So, yeah, a few weeks ago I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes - yep, those trendy shoes-with-toes. Allow me to explain...
The shoes were designed for runners, and particularly for those who want the feel of barefoot running, but the protection of shoes. I'm not a runner. I have arthritis. With medication, I do pretty well (last time I went without medication for a while, I needed a cane to walk). But if I'm stuck in one position for any length of time, joints still freeze up a bit. With other shoes, I was finding that by about 2-3 in the afternoon, I was having to take my shoes off and move everything around to avoid having really, really painful feet.
So when it came time to buy a new pair of shoes, I investigated the toe shoes. One of the big selling points is that the flexible sole, and separate toes, allow your foot to move naturally. Since my problem seemed to be related to lack of movement, this seemed like it was worth a try.
So, the verdict after several weeks of wearing them to work every day: At the end of the day, my feet feel better than they have in years. The pain I was dealing with from my old shoes is essentially gone*. Now, it's possible that part of it may just have been that I needed new shoes, of any kind, but I really do think the design helps. Wearing them does feel very different than other shoes, even brand new ones. Most shoes seem to take the approach of holding your feet rigidly in one position (except maybe allowing the toes to bend together as a unit), filling in arch support and heel cushioning to compensate, all of which, I think, was precisely the source of my problem. These go exactly the opposite way - flexibility, with no arch support or heel cushioning at all - and my feet are happier than they've been in a long time.
I'm posting this mostly because when I went looking for people similarly situated, I only found a couple of blog posts mentioning the Five Fingers shoes in connection with arthritis, and I wanted to inject another endorsement into the internet hive-mind. So, if you're reading this because you have arthritis, and you've Googled to see if these shoes have helped others: In my case, yeah, they definitely have.
*I can't say my feet are now absolutely 100% pain-free, but what pain I do have is much, much reduced, and it's not the same shooting, arthritic agony, but more like the semi-pleasant afterburn you get after a workout.