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.