RA and the gym(and tennis shoe suggestions)

I'm trying to return to the gym to regain strength and hopefully energy. So far, I find it very hard on my hands and feet. It is also totally exhausting... Anyone with RA have suggestions to aid in the wear and tear to my hands and feet? My feet especially end up knotted to the point I can barely walk. Anyone found great tennis shoes? Any and all help is appreciated... Still no lucks with any meds so far. Mtx made me violently ill and sulfa is providing zero relief. Praying for biologics but I know that's a long way off.

16 Replies

  • Maybe the gym is not the best place to start though I would recommend a swimming pool and it is a good place to exercise all the muscles and joints including the fingers. Walking would be best. I started with Nordic walking using two poles which take the weight off joints, give stability and exercise the upper body as well as the lower. It is important to be taught the right technique so see if there is a class in your area. There should be one that has a section for people with some disability or are senior citizens. I would also recommend an appointment with a podiatrist for insoles for your shoes. Your GP should be able to refer you. Once you have the insoles buy the best trainers you can afford. Ones that have nice thick, cushioned soles. Try and find a shop with a good assistant who knows what they are selling and can find the right ones for you.

    I don't know why you say the biologics are a long way off. I was put on Enbrel soon after my consultant found MTX and Leflunomide didn't work for me. I believe in 'making a bit of a nuisance' of myself so if your medication isn't working please do keep telling them. All the very best xx

  • I really may be making a nuisance of myself soon... That or you guys will see me on an episode of snapped 😂😂😂

  • I agree about the walking and swimming suggestion. If you are specifically looking for good trainers, there is a chain called Runners Needs where they will recommend a suitable trainer having watched you walk on a treadmill in store. They assess for pronation, stability and cushioning. My brand was a US brand called Brooks which I had never heard of and they really helped.

  • Swimming pool - Aquacise classes - swimming have been my saviour as unable to return (yet) to my pre-RA classes which I loved!!! Now I get the buzz in the pool - I also continue with restorative yoga - as hands and feet currently no good at supporting body weight!!! Me too - awaiting Biologics although I have had some improvement with MTX injections and HCQ ... Wishing you success with finding the right exercise and the Biologics!!! ;-)))

  • If you haven't yet found meds to control your disease and so have active inflammation do be very careful about exercise as your joints will be very vulnerable to mechanical damage. Returning to the gym could mean all sorts of different types of exercise, good and bad, but avoid high impact exercise and too much weight bearing. However it's great that you are keen to get back to it, so don't give up but adapt what you do right now. As well as swimming and walking, things like Pilates can be great to slowly build up core strength and flexibility. I use compression gloves which I find soothing, as well as having custom made insoles in my shoes.

  • Hiya, I went to the gym when trialling MTX and did find I couldn't work out as hard as I liked but it was good for me socially and I could do weights so if you feel you can then go for it. I did find MTX wiped my energy so going gym after an injection was a no for me.

    I found that Skechers Memory Foam Flex Appeal trainers gave my feet great support. I also used adidas as well which are similar to adidas ZX flux which give good arch support but wouldn't recommend if you have Achilles tendinitis as they were hard backed.

    I swapped between those two and a pair of new balance 373 trainers which have good soles in. I couldn't walk after the gym either regardless of trainer I wore when I wasn't med controlled.

    You may find the gym a little punishing as I did, it made me ache more but I felt as though I was doing something.

    I have a trainer designer friend he says companies spend little money on insoles so swapping them in most shoes/trainers is useful. Except the Skechers no need there with memory foam they're awesome m!

    Out of all three I would recommend the Skechers, they're stylish and felt so good on my feet even on really bad days. Almost like slippers!

    If you find pressure on your hands you may benefit from some weight gloves. I actually used my cycling gloves. These are Specialized body geometry ones. They have gel pads in and I couldn't cycle without them even now my condition is ok. They really do take pressure of the hand joints. Yay!!

    I also had a guy at the gym show me alternatives for keeping weight off my hands and feet when exercising.

    If you're feet are that bad forget the treadmill 😊 Believe me I've tried

    I now cycle and use the gloves rather than gym but weights are really important so really good going if you are able 😊

    The TRX at my gym was fabulous for non weight bearing exercise

    Enjoy xx

  • The gloves are a great idea. I feel like the gym is super important, too. I'm really trying to stick with it! These great tips on modification will surely help!

  • Hi really just agreeing with the above advice. I have RA and like you can not take MTX. I am on Hydrochloroxine and Sulphasalazine and still waiting for it to bring relief..I joined Club motivation and started swimming and now go to Aquarobics twice a week. The freedom of pain while in the pool allows you to get the fullest range of movement to strengthen muscle and core. Good luck hope you find a medication that brings relief from this horrid disease soon..

