Knee Arthritis? Best and Worst Shoe Selections

If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, you know how hard it can be just to walk from one place to another. With the right shoes, you can reduce pain, be more active, and maybe even help prevent or delay the progression of disease.

Osteoarthritis is the most common disease affecting the knees, and the pain of this condition makes walking difficult and some other forms of physical activity next to impossible. Yet people who suffer from knee arthritis need just as much exercise as anyone else. Besides physical therapy, medication, and supplements, wearing the right type of shoe can help improve your condition. It not only changes your gait (the way you walk) but shifts your weight in such a way that it takes the load off your knees.

When it comes to choosing footwear if you have arthritis, new studies are turning conventional wisdom on its head.

Studies at several universities, including Stanford and Rush, have found that certain types of popular footwear may be better for your knees than special corrective or supportive shoes traditionally recommended for people with arthritis. Here are some of their surprising findings:

  • Walking shoes and athletic sneakers with thin heels and soles may provide better support than those with thick cushioning. In one study, thin walking shoes caused significantly less knee adduction, or outward movement of the knee, that is associated with osteoarthritis.
  • Shoes with flat, flexible soles that mimic walking barefoot, such as flip-flops, help reduce the load on your knees better than the more supportive shoes traditionally recommended for people with knee conditions. One caveat: Flip-flops are not recommended for elderly people or anyone else who is at risk of falling when wearing loosely fitted shoes.
  • Flat, thin-soled shoes may reduce the load on your knees as much as wearing braces or using orthopedic shoe inserts.
  • Clogs with thick wooden soles, which are often worn for support by healthcare workers, chefs, and others who spend a lot of time on their feet, as well as some types of prescribed stability shoes, may actually increase the load on your knees compared to wearing flat shoes or walking barefoot.

Knee osteoarthritis can eventually lead to changes in your hip and ankle joints that make it even harder to walk comfortably. The severity of your condition, and the joints affected, may determine whether or not a change in shoe style will improve your gait and, if so, which type of shoe is best. Consult with your orthopedist or podiatrist before changing the types of shoes you normally wear.




Baliunas, AJ, et al. "Increased knee joint loads during walking are present in subjects with knee osteoarthritis."  Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2002 Jul; 10(7):573-9. Web.

Harvard Medical School: Talking of Walking in Three Easy Pieces Web.

Rush University Medical Center: Shoes: A Treatment for Osteoarthritis in the Knees? Mar2010. Web.

Seligman, K. "Stanford Arthritis Shoe Hits Shelves". Stanford Center on Longevity

Shakoor, N, et al. "Effects of common footwear on joint loading in osteoarthritis of the knee." Arthritis Care & Research. 2010 Jul; 67(7):917-923. Web.