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Why the right shoes matter

Treating osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee may require medication and rehabilitation, but the right choice of shoe can also go a long way. According to a review published in Current Opinion in Rheumatology, the right shoes or insoles can help decrease the pressure put on the knees and help with pain caused by OA of the knee.

We’ve rounded up the 10 best walking and running shoes for bad knees and OA pain, and included advice on how to make the right choice when shopping for a pair of shoes. These shoes were selected by our editors and by user favorites.

Before moving on to our top 10 list, it’s important to understand that not everyone’s needs are exactly the same.

“When shopping for walking or running shoes, it’s important to consider the fact that each individual may vary in terms of the type and location of arthritis in their knees,” says Dr. Miho J. Tanaka, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and the director of the women’s sports medicine program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

She recommends utilizing assessments offered at athletic shoe stores.

“There are different compartments in the knee that can be affected, and depending on those, different types of support may help offload the affected parts of the knee,” she says.

New Balance shoes are highly recommended for those with knee pain.

“My foot doctor insists I wear New Balance with built-in rollbar. They are in the 800 series,” wrote reader and total knee replacement candidate Suzanne Davidson.

Reader Barb Coenen, and others who’ve also had both knees replaced, say that they’ve had “great luck with shoes by New Balance.”

New Balance 813 walking shoe offers motion-control technology, supportive cushioning, and leather uppers (which means the upper part of the shoe is made out of leather).

It’s not just doctors who swear by Brooks shoes. Healthline readers do too: “After my two knee replacements, my surgeon suggested Brooks Adrenaline and/or Brooks Glycerin shoes,” says reader Lynnea Christensen. “They are a little ‘spendy’ but the support is phenomenal and comfort is awesome!”

Brooks Glycerine optimizes pressure distribution from heel to forefoot, while the Adrenaline’s extended diagonal rollbar offers extra stability.

Runners and walkers who suffer from knee pain recommend shoes from Asics GEL-Equipped Collections, such as the GEL-Quickwalk, GEL-Foundation Walker 3, and the GEL-Nimbus. The collection launched in the mid-1980s, and has since expanded to offer more shoes for a variety of sports including tennis and volleyball.

Formerly known as Orthaheel, Vionics with Orthaheel technology are an affordable alternative to custom orthotics.

“If you don’t have prescription orthotics, they’re the best,” says reader Diane Grasely. “I can even walk my dog wearing their flip-flops with built-in arch.”

Skechers are known for their ability to flex and twist, promoting a natural stride when you walk. Sketchers GOwalk is especially popular for those with knee problems, including reader Penny Letchford. This lightweight slip-on features a roomy forefoot and an odor and slippage preventing sock liner.

Besides being stylish and trendy, Puma offers sneakers and runners that are lightweight and flexible. A study published in Arthritis Care & Research tested the H-Street Puma and found that flat and flexible footwear significantly reduces the load on the knee joints in comparison to supportive stability shoes with less flexible soles. Loads on the knee joints were 15 percent less when wearing flip-flops, flat walking shoes, or walking barefoot.

Although the H-Street is now discontinued, the 76 Runner is similar to the H-street and is available for both men and women.

Online company Gravity Defyer sells casual and dress footwear for men and women, along with orthotic insoles. Reader Dottie Brand Burns swears by the brand, and owns their boots, athletic shoes, and sandals.

Reader Jean Compton is just one of the many whose doctors have recommended Nike Airs. These shoes offer added cushioning and come in an impressive range of styles and colors for running and other activities.

Merrell offers athletic and casual styles in shoes, boots, sandals, and clogs. Reader Deanna Daisher Borton recommends their shoes, while reader Lisa Bassoff Obermeier favors their clogs.

For those who benefit from a flexible, minimalist shoe, Merrell Bareform is a line of “barefoot” running shoes.

The creator of the world’s first comfort shoe back in the 1960s, Clarks remains a top pick for those suffering from knee problems. The Wallabee is the company’s original and most popular style, but they also offer comfort shoes in athletic styles for walkers and runners.

Investing in a pair of comfortable and practical shoes is important for everyone, but especially for those with knee problems. Still, as Tanaka points out, even the best pair of shoes won’t solve all your knee problems.

“Shoes should not be relied upon as the sole source of support for an arthritic knee,” she says. “Rehabilitation and anti-inflammatories often play the key role in symptomatic relief, but a well-fitting, supportive shoe may help reduce stress on the knees during activities.”