The dominant symptom of an arthritic foot is pain with a steadily decreasing ability to walk. Other symptoms include stiffness, visual deformity, or all of the above.

The term “arthritic foot” actually encompasses a multitude of foot-related symptoms.

Throughout the course of becoming arthritic, the feet can exhibit a range of conditions that include bunions, hallux valgus, hammer toes, splay, pronation, and corns or calluses.

In addition, a sequence of symptom phases occur that can include plantar fasciitis, pins and needles, and burning or achy feet.
Simply put, an arthritic foot is one outcome of an uncorrected, maladapted neuromuscularly dysfunctional foot.

What causes an arthritic foot?

Early-phase, maladapted foot function is primarily caused by the long-term use of footwear, especially footwear that restricts or interferes with the foot’s natural, optimal dynamic movement.

As the maladapted function becomes more dysfunctional over time, the foot’s soft tissue and bone structures become increasingly incapable of managing the forces imposed on them by day-to-day activities.

This results in an escalation of damaging stresses that cause the cascade of arthritic-related tissue damage, inflammation, stiffness, and degeneration.

Arthritic Foot

For proper function, our feet require the Right Stimulus and the Right Movement.

Right Stimulus consists of the subtle varied stimulus that the soles of our feet receive when we walk, especially when we walk barefoot on natural terrain. With each step, there are subtly different sensations.

These subtle differences in stimulus keep our brain on high alert so that our body’s protective reflexes function properly with optimal muscle function.

When our brain is uncertain about what will happen, it triggers protective reflex muscle activations that support our arches before our feet contact the ground to ensure that our feet and legs can safely manage the forces generated by the activity intensity of our bodies.

As activity-related stimulus intensifies, a progressively higher arch is created. That is why, when they are functioning properly, our arches and toes rise and fall dynamically in response to the varying activity stimulus intensities. This uninhibited dynamic movement is Right Movement.

Right Stimulus and Right Movement prevent the maladapted foot function that contributes to the damaging stresses that cause arthritic foot problems.

Right Stimulus
Soft Cushy Insole

Conventional footwear impairs optimal foot function in two ways:

First, most conventional footwear dampens Right Stimulus.

This is particularly true for shoes or insoles that support or cushion our feet. They spread the forces evenly across the soles of our feet, creating sensory input that is muted and repetitive, step after step. Within a short period of time, our brain tunes out the stimulus and stops responding to it.

As a result, our brain doesn’t sufficiently activate the muscles that stabilize our arches and properly align our feet, legs, hips, and lower back before our feet contact the ground. This “tuned-out” brain response is natural and happens all the time. For example, the same thing happens when we walk into a room and first smell coffee that we no longer notice after only a few minutes.

Second, most conventional footwear, especially footwear that’s tightly laced, has snug toe boxes or stiff midsoles or outsoles, restricts the Right Movement dynamic raising of the arches and toes that is critical in the creation of a strong stable arch system and healthy linear propulsion with the toe off forces spread across the forefoot.

Impaired Right Stimulus and Right Movement increase the strain and damaging stresses related to the arthritic foot.

Conventional treatment methods for arthritic foot include:

  • Medication and topical creams
  • Supportive products such as orthotics
  • Ice or electro-therapy
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Surgery
Arthritic Foot

While these methods may temporarily alleviate symptoms, they do not address the poor neuromuscular function that is the cause of the problem. In fact, the more we artificially support or cushion our feet, the weaker and the more dependent we become on these types of products.

These “old school” support and cushioning treatment methods are not recommended in any other area of musculoskeletal medicine as a viable long-term treatment option.
In fact, modern treatment methods for poor neuromuscular function focus on increasing mobility, muscle strength, and proper alignment via Proper Technique exercise, which requires both Right Stimulus and Right Movement. Science has shown that simply challenging the body to “do its job” is the best way to restore and enhance function.

This principle is the foundation for virtually all of today’s sports training/rehabilitation programs.

Recommendations to address the poor neuromuscular function that causes arthritic foot and prevents it from reoccurring:

  • Walking barefoot on natural terrain as much as possible. This provides the optimal Right Stimulus and allows for the Right Movement required for healthy neuromuscular function.
  • To obtain Right Stimulus in your conventional footwear, use BioPods® Stimsoles® and, for best results, use them in loosely laced, soft, flexible footwear that allows your arches and toes to rise easily.
  • Consult with your healthcare practitioner to ask about employing soft tissue mobilization therapies to address the fibrotic scar tissue that may have formed, prior to using BioPods products.