Did you know that over half of people in their 60s and 70s have pain from arthritis in feet? What causes this condition and, more importantly, what treatments can you try today to find relief?

What causes arthritis in feet? 

The feet are a complex structure in your body. They house not only muscles and ligaments, but also over 28 bones and more than 30 joints that allow you to have a full range of motion. Your feet provide:

  • Shock absorption
  • Balance
  • Support
  • Help with general movement

Unfortunately, as we age, those 30 joints in the feet that have served us so well are highly susceptible to arthritis that can lead to foot pain. In fact:

  • An estimated 40 million U.S. people suffer from arthritis
  • 90% of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis experience pain in the foot and ankle joints
  • Almost 50% of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis-related foot pain
  • An injured joint is seven times more likely to become arthritis over time

Arthritis in feet can affect the toes, especially the big toes, bones in the heel, and the ankle joint itself. There are over 100 kinds of arthritis that can lead to arthritis in feet, but the most common causes are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and posttraumatic arthritis.


If you’re over the age of 60 and suffer from pain that is worse in the morning, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis. Over time, the cartilage in your joint has worn away with repeated stress and use. As this protective coating gets thinner, the bones can rub together and cause inflammation and pain.

Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear disease that is commonly caused by aging. As the American Podiatric Medical Association explains:

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint disease or ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. Although it can be brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual; aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe.”

Osteoarthritis in the feet may be caused by:

  • Degenerative effects of aging
  • Abnormal foot structures–such as flat feet or high arches–that lead to excessive strain over time
  • An old injury, such as jamming your toe or spraining your ankle

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in that it doesn’t occur from aging. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis is a set of symptoms that are caused by abnormalities in the immune system. While the exact cause of these symptoms is unknown, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that:

“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system attacks its own tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, immune cells attack the synovium covering the joint, causing it to swell. Over time, the synovium invades and damages the bone and cartilage, as well as ligaments and tendons, and may cause serious joint deformity and disability.”

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, you’ve likely experienced arthritis in feet, toes, or ankles.


Another type of arthritis that’s less common is gout, or gouty arthritis. This condition is due to a buildup of uric acid in the joints. Typically, it affects areas that are furthest away from the heart. In this case, the big toe. As we’ll discu