Our feet, with their 52 bones, 66 joints and more than 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments, are high-precision instruments that connect us to the earth, support our skeleton and provide balance and mobility.

Yet we often neglect and even abuse them – forcing them into footwear that doesn’t fit, that sacrifices function and comfort for style, or that is simply the wrong shoe choice for our particular feet. Anyone who has worn a fabulous pair of shoes for a special occasion, only to tear them off at the first possible moment, knows how painful a bad shoe decision can be. That's especially true when choosing shoes for arthritic feet.

Why It's Important to Choose the Best Shoes for Arthritis

Making healthy choices for your feet, much like eating a nutritious diet or getting regular exercise, can add up to big improvements in quality of life, says Marian Hannan, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-director of musculoskeletal research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging in Boston. “People should start thinking of their shoes as a factor they can modify to help minimize pain and maximize their ability to get out and do things.”

The wrong shoe worn by someone with arthritis in their hips, knees, ankles or feet can exacerbate existing problems and, down the road, cause damage and complications to many joints beyond the feet, she adds.

“The right shoe can reduce or eliminate foot pain, which has a huge impact on the body’s function and mobility,” says Hannan.

Kirsten Borrink agrees. After years of struggling with foot pain from rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, diagnosed in her 20s, the former teacher started a blog that showcases frank reviews of a variety of shoe styles that Kirsten, now 42, has personally tried. It includes video demonstrations of the author in action.

To help keep you on your feet comfortably, we teamed up with medical experts who weigh in on the pleasing and painful points of 10 different types of shoes, and with Kirsten, who recommends her top picks in each category. Here’s to healthier feet!

Reviews for the Best and Worst Shoes for Arthritis

High Heels

Experts are united in their low opinion of high heels, defined as heels higher than 2 inches. “High heels are bad for everyone’s feet, and for people with any kind of arthritis, they’re even worse. They’re hard on the arch and ball of the foot and can wear down joints,” says Bryan West, a podiatric surgeon who practices in Livonia, Mich.