Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Learn more about arthritis of the foot and ankle

Arthritis is a degenerative process that occurs where two bones articulate, also known as a joint. This condition can develop from long-term wear and tear, trauma or due to an autoimmune disease. Arthritis may develop in any of the joints of the foot and ankle, although some are more prone to develop arthritis than others. Our Cypress orthopedist determines treatment for arthritis of the foot and ankle based the cause, severity and location of the arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is one type of arthritis of the foot and ankle

Osteoarthritis occurs from repetitive trauma to a joint over many years, causing loss of the cartilage lining. As the cartilage degrades, the bony surfaces rub against each other, which can cause pain, decreased range of motion and bone spurs. This type of arthritis of the foot or ankle can occur in several locations, but two of the most common sites are discussed below.


  • Osteoarthritis often presents in the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, or the joint of the big toe, particularly in active people. Initial treatment consists of shoe wear modifications and possibly a custom insert. If conservative measures fail, our Cypress orthopedist may consider surgery. In some cases, the bone spurs may be shaved down, while more advanced arthritis requires fusion of the joint. Joint replacements of the first MTP joint have a high failure rate and generally do not restore range of motion, so our physician does not perform them.
  • The tibiotalar joint, or ankle joint, can also develop osteoarthritis. As with many locations of arthritis of the foot and ankle, initial treatment often consists of shoe wear modifications and a custom orthotic or brace. Surgical options exist as well, and consist of arthroscopically shaving the bone spurs down, fusion of the joint or ankle replacement. The best option depends on the degree of arthritis and patient factors, including age, weight and activity level. For early arthritis confined primarily to the front of the ankle joint, arthroscopic surgery may alleviate symptoms. More advanced arthritis warrants a fusion or ankle replacement. Our Cypress orthopedist can let you know which option is best for you with an office visit and x-ray.

Post-traumatic arthritis can also affect patients

This form of arthritis of the foot and ankle develops secondary to an injury. Fractures that extend into a joint can lead to rapid development of arthritis. Additionally, when two cartilage surfaces crash into each other, as with a fall, this may also lead to degenerative changes within a joint.

Post-traumatic arthritis is commonly seen in the ankle joint and the subtalar joint, which is the joint below the ankle. Ankle fractures often lead to early onset of post-traumatic arthritis. Treatment is often the same as for arthritis of the ankle without an injury. To prevent or delay the onset of ankle arthritis, it is advised to have the injury evaluated early for proper treatment.

Arthritis of the subtalar joint commonly occurs after a fracture of the calcaneus, or heel bone. In many cases, surgical repair of the fracture can help delay the development of arthritis by restoring a smooth joint surface. However, subtalar arthritis often develops at some point, even with timely surgery. Patients may report pain with extended walking, particularly on uneven surfaces. Orthotics may help decrease symptoms. If conservative measures fail to control pain, surgical fusion of the subtalar joint may be performed by our Cypress orthopedist.

Autoimmune arthritis can also affect joints

Several autoimmune conditions can cause joint destruction and arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most well-known, but other conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, can also cause joint destruction. These conditions often target a specific joint. For example, rheumatoid arthritis classically causes degeneration of the talonavicular joint, which is located on the inside of the foot near the ankle. Psoriatic arthritis will commonly present as significant swelling and inflammation to a toe without any history of trauma, termed a “sausage digit”.

Our Cypress orthopedist often takes a multidisciplinary approach to treat autoimmune arthritis. A rheumatologist may prescribe medications to delay the progression of the disease and our orthopedist may be able to improve symptoms in the foot and ankle with conservative and surgical measures.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with our Cypress orthopedist to learn more about arthritis of the foot and ankle.

Specializing in

  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Ankle deformities
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Achilles tendon issues
  • Problems with ligaments and tendons
  • Rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis