Both arthritis and foot pain are major public health problems. Approximately 24% of adults have foot ailments, and the prevalence increases with age. Foot pain, particularly related to shoes, footwear and rheumatic disorders, may be an important modifiable factor. Surprisingly, this topic has received little attention in the rheumatology community.

Despite the major focus of structure and alignment in arthritis, remarkably little work has focused on the foot and nonsurgical foot interventions that might affect lower extremity joint alignment, structure and pain in rheumatic diseases. Emerging research suggests that there may be a significant role for foot orthotics and footwear in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis of the hip, knee and foot. This review highlights the current understanding on the topic of foot orthotics and footwear in adults with rheumatic diseases.

Biomechanical evidence indicates that foot orthotics and specialized footwear may change muscle activation and gait patterns to reduce joint loading. Emerging evidence suggests that orthotics, specific shoe types and footwear interventions may provide an effective nonsurgical intervention in rheumatic diseases. Yet good data are sparse, and it is premature to recommend guidelines. As there are a limited number of studies that underpin the foot's role in arthritis cause and progression, clinical trials and prospective studies are of utmost importance to unravel the links between foot pain, foot conditions and interventions that lessen the impact of rheumatic diseases.

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