Ankle + Foot

Arthritis in the Foot


Arthritis is common in the small joints of the foot and ankle. The symptoms of arthritis vary depending on which joint is affected. In many cases, an arthritic joint will be painful and inflamed. Generally, the pain develops gradually over time, although sudden onset is also possible. There can be other symptoms as well, including:

  • Pain with motion
  • Tenderness when touched
  • Swelling, warmth, and redness
  • Increased pain and swelling in the morning, or after sitting
  • Difficulty in walking


The diagnoses can be made by a physical examination and a gait analysis. Other tests which may help your doctor confirm your diagnosis include X-rays and MRI.

Treatment Options

As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the ankle or foot is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend making some lifestyle modifications help relieve the pain and slow the progression of the disease. Physical therapy maybe recommended to help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in your foot and ankle. Using devices such as wearing shoe inserts or a brace may be recommended.

There are several types of medications that are useful in treating arthritis. Because people respond differently to medications, your doctor will work closely with you to determine the medications and dosages that are safe and effective for you. Over-the-counter medications or cortisone injections may be recommended.

If your pain from arthritis causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications with different procedures. Your doctor will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation.

Arthroscopic Debridement

Helpful in the early stages of arthritis, this surgery removes loose cartilage, inflamed issue, and bone spurs from around the joint.

Arthrodesis (Fusion)

Arthrodesis fuses the bones of the joint completely, making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of the procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating motion in the arthritic joint.

Total Ankle Replacement (Arthroplasty)

In total ankle replacement, your doctor removes the damaged cartilage and bone and then positions new metal or plastic joint surfaces to restore the function of the joint. Although total ankle replacement is not as common as total hip or total knee replacement, advances in implant design have made it a viable option for some people.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength in your ankle and to restore range of motion. Depending upon your procedure, you may need to wear a brace or supportive shoes for a time.