December 10, 2021

How Does Psoriatic Arthritis Affect Your Feet?

Managing psoriatic arthritis foot pain

Drawing of legs wearing running shoes

Walking, running, jumping, standing. Despite all they do for you, it’s easy to take your feet for granted. But when foot pain gets in the way of living, there’s no ignoring it.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Unfortunately for people with psoriatic arthritis, foot pain is a common occurrence, says rheumatologist Rochelle Rosian, MD. “Psoriatic arthritis affects the toes and feet in several ways, causing pain, swelling, stiffness and even changes to the appearance of your foot,” she says.

We talked to Dr. Rosian to learn how the disease attacks your feet — and what you can do to put your best foot forward, despite psoriatic arthritis.

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Most people with the disease also have psoriasis, a skin condition that causes red, scaly, inflamed rashes. Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are conditions that occur when your body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.

People dealing with psoriatic arthritis may experience lots of problems below the ankles — including foot pain, heel pain, swelling and toenail changes.

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis in feet

Psoriatic arthritis often strikes areas where ligaments and tendons connect to bone. With 26 bones and 30 joints in each foot, that’s a lot of possible targets for arthritis.


The disease can cause symptoms in one foot or both feet. In fact, foot symptoms are often among the early signs of psoriatic arthritis. It’s important for your physician to consider treatments that allow you to continue the activities you enjoy.

Foot-related symptoms include:

  • Dactylitis: Also known as “sausage digits,” dactylitis is severe inflammation of an entire toe (or finger), giving it a sausage-like appearance. Most types of arthritis cause swelling. But sausage digits are particularly common in people with psoriatic arthritis.
  • Heel pain: You might experience inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects your heel bone to your calf muscle. Known as Achilles tendinitis, this can cause significant pain in the heel.
  • Bottom-of-the-foot pain: A ligament called the plantar fascia stretches from your heel to your toes. Psoriatic arthritis can inflame and irritate this ligament — a condition known as plantar fasciitis. That inflammation can cause pain from your heel all along the sole of your foot.
  • Spur formation: Because the inflammation occurs where the ligaments and tendons attach to bone, this can lead to spur formation — or in some cases, wearing away of the bone, called erosion. These spurs may cause stiffness or fuse your joints and lead to deformity and loss of mobility.
  • Nail changes: Most people with psoriatic arthritis have pits or dents on the surface of their nails, including their toenails. Sometimes, the nails become thickened or the nail bed separates from the skin below.
  • Other symptoms: It’s also possible to have pain in your joints that connect to your foot (metatarsophalangeal joints, often called MTP joints), swelling at the ball of your feet, hammer toes and an enlargement of the MTP joint in your big toe.

How to treat psoriatic arthritis foot pain

It’s tough to do the things you want to do when your feet are stiff and painful. Dr. Rosian recommends these strategies to help kick foot pain to the curb.

Go hot and cold

Some people find that warm towels, heat packs and hot baths help ease joint pain and swelling. For others, using ice packs can dial down inflammation for cool relief. “Try both hot and cold therapy to see which works best for your symptoms,” Dr. Rosian says.


Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when your feet are aching, but regular, gentle exercises can help relieve stiffness and improve the range of motion in your feet. Low-impact activities like walking and swimming are good options. Consider asking for a referral to a physical therapist or foot doctor.


Pamper your tootsies

High heels are not your friends. Opt for comfortable shoes that support your feet and ankles. You might benefit from custom orthotics, as well. These shoe inserts are tailor-made for your feet. They work like shock absorbers to take pressure off of your feet.

Manage your weight

Your feet are responsible for supporting your whole body any time you stand or walk. Maintaining a healthy weight can take some of the stress off these hard-working joints.

Follow your treatment plan

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is talk to your doctor about how foot pain is limiting you. Your healthcare provider will help you find the right medications to control joint pain associated with psoriatic arthritis.

“Foot pain is often an unfortunate reality for people who have psoriatic arthritis, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you,” says Dr. Rosian. “We have a variety of different medications to treat pain and swelling and prevent permanent joint damage in your feet.”

Related Articles

Aspirin poured onto table from bottle
December 7, 2023
Why You Are Sensitive to Aspirin

A reaction to the medication may trigger preexisting asthma and result in sinus or skin reactions

Person lifting up their sweater, showing ostomy bag in mirror's reflection
December 6, 2023
Adjusting to Life With an Ostomy Bag: What To Expect

It can be hard to get used to the bags, but the freedom they provide is worth the challenge

Happy caucasian woman hiking in forest
December 6, 2023
Forest Bathing: What It Is and Its Potential Benefits

Immersing yourself in nature can improve both your mental and physical health

Woman looking in mirror and pulling skin until wrinkles disappear
December 6, 2023
Should You Add Collagen Supplements to Your Skin Care Routine?

Though popular with influencers and celebrities, there’s little research to back up claims that they work

A vaccine syringe in front of a passport for international travel.
December 5, 2023
Which Vaccines Are Required To Travel?

Plan early — getting the right vaccines can help you stay healthy on your travels

Person overheated lying on chair on the beach; heart rythym next to him
December 5, 2023
How the Heat Can Affect Your Heart

Sizzling temperatures force your heart to work much harder

nocovaine needle entering mouth with dental mirror
December 4, 2023
How Long Does Novocaine Last?

The numbness and tingling should wear off in about two hours

bearded man sitting crosslegged holding clock in one hand, calendar in other
December 4, 2023
Are Bare Minimum Mondays Good for Your Mental Health?

Rethinking your Mondays might make the ‘Sunday scaries’ a thing of the past

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try