It is possible to adventure outdoors with arthritis and there are products that can help make your joints so much happier in the process. The most popular products include: trekking poles, compression gloves, topical gels, knee braces, elastic shoe laces, and more. Whether you are going for a hike, going for a swim, traveling, or going on another outdoor adventure- here are 15 products you can use to make your life easier.
15 Products to Adventure Outdoors with Arthritis
1. Trekking poles
Trekking poles can be a life saver, especially when you are planning to walk long distances that are normally difficult for you. Using trekking poles can help normalize your walking pattern, allow you to take bigger steps, and feel more confident on uneven ground. Walking using trekking poles can also be referred to as nordic walking.
Many times when hiking, you may encounter hills. With knee or low back arthritis going up or down hills can be pain provoking at times. Trekking poles help to decrease the load that is going through your joints by distributing more of the force through your arms and thus the poles.
One study found that nordic walking, “decreases compensatory pelvic rotation, protects the hip joint by decreasing the muscle activity of the hip abductors, and inhibits overused low back muscles.” They also found that your core muscles are more active, increasing the stabilization and control of your trunk which is very helpful to take pressure off of your spine.
These trekking poles are my favorite and are at a decent price (around $35)! I would highly recommend if you have knee, hip, or low back arthritis to grab a set of these before you take off on your next walking or hiking adventure.
2. Extended shoe horn
Putting shoes on can be quite the chore. Putting hiking shoes, boots, or even simple walking shoes can be a real pain. If you have a hard time bending over or have hands that just don’t want to be 100% cooperative, these can save you so much time and frustration.
For less than $10, I recommend this extended shoe horn. It’s one of those things that you don’t know how you lived without it. It makes for a nice tool to have in case you are having a pain flare or are feeling stiffer than normal.
3. Toe Separators
If you are dealing with bunions or other conditions that lead to misaligned toes, plantar fasciitis, or heel pain, you might consider a toe separator.
The idea is that toe separators help to restore normal movement in your foot. Doing this you can improve your arch strength and blood flow to your plantar fascia, which is the tendon that goes along the inside of your foot. To adventure outdoors with arthritis, it is important to take care of your feet!
They can also make you feel more balanced especially if walking on uneven ground. Walking longer distances can be challenging at first wearing a toe separator because you are essentially changing the way your body is used to walking. This is okay, it just takes some getting used to! Go into using these gradually and speak to your podiatrist first if you have a history of wounds on your feet or diabetes.
I would recommend these toe separators. You can also use these for when you get back from hiking, walking, skiing, or whichever adventure you are off on. They can help stretch the muscles in your feet to keep your mobility and continue to help you walk more efficiently and pain free.
4. Pocket dresser
When we adventure outdoors, it may require layers of coats, vests, button ups, flannel shirts, and other clothing items that might be frustrating to put on if you have hand arthritis.
This Pocket Dresser can help with virtually any clothing item including zippers and buttons. Having trouble with those pesky shoe lack knots? This can help with that too! For less than $20 this is a great tool to have when you are getting ready to adventure outdoors. Check it out here.
5. Foam roller
Foam rollers can be beneficial for a warm up or a recovery session before you adventure outdoors with arthritis. Posture is key when you are doing activities that require lots of walking, running, or climbing. Foam rollers can improve your mobility in your upper back which directly impacts your shoulders and lower back.
Spending 10 minutes before you leave or after you come back can prevent you from dealing with pain during your adventure or “paying for it” later. The exercises for your upper back are simple, yet effective. You can also increase blood flow to the muscles in your legs to help prevent stiffness.
Watch this video below to know exactly which exercises will help improve your posture. Make sure you pick up a foam roller like this one first.
6. Knee Compression sleeves
Knee compression sleeves have a plethora of benefits when you are dealing with pesky knee pains. These compression sleeves are inexpensive can bring significant relief during and after activity. They do this through improving blood flow with compression, decreasing swelling, keeping your joint warm, and improving your sense of stability.
Dr. Howard Luks, Orthopedic Surgeon in NY states, “with better blood flow, your synovial membrane is open to a steady supply of nourishing oxygen and nutrients and synovial fluid can lubricate the joint.” The health of your synovial membrane is vital when it comes to preventing further progression of osteoarthritis and keeping pain levels down.
I recommend these knee compression sleeves which are made of a compression fabric without any hard support pieces. I usually only recommend the braces with the hard support pieces if you have extensive knee instability or have been prescribed one by an orthopedic physician as they can potentially limit range of motion, change your walking mechanics, and compensate for your muscles.
7. Compression Socks
If you are on your feet for longer periods of time or if you are at higher altitudes, including traveling on airplanes, gravity acts to bring fluid in your body down to your ankles. When this happens, it can make your legs feel stiff and heavy.
Here are some benefits of compression socks to consider during adventures outdoors:
- Compression socks can counteract the “fluid [that] can build up in a joint affected by arthritis, which can cause swelling in the soft tissues surrounding the joint.” This swelling is important to control especially when you are on your feet for longer periods of time. In higher altitudes you may notice increased foot or hand swelling, especially if going hiking.
- By reducing swelling can improve your overall mobility, especially if your feet tend to swell. When sitting for longer periods of time, when kayaking or canoeing, you may notice more foot swelling. This can make mobility hard as well. Compression socks can keep this swelling down to minimum to keep you limber.
- They can reduce numbness and decreased sensation to your lower legs and feet. “They work to increase your feeling of proprioception [where your body is in space],” which can be a huge help for your balance. You have to be on top of your game when partaking in adventures outdoors so its important your balance is too!
The key is making sure they are the right size for you, and not too tight. When they are too tight, you may notice a painful, red indent which can break open with too much shear force. Many times, a measurement around the meaty part of your calf can be a good indication of the size you will need.
I recommend these knee high compression socks which are best if your lower leg or feet swell. You can also get shorter compression socks if you primarily notice foot swelling and dislike the knee high version.
8. topical creams
Topical creams can be very helpful when trying to keep joint pain manageable especially when adventuring with arthritis. Whether you are hiking, cycling, running, skiing, snow shoeing, etc. this may help to maintain pain relief. Since you aren’t ingesting anything, these are usually low risk, unless you are allergic to the ingredients.
There are many different kinds of creams and ointments that can help with arthritis pain relief. Keep in mind everyone does respond differently so what works for one person may not work for you. Being that there are many options, don’t get discouraged!
Here are three popular options from the 6 BEST Arthritis Creams of 2021:
- Tiger Balm: For a great price of under $15, it contains both menthol and camphor that are great for fighting inflammation. It can help eliminate joint swelling, warmth, and redness and keep you going in any adventure you choose. Get some here.
- Voltaren: This is a very commonly used topical gel for arthritis pain relief and can be very effective. It was formerly a prescribed ointment but now is available over the counter. According to CreakyJoints, “anyone with osteoarthritis, especially in joints that aren’t covered by a lot of muscle, might potentially benefit from Voltaren gel. These include the hands wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, or feet”. This ointment is a little pricier but from the reviews, it can be totally worth it. Get some here.
- Biofreeze Professional Spray: According to Verywell Health, “the active ingredient is menthol, which creates cooling sensations and temporary pain relief. It penetrates quickly to relieve pain on the back and all joints from the neck down to the ankle. The spray nozzle has continuous flow even when upside down to get those hard-to-reach aches”. Get some here.
9. Compression gloves
Compression gloves work great if you are heading out to do any adventure that involves using your hands- skiing, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, climbing, etc. It is important to prevent your hands from getting stiff or painful when relying on them for your activity.
These compression gloves can help prevent swelling for the same reasons as the compression socks listed above (number 7). When at higher altitudes, you may notice your fingers start to swell whether you have osteoarthritis or not.
These gloves have been praised by those who have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis to keep your hands functioning properly. For less than $20 they can make your adventure so much more enjoyable. Get some here.
10. Walking Shoes
It is important to take care of your feet and give them the support they need when taking on adventures outdoors with arthritis. Making sure you have the right shoes is a MUST.
Trying to walk longer distances in older, unsupportive shoes can be a recipe for disaster not just for your feet but your hips, knees, and low back! Usually it is recommended to replace shoes about once every 1-2 years depending on how much you use them.
There are lots of options out there, but according to the 10 Best Shoes for Arthritic Feet, here are some of the recommended options: (all 3 of these come in both men’s and women’s options):
- Orthofeet Men’s Edgewater Sneakers: These sneakers are made with a therapeutic design that allows for relief of heel or foot pain while giving the right amount of support. They have a wide toe area but also come in wide widths as well so you can get the perfect fit. A little more on the expensive end but customers say its totally worth it.
- Ryka Women’s Devotion Plus 2 Walking Shoe: this one is budget friendly but still gives support through a high arch while staying lightweight.
- Brooks Women’s Addiction Walking Shoe: According to this top 10 list, “Brooks Addiction Walker is one of the few professional podiatrists’ and chiropractors’ most recommended shoes for individuals with arthritic conditions.” This one can be on the pricier end as well but has benefits such as high quality tread, support for lower arches, and a shock absorbing sole.
