Shoes for Knee Pain
Experts say about 20% of women will experience knee pain at some point. The causes can range from sore or torn ligaments, overusing your knees, arthritis or issues with your feet that affect how you walk. There are two approaches to which shoes may work best for knee pain. But experts agree you should consider what is most comfortable for your knees and your feet above any other factor in footwear.
About Our Knees
Your knee is the largest and strongest joint in your entire body. That’s according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons information website orthoinfo.org. A health knee has four things, bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. This is where our thigh bone (femur) our shinbone (tibia) and the kneecap meet up.
The knee joint has ligaments strapping inside and outside the joint (collateral) and crossing within the joint (your cruciate ligaments). “The four main ligaments in the knee attach to the bones and act like strong ropes to hold the bones together.” Plus there’s the meniscus that provides a padded smooth spot between the bones, sort of a shock absorber as we move.
When it comes to shoes that can help reduce or prevent pain in your knees, you might need to try two approaches and see which works for you, buying either a motion control supportive shoe with a rocker sole or go for a soft, flexible flatter shoe that cushions the knee joint.
When we asked the question on Facebook, readers provided shoes on both sides of the spectrum for knee pain.
Here are few shoes for knee pain as suggested by our readers. We’ve included links to help you check them out:
Alegria Playa sandal
Vionic flip flops (we’re big fans of their supportive soles)
Naot shoes This Israeli-made brand does sandals well but also shoes that can work in many seasons.
Hoka rocker sole athletic shoes These get high marks from gals with knee pain due to rheumatoid arthritis.
Finn Comfort shoes pricey but supportive
Abeo ROCS and Smart collections are designed for people with knee pain. In our review we noted “the curved outsole of the Abeo R.O.C.S. (Rocker Outsole Comfort System) took some getting used to. Standing still, my heels would rock backward which felt strange. But as soon as I started to walk, the rocker motion took over and I felt more stable.”
Cross trainers If your knee pain is caused by a injury to your MCL experts will direct you to shoes with lateral support. Cross trainer type athletic shoes offer more side-to-side control than running shoes. Among our picks: Inov-8 All Train 215, Asics Gel Exert or Ryka Influence trainer. Learn more in our shoes for knee pain review.
*For more ideas of shoes for knee pain, check out our recent Facebook discussion.
Motion stabilizing shoes and rocker soles
As we talk about shoes let’s talk for a minute about a common cause of knee issues – arthritis. Experts say there are three types of arthritis that can cause knee pain- osteoarthtiris, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis. One reader wrote, “I suffer from OA of the knee and have found that rocker sole shoes cut my pain in half and increase my mobility greatly.” Experts at Harvard explain that osteoarthiritis may be what you think of as wear and tear on the join. “Osteoarthritis of the knee will affect at least half of people in their lifetime, and is the main reason more than 700,000 people need knee replacements each year in the US.”
But it is not just age that contributes to getting OA. It can be your genes, carrying extra weight, inflammation caused by not exercising and the foods we eat but also an injury, the way our daily lives have us walking on hard surfaces all the time, and even potentially high-heeled shoes. A small research study at Harvard actually looked at the force on a woman’s knee wearing high heels compared to bare feet. The force in the area around the kneecap was 23% greater in high heels.
“The altered forces at the knee caused by walking in high heels may predispose to degenerative changes in the joint.” A fancy way of saying the wrong types of sky high heels could potentially lead to knee pain. If you’re in a job or event that needs heels, we’ve got supportive comfortable heels that might be better choices.
In support of soft, cushiony shoes for knee pain
The Dansko clogs and other clogs we love for other foot issues may not be the right choice if knee pain is your issue (They are great for many foot ails though!) A study at RUSH University Medical Center in Chicago found those clogs can increase the force on your knees. Apparently, the stiff soles change the way you walk require you to stomp, putting more force on your knees. Other says motion control footwear can increase knee pain depending on your anatomy and the reason behind the pain.
Some experts say a soft, flat, flexible shoe (not hard rocker soles) may decrease the load on the knee reducing the pain. “A favorite shoe among women with knee osteoarthritis is the Skechers GoWalk (read our article about the Go Walk here). The Nike RunAllDay is another option in the flat and flexible category that offers superb cushioning. Bonus for our readers with larger feet, it comes in sizes 10.5 and 11.5!
Our review of shoes that alleviate knee pain has some options if you’d like to try cushiony supportive flatter shoes. Here are some additional brands and styles to consider.
If your knee pain is due to fallen arches or excess pronation, consider Abeo footwear, a line of comfort footwear from The Walking Company. Abeo LiTE footwear has a very flexible sole. The company claims this mimics the way you would walk barefoot and therefore eases the pressure on the knees. We even found an Abeo LiTE style in a sherling boot.
Another shoe brand to consider for easing knee pain is Beautifeel footwear, described as feminine, comfortable shoes that are work appropriate.
And we have to mention a long-standing favorite in comfort shoes, a sandal called the Mephisto Helen.
Here’s a little bit more on why cushioned footwear may help your knees. Experts describe say its a bit like walking on pillows. “Shoes with good cushioning can absorb the impact of the foot hitting the ground, preventing much of the shock from ever getting to the knees.” That’s according to everydayhealth.com. In the flat, flexible category, athletic shoes again rank high to help knee pain. They suggest athletic shoes for their cushioning, but also stability for your knee and leg. “Consider wearing athletic shoes. In addition to extra cushioning, footwear designed for running and fitness often has motion control and stability features to control inward rotation of the foot, lower leg, and knee.”
Shoes for knee pain from arthritis
Got knee pain related to arthritis? Here are some shoe buying tips we found from the Harvard health blog: Consider stability athletic shoes with firm soles and a supportive insole. “A slightly curved “rocker” sole that helps distribute the body more weight evenly as you walk. This sole may not be right for you if you have balance problems.”
Finding a well-fitting shoe is also key. A few tips on the right fit: Find a shoe with a wide toe box with enough room. Keep in mind there should be at least half an inch at the front of your toes. And look for a supportive heel counter which helps keeps your heel in place in your shoes.
Knee pain in women with problem feet
Here’s a bit more on common causes of knee pain and some possible ways to help reduce that pain beyond buying better shoes. Experts say knee pain can be caused by strained or torn ligaments, overdoing it in activities or occasionally a fracture. Even being overweight adds to the stress on our knees. But those of us gals with certain foot conditions may also experience knee pain as a result of what’s happening in our feet. “Your (knees and hips) are responsible for supporting your weight as you stand and walk. If you are experiencing chronic pain in your hips, knees, or even in your lower back, shoulders and neck, there may be a connection between the pain and the way your feet function…Any problem with the foot or ankle resulting in a compromised posture or gait can lead to knee and hip pain.” That’s from orthofeet.com. Another way to think about it, “Most lower extremity pains and conditions are caused by abnormal foot strike. Just like children’s building blocks, if you do something at the bottom it translates above,” reports the NY Daily News.
That may explain the knee pain you may feel if you have foot issues such as plantar fascitis, neuromas and bunions. Finding shoes to ease those bunions or adding shoe inserts that help our various foot conditions may also help knee pain. At barkingdogshoes.com we specialize in shoes for women (and men) with problem feet. You’ll find plenty of styles and options by searching our site or visiting our condition pages. “When you experience pain and you are diagnosed with a dysfunction in the foot or ankle, it may be possible to reduce the knee and hip pain by improving foot function, using proper footwear and orthotic insoles,” orthofeet.com reports. That’s good news for women dealing with knee pain caused by what’s happening in our feet!
Treatment for knee pain
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has some home care advice which may help some types of knee pain. First up, they suggest giving your knee a rest. Stop doing activities that hurt it and switch to lower impact exercises. They also recommend the rest of the RICE method you may have heard at your doctor. Rest, Ice (apply cold compress a few times a day for short periods of time), Compression (wrapping your knee in an elastic bandage) and Elevate (putting your leg up).
Your doctor may also suggest over the counter anti inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofren to help ease knee pain. If your pain lasts despite home care or your knee is hard to move, the AAOS says you should see a doctor.
Many physicians recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your knee to help knee pain. We found a lot of discussion that exercises to stretch your calves and strengthen muscles there may be a keep to preventing pain. London’s Daily Mail reports, ‘Many people don’t realize that tight calf muscles (from wearing high heels, or sitting at a desk all day) could be exacerbating their knee pain, because the top of the muscle attaches at the back of the knee, and, if tight, can prevent the knee’s full range of natural movement.”
Other treatment options: Your doctor may also offer cortisone shots to reduce the pain and swelling while you heal. Treatments may sometimes include acupuncture or so-called joint supplements, though experts says the results of studies are mixed. “If the problem is pain, (acupuncture) may work. If the problem is biomechanical or weak muscles, it probably won’t.” As for joint health supplements, some patients say chondroitin or glucosamine pills helped them.
Another tip we found mentioned a lot is to lose excess weight to reduce the pressure on your knee.
We hope this overview of shoes for knee pain and some of the causes and care to help ease your sore knees has been helpful. We’d love to hear from you. Have you found a shoe brand that’s helped knee pain? Do you need recommendations in a specific shoe category? Contact us on our blog or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons orthoinfo.org patellofemoral-pain-syndrome
Orthoinfo.org on feet and knee pain
Everydayhealth.com knee pain page
Harvard health blog knee osteoarthritis post
Sciencedirect.com high heel research study
NY Daily News article
Daily Mail article