remember. I actually had a game of basketball barefoot on a piece of tarmac. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but I only had flip flops with me, with my son Aiden, and he really wanted to play. And so I took them off and we played for about 20 minutes. Now, as I said, it all wasn’t exactly like running him down, but the fact that I could do that and have no consequences on feet that have taken a lot of damage in 16 years. In the first like three, probably I was going to say three or more like five, five and a half, six years, something like that. I mean, those feet were in constant pain. That’s a lot of damage to little joints over that period of time. And they got inflamed again after my big oily meal setback several years ago in Florida. And so those two incidences really weighed heavily on my feet. But with osteoarthritic feet as a consequence of the inflammation over those two time periods, I was still able to the other day. Now I’m at a point where I can do that to play those little things barefoot on very, very uncomfortable surfaces with my boy and walking along footpaths barefoot, no problem now. But as I said, over the years, unimaginable or certainly on a wish list of things that I was visualizing and hoping to achieve in the future.

Improving The Range Of Motion

What else can we do? We can get our toes through a full range of motion when we have our shoes off. So sitting in front of the television or at your desk at home or even if you can kick your shoes off at work. Come on, your health is far more important than what may be one person who can see that your shoes are off under the desk thinks of you at work. The day you leave work, you’ll never see that person again. But you’ve got those feet for the rest of your life. It’s a huge priority to do these things as often as you can and just flex the toes back and squeeze them forward. Flex them back and squeeze them forward. And as long as you don’t feel real sharp pain in the forward or flexion squeeze of those toes or in the extension where you pull them back towards your knees, then do it over and over and over again. Keep them moving, keep them moving, keep them moving when they’re not softly protected in the shoes, stationary, essentially, until you can get the shoes off and exercise them again. Okay, You got it. Right.

Workout For Toes

There’s one more thing I want to share with you, and this is to work out your toes. Yes, you can work out your toes. There is a simple way to do it, which I’ll share first, and then there is a little bit more complicated way if the simple way becomes too easy. The simple way is to sit down with your legs outstretched in front of you and then just bend your knees back a little bit, reach forward with your index and middle finger and loop them around your big toe. Then you can do this with both toes at the same time. Pull back on the toes to about 80% of the maximum pullback. All right. Don’t take it all the way back so that you’re putting maximum stretch back towards you because we don’t know the state of inflammation in the metatarsals and it might not be as ideal. I now do that, I pull them right back and absolutely give it to them. But I didn’t do that when I first started doing this. So pull it back to about to 80% back as far as it can go. And then and this is where it gets, uh, it can get a little painful, but trust me on this. Then I want you to actually try and pull with your toes against the resistance. So that would feel like pushing sort of away from you with your big toes. When you do that, you might feel some pain in the metatarsals, right, Because what you have going on there is also tendinitis, and that’s what’s hurting when you do that. You’re not hurting the synovitis part of that joint pain. You’re hurting the tendons that are the connective tissue. Why? Because those tendons get caught up in the inflammation as well. So the soft tissue is inflamed because it’s damn weak. Right. And we got to get blood attention and strength going in those tendons. This is the most anti-inflammatory thing to do with connective tissue around all joints, not just the little metatarsals. So I want you to start to apply some pressure against your fingers and start to build up the strength in that big toe on both big toes. So that’s the priority.

Now, once you’ve done that for a little while and you start to get used to that, you might already start to feel a little bit of improvement in the feet and assess it in the morning when you get up and you take your first steps, think, was it as bad as yesterday or is it better? If you are comfortable with that and you want to go ahead, go ahead and do each of the other toes as well. It gets a little hard when you get to your pinky because that little toe at the end, it’s a little hard to grab and it’s not really involved much in the strength of the foot as you walk. And by that, I mean mostly the big and second toe do most of the downward pressure to propel you forward in terms of the toes. So that little pinky has very little strength, and I wouldn’t worry too much if you A don’t grip it very well because it’s little can’t get your fingers around it. That’s fine. And B, don’t have any strength in it whatsoever, again, that’s fine.

So what can this do? Well, I’ll before I talk about that, the final thing is if it’s hard for you because your fingers hurt to grab hold of the toes, then use a man or a female, but typically a man’s tie that is used around the neck and you can wrap it around and use a tie. I’ve never done that. I’ve never had to do that. But I thought that would be what I would do if I had to or something with very little elasticity. So you don’t want to use like a workout elastic band or something? I just, I think something a bit firmer. You’ll find something around the house to suffice if you haven’t got a tie that you can get your hands on. Okay.

What does the science say about doing that? The science shows that if you work out your toes like that, that you can improve your foot arch and of course improve the strength of the pressure that can be applied downward into the ground through those toes. This helps the foot overall, and by having stronger toes and a better foot arch, you’re going to rely less on experts in this area and you have taken back a little bit of the power and the control of your foot health. In doing so, because of the way the kinetic chain works in the leg, has probably thereby improved or reduced the risk factor of developing further knee problems, hip problems, and so on.