- KURU Footwear is local to Salt Lake City and has a great CHICANE shoe for both Men and Women that is very durable. These shoes are known for being extremely supportive. Check out KURU here.
11. Ergonomic Waist pack
Many times, backpacks can increase our low back or hip pain if they aren’t ergonomically sound or too heavy! I love the waist packs, which are essentially a more durable fanny pack. These can help keep weight lower on your center of gravity which can decrease the stress to your low back.
The only downfall is you usually cannot fit a ton of stuff in here so they are great for quick trips but will not be sufficient for long backpacking trips. Even if you are just going for a shorter walk, these can be convenient to keep water bottles handy so you can stay hydrated.
This Waterfly fanny pack is under $25 and has been shown to be a safe way to carry your phone, snacks, water, and other small objects without increasing your joint pain! Check it out here.
12. Patella strap knee brace
If you will be doing any downhill activity including hiking, walking, or skiing, your patellar tendons (tendon underneath your knee cap) may begin to get irritated.
These braces are inexpensive and can provide compression to the tendons to help with pain relief. These braces don’t typically inhibit your movement nor change your mechanics which is important to consider when choosing a brace.
These can be particularly helpful if you have a history of a meniscus injury, knee osteoarthritis, or patellar tendon injury. For less than $20 these can make going downhill much more manageable. You can use one if only one leg is bothering you, or both if you looking for relief on both sides. Check them out here.
13. Elastic shoe laces
Tying shoe laces can be a task, especially if you have hand or wrist osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. For under $15 you can get laces for your shoes that are SO much easier to manage. Elastic laces can be added to almost any pair of shoes so you can get them on and off easier.
These are great to have in case you are having a joint flare or noticing more hand stiffness. That way you can still get your shoes on without having to fight with them.
These can be useful not only during adventures outdoors but also in daily life too! Check them out here.
I know assistive devices aren’t usually everyone’s favorite but they can be so helpful, especially if you find yourself starting to limp because of knee, hip, ankle, or foot pain. The more we limp, the more we change our normal walking pattern. This can actually lead to MORE pain, which we definitely don’t want.
A cane can help us to even out our walking and prevent further limping. These are great if you are having increased joint pain but still want to go on a planned adventure. They can help you walk further and decrease the amount of stress on your joints.
This cane is one of our favorites because it travels so easily by folding up and also has tips that allow it to stand up in case you have to set it down.
For less than $20 it is a great thing to have even if it is “just in case”. Many times with osteoarthritis a flare up can catch us off guard and we don’t want our adventure ruined because of it. It’s better to be prepared! Check out this cane here.
15. TENS unit
According to tensunits.com, “A TENS unit aims to relieve pain by sending electrical currents that disrupt pain signals to the brain and to release endorphins that make the mind and body feel better through chemical means without using any prescription medication.”
These can be a great tool for recovery after activity or may even be able to be worn during activity on a low setting, depending on what you are doing.
You use sticky pads which carry the current and place them directly on your skin. The electrical current is adjustable based on the effect you are looking for. Low settings which are typically used for pain relief resemble a massage. Bringing blood flow to the area to help with decreasing inflammation and allowing your muscles to relax.
These tend to work great for low back pain as well as knee pain, primarily on larger muscle groups. You can learn more here!
Adventure outdoors with arthritis
Adventuring with osteoarthritis is possible. We just have to be prepared. Listen to your body. Make sure your body is ready. This can be done with appropriate training, the right gear as explained above, and the right attitude. You can do this. Outdoor adventures can be beneficial not only physically, but mentally as well! Adventures outdoors with arthritis are possible, so choose your own adventure and let’s get started!
With knee osteoarthritis in particular, there are so many myths that can prevent you from living out your adventures! The things we believe about our pain can dramatically affect what we are able to do! That is why we have created the FREE Ebook about the “Top 3 Myths You Need to Overcome to Keep Your Adventure Alive with Osteoarthritis” and you can get it here!
If you are training for an adventure and are looking for a structured exercise program to make sure you don’t hurt your joints while preventing risk of injury, check out our Knee Osteoarthritis Home Exercise 8 week Program to make sure your knees are ready to go!
Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and arthritis specialist with Keep the Adventure Alive in Sandy, UT. An adventure is anything that makes you happy on the inside and her main mission is to help you keep yours alive! She has helped arthritis sufferers all over the country finally break free from their pain without surgery or more pills. She has found lots of adventures of her own including hiking, road biking, and skiing while in Utah which has inspired her to create this journey. She wants to show the world that arthritis pain doesn’t have to take our adventures away. Learn more tips and tricks on how to adventure with osteoarthritis here.
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Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this video or site.