What Are the Best Shoes for Gout Flare-Ups?
If you’ve ever suffered from gout—or you’ve seen a close friend or family member deal with a gout flare-up—you know it’s an incredibly painful condition. While many factors contribute to gout, the immediate cause is a high concentration of uric acid in the blood, which leads to urate crystals accumulating in your joints. These crystals cause inflammation and swelling that lead to intense pain, often in the toes, feet, ankles, knees and/or hands.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines. Purines are found naturally in our bodies and are present in higher concentrations in certain foods and drinks—primarily meats, seafood and beer. In a normal situation, uric acid dissolves in our blood and passes through our kidneys without incident. But during a gout attack, there’s an excess build-up of the acid (perhaps because of an increased intake of purines or poor kidney function), and the nasty symptoms hit.
Finding Gout Relief
The symptoms of a gout attack often come on suddenly and intensely—sometimes waking people up in the middle of the night. And while the initial intense pain may subside for hours at a time, you will likely still be suffering from discomfort, swollen joints, and decreased mobility and range of motion until the attack subsides completely. If you think you’re experiencing a gout attack, professionals recommend seeing your doctor, as this is not a condition that should go untreated.
In consultation with your doctor, you may find relief through medication, dietary changes, staying well-hydrated as well as taking certain steps at home to find as much comfort as possible during a flare-up. If the attack is affecting your toes or feet, one of those steps could relate to your choice of footwear.
Best Shoes for Gout
During a gout attack, any pressure on swollen joints increases pain, so tight-fitting socks and shoes are a no-go. To relieve pain, it is often recommended to keep affected feet bare when possible. When going barefoot is not possible, try wearing spacious shoes that give your toes and feet plenty of room so that nothing is pinched or cramped. Because your feet will be swollen, you might opt for a wide width of a soft, roomy shoe to create the most comfortable feel for your feet.
The big toe joint is the most commonly affected joint when it comes to gout, so avoid any shoes with a pointy toebox that puts pressure on your big-toe joint and forces it toward your other toes.
While some people recommend wearing cushioned and nonflexible shoes for gout, there is some controversy over this advice. Those in the pro-cushion camp say that flexible or minimal shoes might cause you to put more pressure on your big-toe joint. Dr. Campitelli, a podiatrist based in Ohio, says his experience has given him a different perspective. He says cushiony shoes cause us to strike with our heels and push off with our toes, and this actually stresses the big-toe joint. On the other hand, wearing minimal shoes causes us to strike mid-foot and take shorter strides when we move. This means we actually push off more with our leg muscles, and rely less on pushing off with our big toes, which puts less overall pressure on our big-toe joints.
A customer recently ordered a pair of our Solstice sandals in wide width, because she was experiencing a gout flare-up and needed a soft, lightweight, roomy shoe to help ease her pain. She reported back to us that, so far, the results have been great: “You have made me a truly fantastic pair of shoes! They fit beautifully and I can wear them today in the middle of a gout flare—yea!” She said the shoes were light and comfortable on her feet.
Another Softstar devotee (and, full disclosure, husband of one of our owners), also suffers from occasional gout attacks. He says that when a flare-up hits someone, they end up walking very tenderly, as “over-striking” or pushing off the toe is painful and quickly avoided. In his experience, he says it’s best to have a roomy, soft shoe that does not exert much force on the toe joint. The last time he had a flare-up, he wore his Softstar Rogues, which were already nicely broken-in and stretched, so they provided sufficient room. He remarked that he still limped around, but that the Rogues were by far the best shoe he had to stay as comfortable as possible.
For the ultimate in shoe comfort, we recommend footwear from our Primal line. These shoes are made with our Primal sole shape, which currently offers the widest toe box on the market. You can see this sole shape on our Primal RunAmoc or Primal Sawyer shoes, which have become favorites among minimalist shoe enthusasts since they allow feet to move and flex naturally.
All of the shoes we make here at Softstar are designed with a “barefoot feel” in mind. The shape of our shoes gives your toes plenty of room and won’t unnaturally scrunch up your feet, as many modern shoe styles do. They are also flexible, soft and lightweight. As you consult with your practitioner about your gout relief strategies, you may choose to try a pair of roomy minimal shoes to remove pressure from your swollen feet. Of course, if you can, rest up and stay off your feet as much as possible during your bout with gout. We wish you a smooth road back to pain-free feet!
Please note: while we are shoemakers who are passionate about foot health, we are not doctors and cannot prescribe medical advice. Consult your health care practitioner if you think you’re suffering from gout, and work together to develop a treatment plan.