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"I could cry, the amount of shoes I can't get into": A qualitative exploration of the factors that influence retail footwear selection in women with rheumatoid arthritis

Serena Naidoo, Stephanie Anderson, Joanna Mills, Stephanie Parsons, Stephanie Breeden, Emma Bevan, Camilla Edwards and Simon Otter*

Author Affiliations

School of Health Professions, University of Brighton, Robert Dodd Building, 49 Darley Road, Eastbourne, BN20 7UR UK

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2011, 4:21  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-4-21

Published: 27 July 2011



Studies have reported that women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not wearing NHS supplied therapeutic footwear; therefore it is likely they are wearing footwear sourced through retailers. Previous research gives limited information (largely associated with cosmesis) on people's perceptions on the relationships that exist between retail footwear, well-being and quality of life. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of women with RA regarding their choice of retail footwear and identify the factors influencing retail footwear selection.


Eleven women with RA wearing normal retail footwear were recruited from an out-patient podiatry clinic in the south east of England. Semi-structured interviews were carried out and an interpretative phenomenological approach was adopted for data collection and transcript analysis.


Six key themes were revealed from the analysis: (1) the nature of foot complaints and deformities, (2) aesthetic appearance and design of footwear, (3) body image, (4) psychosocial aspects, (5) Perceptions of footwear and (6) the therapeutic value of retail shoes. These contributed to an overarching concept of loss of choice associated with retail footwear. In particular, the areas discussed most frequently throughout were themes (2), (3) and (4), which were notably more 'emotional' in nature.


Limitations in retail footwear for these women have impacted on their individuality, linking significantly with their body image. The loss of choice in footwear as a consequence of the disease impacts negatively on emotions, wellbeing and was identified in reduced self-perceived quality of life.