There are different forms of arthritis.  Some types are passed on through our genetics, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.  Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is due to wear and tear of the joints over time. However, not EVERYONE experiences this in their older years.  What determines whether a person develops arthritis or not?

Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of cartilage between joints that can lead to formation of bone spurs and bone-on-bone rubbing that cause pain.  Depending on activity level, type of activity and your anatomy, not everyone feels the pain of arthritis in their later years.  Another factor at play is trauma.  When a fracture occurs, if the break crosses the articular surface (or joint), this predisposes the joint to degeneration later down the line - you may not even experience arthritis until 20 or 30 years after the injury!  Even in cases where you do not have a history of a broken bone, repetitive jamming of the joints can damage cartilage and begin the process.

When it comes to arthritis in the feet and ankles, another predisposing factor is the structure of the foot and the level of flexibility of the foot.  There is a generally accepted neutral foot type, which serves as a template for us to compare patients' feet to.  Some people have a more flexible foot whose arch collapses when standing with full body weight on the foot.  This places pressure on the tops of the joints and can cause jamming of the joint, spur formation and cartilage degeneration.  Some individuals have either a naturally high or low arched foot, and this also affects how the foot absorbs energy when walking or running. 

Custom orthotics help to support the structure of your feet and decreases motion that can cause joint damage.  Because they control the motion of the foot and the way your foot absorbs energy while walking, orthotics also help to slow the progression of arthritis and can decrease pain now and in the future.