The UK could be facing an arthritis crisis, with inadequate footwear being a contributing factor, according to new research released by The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to mark its annual foot health awareness month in June – Feet for Life month.
Arthritis rates are increasing due to the ageing population and rising obesity levels. Osteoarthritis, which is the most common form, is caused by stress to the cartilage in the joints and can result from injury or from general wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is particularly common in feet as the many small joints bear the brunt of the stresses and strains that the body experiences. Foot experts are warning that many people are putting themselves at increased risk by wearing poor footwear and that people are missing out on vital treatment due to arthritis in the feet being fundamentally neglected.
New research from The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists revealed that a significant proportion of both men and women are putting themselves at risk by wearing inadequate sports shoes which do not provide the right mechanical assistance for the foot. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) confess to not wearing sports shoes designed for the sport or fitness activity they participate in, running the risk of increased stresses and strains and ultimately of developing injury and arthritis. A quarter of UK women also admit to wearing high heeled shoes on a daily or frequent basis. Wearing high heeled shoes alters the body’s posture and increases pressure on the foot, ankle and knee joints. If worn frequently, this can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
A lack of awareness also means that people are not seeking treatment for arthritis, with over a third (36 per cent) admitting to not knowing much about the condition. More than one in five people (22 per cent) still think that arthritis is an inevitable part of getting older which you cannot do anything about – a view long debunked by experts. 65 per cent of people in the UK state they have experienced some form of stiffness or pain in their lower body and feet, however, only half chose to seek professional advice in response to their symptoms, highlighting the lack of available information and poor access to care.
Professor Anthony Redmond, a podiatrist and arthritis researcher from The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists said: “Although you are more likely to develop arthritis as you get older, it can occur at any age and the good news is that there are simple things you can do to help prevent and treat arthritis. Choosing the right footwear will help minimise the stress placed on the feet and joints during everyday activity and helps reduce the risk of injury and joint damage. For daily wear, the recommendation is to opt for a round toed shoe with a heel height of no more than 2-3cm and with a shock absorbent sole to help minimise shock to the joints. “
Professor Redmond continued: “When doing exercise, wearing trainers that are fitted and designed specifically for that form of exercise will both improve performance and protect from injury. Those who wear trainers that are not designed for sporting activity are placing themselves at real risk. With forces through the joints exceeding eight times the body weight during some sports, the importance of matching the right footwear to the activity cannot be overstated.”
“If you do experience frequent pain in your feet or ankles, don’t ignore it as something can always be done. Some forms of arthritis start first in the feet and early treatment is vital to achieving the best long term outcome.”