Orthotics for RA

Autoimmune arthritis attacks everywhere, including the feet.  Fortunately, there is help.

While I’m not overly enthusiastic about putting together a team of a zillion specialists to help treat this disease, I have been very happy with my podiatrist.  When I checked in for my first appointment, in addition to handing over a check for my co-pay, I also gave the receptionist the results of tests that had been done on my feet:

Before the doctor walked into the exam room, he already had pretty good background and didn’t need to order additional tests and could get right to work on developing a treatment plan.

First I tried basic PT exercises that work for plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.  These exercises helped tremendously, but not enough.

Next the podiatrist sent me to a specialty store for OTC orthotics (OTC but can’t be obtained without a doctor’s note – I never did figure that one out).  They cost around $40.  Unfortunately, they were incredibly uncomfortable.  They also slid all over in my shoes, rendering them useless.  Here’s what they look like:

Nobody told me that orthotics have to be broken in.  I wonder if these would have worked for me if I’d known that.  Only wear them for an hour the first day.  The second day, wear them two hours.  Gradually increase the time, and with a few weeks you’ll be wearing them full-time.  I didn’t know that, and the orthotics hurt my feet.

Next the podiatrist measured my feet for custom orthotics.  He has a special pad on his floor that’s connected to a computer.  I stood on the pad so the computer could measure my feet, then I walked across the pad so that the computer could measure the way I distribute my weight when I walk.  It’s fascinating technology.

The orthotics came from a company in Canada and arrived in two or three weeks.  Support-wise, they are very similar to the pair pictured above.  They look different, though.  Aside from being custom-formed to my feet (they fit like a glove), they are covered with a long, thin pad to provide some cushion and keep the orthotics in place.  No more sliding around in my shoes.  Here they are (I have the full-length option).

After the custom orthotics arrived, I took them (brand new, in their packaging) to a specialty shoe store and asked for shoes that my orthotics would fit (story about that here).  I bought those shoes in November of 2009 and I’m happy to report that they’re lasting quite nicely, which makes it easier to have spent so much money on shoes.

One drawback has been having to move the orthotics from one pair of shoes to the other, so this fall I bought a second pair.  The podiatrist re-measured my feet and sent off for the new orthotics.  These are from a different Canadian company, but as far as I can tell, they’re just like the previous pair.  I keep my new orthotics in my tennis shoes, and the old pair switch back and forth between my Naots.

If I walk around barefoot, my feet hurt within ten minutes.  If I wear my shoes/orthotics, the foot pain is down to a barely noticeable level.

Custom orthotics cost $400.  In my opinion, they are worth every penny.

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Edit to add:  My mother has a different type of orthotic, more like molded cork/foam. She hates them.

Comfortable Shoes

My favorite heelsI never knew I could do an entire post about shoes.  Three seems excessive, yet here I am talking about shoes once again.

To find shoes that would work with my orthotics, I really wasn’t sure what to do.  I like on-line prices, but my feet have always been difficult to fit so buying shoes that I’d never had a chance to try on seemed a bit risky.  Bouncing blindly from one store to the next is not something that I have the time, energy, or inclination to do.

Looking for a little direction, I phoned my podiatrist’s office and asked if they had any recommendations.  Armed with the name of an appropriate shoe store, I set out.  Replacing all of my twenty-one pair of shoes is far beyond my budget, but I hoped to get:

  • a pair of black shoes that can be worn to next month’s semi-formal Christmas parties
  • a pair of dress/casual neutral brown shoes to go with most of my skirts
  • a pair of tennis shoes for everyday wear

Surf Peacock Patent Peacock LeatherBlack:  The store had enough shoes that I had a choice.  $260 was the price tag on the black pair I liked best.  Not in my price range, so I chose the least expensive pair that fit well.  That style also comes in what looked to be purple.  I didn’t get them, but it was exciting to find something reasonably attractive that wouldn’t make my feet hurt worse.

Running shoes:  I just purchased the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever owned.  My foot wouldn’t fit in the first three pair that were brought out (even though the salesman had measured my foot).  Turns out I needed a double-E.  They are the most comfortable tennis shoes I have ever owned.  At this price, they better last a good long time.

Primrose Toffee with Crinkle Wine PatentBrown:  There was one particular pair of shoes that I liked best.  They’re not as chunky as the picture makes them look.  Unfortunately, the store did not have my size in stock.  They had my size in a different color (burgundy), so I was able to see how they fit.  At that point the salesman got really pushy and tried to convince me that “red” can be worn with anything.  No.  I wore brown slacks to ensure that I would purchase the right shade of brown.  The burgundy shoes were great, but would not go with anything I own.

If the salesman had stopped at that point, she could have ordered a brown pair in the style that I liked and shipped them to me.  She blew it when she brought out two pair of shoes that I’d already said I didn’t like.  Followed by something that looked like a brown tennis shoe.  Followed by a cute pair of shoes that comes only in blue.  I reminded her that I was looking for a brown shoe that I could wear with dresses.  Desperate for a sale, she then showed me a $285 pair of burgundy Mary-Janes.  No.

Thanks to Wren‘s suggestion last week, I knew about FootSmart‘s online store.  Now I have a specific brand name of a shoe that I know fits me well, so I’ve been able to come up with a few other sources (obviously I haven’t done business with these companies yet).  The brown shoes I want were $169 at the shoe store; online prices show below:

It was great to have people who knew what they were doing look at my orthotics, measure my foot, and help me find shoes that will work for me.  I was willing to buy my shoes at the store to compensate the salesman for the work that was put into it.  Now, however, I can get future shoes from the comfort of my own home!

Edit: Forgot the disclaimer.  I have not been paid to express my opinion about these shoes or the online shoe sources (or anything else on this site).  However, I would be happy to test-drive shoes and express my opinion if any shoe distributors want to send me free samples.

Wednesday Weirdness

Previous post brought to you courtesy of Tuesday night mtx.  Gotta remember not to post on Wednesday mornings!  I’m no longer experiencing any nausea from the methotrexate, so I feel like I’m doing okay (more than okay; I feel tons better than a year ago).  However, my thinking sure seems strange – not at the time, just later when I go back and look at things I’ve written.  According to my children, it’s not restricted to my writing.

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As you may have deduced (if the previous post made any sense at all), my custom orthotics arrived.  There was a message on my answering machine when I got home from spending six hours in town, “You can pick them up any time.”  sigh  Had the podiatrist dialed my cell number instead of the house, I could have included that errand in one of my many stops instead of needing to make a second trip and disrupting another day.

They look comfortable.  They feel terrific when  I hold them up to my feet.  Unfortunately they won’t fit my shoes until I trim the foam – which I hesitate to do since my shoes need to be replaced.  For now, the orthotics are out in my husband’s woodworking shop where their off-gassing can mingle with the smell of varnish without asphixiating everyone in the house.

As to replacing my shoes, my podiatrist recommended a couple different shoe stores.  These places carry quality products and employee people who are knowledgable about how to fit “feet like mine.”  The shoes are obviously going to cost more than what I’m accustomed to finding on the clearance rack at WalMart!  But not as much as attending shoe school.

I am looking forward to new shoes and feet that don’t hurt.

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Any tips on shoes you especially like or dislike?