Foot Arthritis

Arthritis, or inflammation of and around a joint, can be a painful condition and can limit one’s ability to walk, exercise, and perform activities. As the inflammation continues, there may be restricted mobility and limited quality of life. Arthritis can begin at a young age and can progress, causing increasing pain and breaking down of a joint in the foot over time. Although there are many joints in the foot and they all can become arthritic, the more commonly affected joint is the great toe joint. When this joint is affected, all activities from walking to running become painful and difficult.

There are various types of arthritis in the foot. These include:

  • Osteoarthritis: also known as degenerative arthritis or “wear-and-tear” arthritis
  • Post-traumatic arthritis
  • Inflammatory arthritis: can be due to systemic autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and other conditions
  • Infective arthritis


  • Pain with motion and activity
  • Tenderness with palpation of the affected joint
  • Joint swelling, warmth, redness
  • Increased pain and swelling in the morning and after sitting or resting
  • Difficulty with walking

X-rays will be the main imaging modality for evaluating arthritis of the foot. Advanced imaging is occasionally necessary, such as an MRI or CT for more in-depth evaluation. In addition, laboratory work may be ordered to rule-out various systemic conditions


  • Activity modifications
  • Shoe gear modifications
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Orthotics and bracing
  • Immobilization
  • Stretching
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery

Surgery varies depending on the specific condition, the location and extent of arthritis, as well as overall lifestyle. Procedures range from debridement, or “cleaning up” of the joint, to procedures to increase the joint space, to joint fusion or joint replacement. This decision can only be made after a thorough history and physical examination. Recovery also varies depending on the specific procedure. The goal of any surgery is to reduce deformity, reduce pain, and improve overall quality of life.

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