  • I have had RA for the past 30 years and would agree with the above advice. I love my memory foam sketchers just now as they provide a cushion for the soles of your feet and don't rub your toes. I have one toe that is rubbing in all my shoes just now apart from the sketchers so Ihave started walking. My tip is don't do too much or you will end up not being able to do any exercise. Walking (poles will help ),swimming or aqua aerobics, or use the bike in the gym. You don't need to grip the handle bars the same way as you do when riding a bike. My physio has recommended I start a Pilates class and do what I can in it.

    Good luck with the meds. I have found over the years healthy eating and gentle exercise does make me feel better. I just haven't listened to my own advice for the last few years.

  • tai chi is good. When I had my knee op they couldnt believe how flexible I was. Its particularly good for people with RA, smooth, controlled body meditation.

  • Hi there I would give the gym a miss for now but definitely buy a pair of sketchers they have lots of different styles like walking on air they also do slippers I'm not really a trainer kind a gal at 61 but have a few pairs of really nice slip on ones look quite dressy hope you find meds that suit you trial and error I was lucky methotrexate worked for me well if you call that lucky love Mo x

  • I am just hoping to find a med that works well for me without crazy side effects. The sulfa doesn't make me throw up like mtx did, but man is the sulfa causing crazy anxiety. I'm trying to give it time, but it makes day to day life hard!

  • Hi Rsfelty

    I totally agree with the skechers shout, they do 'proper' gym trainers (with a cushioned but flexible sole) which I have ended up wearing a lot outside as well because they are sooooo comfortable. The memory foam insoles are very comfortable and the gym ones I have also have built up arches. And available in half sizes.

    My feet are a mess as one arch collapsed one day as I was climbing the stairs (heard a pop and felt a lot of pain and that was it gone) and also my toes are curled under a bit due to neuropathy caused by spinal stenosis, but with my Skechers on I hardly notice.

    Every other pair of shoes and trainers I used to wear rub my toe / outside of foot and the custom made orthotic insoles I have are unusable as they are quite firm and cause more pain. 🙄

    I instead use extra arch supports in one which are actually sold for plantar fasciitis, and are basically heel and arch support.

    I like the suggestion of padded gloves and also you can get wrist supports for exercising (most big pharmacies) that are like softer, more flexible versions of the ones that you can usually get from rheumatology. They really help painful wrists and aren't too restrictive.

    In the gym itself it might be worth investing in some Personal Trainer sessions (depending on your level of knowledge, ability and motivation!). Can be a bit expensive but for me a worthwhile investment. What price do you put on your health?

    I find the cross -trainer (so the gym equivalent of Nordic-walking?) to be great for warming up / cardio and then do a mixture of leg, core and upper body machine, weights, Swiss ball, resistance band type stuff. All low (or zero) impact so not too hard on the joints.

    My PT always stresses the importance of warming and loosening up and doing lots of stretches and loosening exercises at the end.

    And using a foam roller for pressure point release (myofascial massage) has helped more than I would have thought possible with painful / knotted muscles.

    Good luck, personally I wouldn't say avoid the gym, just do the right things. You don't have to do high intensity interval training in a gym after all!

    Good luck!


  • Ade, thank you fr all your suggestions. The foam roller is a really good one! I will look into that!


  • No problem.

    It was only my back that motivated me to start the gym as I literally couldn't stand up unaided. I can now.

    I wish I'd done it sooner, maybe I could've prevented or delayed some of my back problems. Ah well, hindsight and all that.

    The foam roller is something that I wouldn't have given a second thought to if my PT hadn't banged on about it. 😀 I'm glad she did, I'm not exaggerating when I say it has been life changing. One of the really common themes with disc / spine problems is a searing pain in the glutes. It's so bad it stops you in your tracks and the instinctive way to deal with it is to sit (or lie) down.

    Well, it turns out that if you use myofascial release instead it gets rid of 95% of the pain.

    It might not make such a huge difference in other cases and it can be a bit tricky with sore wrists / hands, but I won't even go on holiday without mine now.

    Every single day.

    Good luck.


  • I agree with the above, Aqua Motion is great for exercise, I did 1 day a week for 10 days and will start again in September, I wish I could continue through the summer but the classes don't start again until September. Sketchers are brilliant and I wear Soft Moc sandal's as they avoid my hammer toes and still have arch support and look good with skirts and dresses. Good luck. Sue

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