Okay, so let’s recap here. So we want to protect the feet when they’re not doing anything, just like we want to protect elbows and knees, hips, and shoulders when they’re not doing much by not irritating them, that means get really comfortable shoes, wear whatever you want and just keep them comfortable. But know that whilst you’re wearing shoes, you’ve got no therapeutic benefit to the feet. You’re not healing the feet and progression is the only outcome. So get the damn shoes off. Now, once the shoes are off, continue to be gentle with the feet and walk on the very soft grass on a regular basis. A lot of people ask me about sand. I never had much luck on sand. What happens when you walk on sand on the beach is that sometimes you will be on soft sand and it very quickly turns into hard sand. And hard sand, surprisingly, is still pretty darn hard. On the flip side, you could then come across some very soft sand. And then you’ve got your foot going in some very extreme lateral direction. If there is a slope in the sand or if you’ve stepped into someone else’s footprint, you can then end up really rolling into an ankle in particular or placing pressure on the knee. And I just don’t think that this is the number one approach for RA if you’ve got sore feet, I’d like to have everyone go on to soft grass. Everyone can find some soft grass around, even if it’s a patch and it’s only ten metres long. Go up and down the same grass up and down, up and down. It doesn’t have to be a long stroll if you’re starting out. Okay, so we need to do that then get the toes moving back and forth. When you’re sitting at your desk at work, don’t worry about people’s looks or the stench. I’m joking. I know you’ve got clean feet and you can then get some get lots of movement going through those little joints and then finally take it to the next level. And I think you should I want you to work out those toes. Start with the big toe. Get used to it. That alone for for a while, just to start to suss this out because if your feet are really inflamed, this can be a little uncomfortable. Just hold those holds for about 20 seconds and you only need to do it twice. That’s it, there’s your workout. It’s called an isometric workout, which simply means that there’s no movement isometric, right? So single, I guess metric means like measured position or something but that’s what it is. So hold, hold, hold, 20 seconds, and then you’re good twice a day.

The way that this scales even further. And I kind of didn’t plan to share this with you because this might be a little beyond most folks if you have painful feet. But this is the progression. If you absolutely nail this and you say, Clint, give me everything you got, I’m up for it. Okay? This is the progression. The progression is to put you the upper body, lean it on top of something such as the, um, a bed. So you’re from your hips to your chest, everything’s on top of the bed, but your legs are extended out behind you. And then what you do is you ever so carefully bend the toes backwards so that the ball of the feet, the metatarsals are off the ground, and all of your weight is taken through the toes. Okay, So all of your weight of the hips down through the toes, which is just the legs, right? That weight is taken through the toes and you just allow the pressure to go down through those toes and you carefully push down against the floor, which needs to be carpeted, soft floor, carpet. And if you do that, you work out all your toes at the same time, and the whole process is like to set to 20 seconds, you need done 40 seconds, the whole thing’s done. And I used to do that at bed at night, and it was in fact doing that at I actually, the version I was doing originally was a plank. You know, a plank that you’ll see people at the gym and they’ll be on their elbows and then they’ll have their toes touching? So forearms and elbows and toes are the only things that are touching with a fixed board like torso and rest of the body. And I found by doing the planks that it was a tremendous help for my toes at night before bed. And then I started to experiment with that now I’m I’m not recommending you do the planks. It might just be a bit too much, but take your body weight onto the bed to do this, and you might find that that’s effective. I’ve done that many, many times since because some nights I don’t feel like doing planks before, but so I kind of cheat it and just do my toes that way instead.

I hope you found that helpful and let me know how you go. And if you like this episode, could you go ahead now and head over to iTunes and give us a review? Five stars, if you like this episode and write a few nice things so that other people can learn how to maximize their health and minimize their disease symptoms. I hope this serves you. I hope it wasn’t too long. I know I could have done it quicker, but sometimes when I talk about this, I want to try and cover everything I can so that I don’t leave out one thing because over the years I’ve found that you need to know absolutely everything on a topic to be able to make progress with this disease. And so for the few people who sometimes tell me that I repeat myself a little bit too much, I apologize. And for the rest of you who appreciate me digging into every possible detail, I can recall, then that one’s for you. Thanks very much for listening. Bye for now.


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  1. As usual, very helpful info from someone who has been down the path of experience. Will definitely start more barefoot walking on my little grass patch outside the back door.
    THX for all yr insights & eventually i might be able to do those planks that i used to be able to do years ago, but which are currently too painful, something to work towards.
    thx again.
    Annette L

  2. Very helpful information and a reminder to exercise the toes, I will walk around the living room on my padded carpet without my shoes. Some of my toes have overlap on each other but I will definitely pay more attention to exercising the toes. Thank you!

  3. Always helpful information, Clint! I’m going to begin exercising my toes. I wasn’t aware of this before. Thank you!

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