At an initial stage, arthritic joints only hurt after weight-bearing activities but as the joint degeneration progresses pain may occur even during normal walking and in worst cases at rest. For early-stage arthritis conservative treatment including relative rest, footwear adjustments, insoles, physiotherapy and ultrasound guided injections will provide sufficient pain relief. For later stage of arthritis, only surgery will make a difference which normally entails fusing the affected bones together. Like a broken bone, the joints need time to heal and initially, weight bearing is not permitted but with modern instrumentation, recovery time is quicker and at the end when the bones are united, pain is abolished and good function achieved. Fusing bones in the foot are normally not felt by the patient and does not lead to any limping!
Potentially all joints in the foot may develop arthritic changes and can lead to pain and inability to mobilise. Some joints are more often affected than others and some joints are more painful when the joint degenerates. Pain might be experienced in the early stages only at the beginning of activities and afterwards but as the degeneration of the joint progresses pain can become a permanent issue being even felt at rest. Arthritic joints can become more prominent due to bony growth (osteophytes) and swelling, a crunching sensation can be felt when moving the joint and at a later stage the joints tend to stiffen up. Sometimes an old injury is responsible for arthritis (post-traumatic), other times the degeneration is simply due to degeneration of the cartilage over the years (idiopathic).