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After talking with physical therapists and podiatrists, we tabbed shoes from Brooks and New Balance as the best running and walking shoes for knee and back pain.

Knee, back, and hip pain related to osteoarthritis (OA) can make moving your body uncomfortable. But choosing the right running or walking shoe can make a difference.

Healthcare professionals often recommend certain shoes to help self-manage OA knee pain. The type of shoes you wear is important for your feet as well as for your knees, hips, and back.

Osteoarthritis of the knee may require medication and rehabilitation, but choosing the right shoe can also go a long way to reduce pain. Here are our recommendations.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $100
  • $$ = $100-$150
  • $$$ = over $150
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Shoe and
price
StyleFeatures and highlights
Brooks Glycerin GTS20
$$$
laced running shoe• high cushion
• motion control technology
• breathable construction
New Balance 577v1
$
laced walking shoe• high cushion
• motion control technology
• Medicare reimbursement eligible
HOKA Bondi 8
$$$
laced running shoe• high cushion
• lightweight
• APMA Seal of Acceptance
Asics Gel-Nimbus 25
$$$
laced running shoe• medium cushion
• lightweight
• breathable construction
Vionic Walker Classic
$$
laced walking shoe• high cushion
• podiatrist-designed orthotic
• APMA Seal of Acceptance
Allbirds Women’s Wool Dasher Mizzles
$$
slip-on walking shoe• water-resistant
• warm
• good grip in wet weather
Skechers GOwalk Joy
$
slip-on walking shoe• high cushion
• lightweight
• breathable construction
Merrell Jungle Moc
$–$$
slip-on walking and hiking shoe• medium cushion
• lightweight
• water-resistant
Saucony Cohesion 15
$
laced running shoe• medium cushion
• foot-hugging design
• breathable construction

Our editors selected these shoes for knee, back, and OA pain based on conversations with physical therapists and on user favorites, using the following criteria:

  • Features: We looked for expert-recommended features for relieving OA pain, such as cushioning, shock absorption, midsole support, and motion control.
  • Customer reviews: We chose these shoes because people with knee, back, and foot pain rate them highly for comfort.
  • Reputation: Medical professionals who treat OA trust these brands, sometimes for many years.
  • Sizing: We’ve included a broad range of lengths and widths.

A 2018 research review showed that footwear may affect lower extremity pain in older adults with OA. The results suggested that shock-absorbing insoles and athletic shoes may be effective for reducing lower extremity joint pain from OA.

While everyone’s needs (and feet!) are different, people with back and knee pain generally benefit from supportive shoes that provide stability when walking and extra cushioning to reduce impact on the joints. The right fit and a roomy toe box also help with stability and comfort.

It’s important to understand that not everyone’s needs are 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,” said 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 using 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 said.

Cushion

“People with osteoarthritis generally do best with highly cushioned shoes, and in general, the highest cushioning you can get is from running shoes. The cushion is all about shock absorption,” said Jessica McManus, a physical therapist and owner of Full Circle PT and Wellness.

Look for shoes with cushioned midsoles and multiple layers of foam that give a plush feel with enough support. These shoes often have a platform sole.

Motion control (aka stability)

Motion control is important to avoid knee and back pain.

“This means the shoe helps to limit how much rotational movement and/or flex the shoe has, hence limiting potentially painful accessory movement further up the chain, into the ankle, knees, hips, and spine,” McManus said.

Look for shoes that help support the foot in a neutral position and align the body from ankle to knee to hips. If you overpronate — which means that the way you walk or run strains your arches and flattens your feet — you can really benefit from motion control.

Heel drop

Heel drop is the height difference in the heel of the shoe from forefront. For knee or back pain it can be helpful to understand which heel drop works to support you. How you carry your foot when you walk also influences the heel drop that works for your pain management.

Here’s a breakdown of gait types and heel drop:

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Design by Paul Lawrence

Arch support

When it comes to footwear for pain, arch support should be a priority.

“It is crucial to decrease the pressure from your feet to your knees. Doing this will also impact any hips and back issues,” said Dr. Brad Schaeffer, a podiatrist and board certified foot and ankle surgeon who is featured on the TLC show “My Feet Are Killing Me.”

“I like to start with the arch support and make sure that the patient’s arch is properly supported with insoles, like Dr. Scholl’s, or for people with more significant problems, custom orthotics,” Schaeffer added.

Back and knee pain are common symptoms of OA, the most common type of arthritis in the United States. OA is a degenerative joint disease, and symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints can worsen over time.

“Shoes should not be relied upon as the sole source of support for an arthritic knee,” Tanaka said. “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.”

If you experience any of the following symptoms of OA, you might want to see a healthcare professional:

  • joint pain or aches
  • stiff joints
  • decreased range of motion
  • swelling around your joints

It may also be a wise idea to see a healthcare professional if no shoes seem to be working for you. They can give you a professional assessment and guide you on the best footwear choices for your unique anatomy and lifestyle. You might benefit from custom-made orthotics or insoles to support and alleviate painful joints.

Age, genetics, and joint overuse can all increase your risk of developing OA. But seeing a healthcare professional for treatment can help you manage pain with physical therapy and medications.

Yes. The incorrect footwear can make knee pain worse, particularly if you run or walk frequently. If you have a decent pair of shoes that offer the right amount of support, it can greatly alleviate knee pain.

With that said, even the best shoes can’t solve all joint issues. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you experience persistent hip, knee, or foot pain.

The HOKA Bondi 8 is our pick for best cushioned shoe for knee and back pain. They’re lightweight and designed to support your ankle, helping absorb impact as you run or walk on hard surfaces. Many online reviews praise the HOKA Bondi 8 for reducing their back pain while walking.

Schaeffer stands by his picks for knee pain (Asics, Brooks, and HOKA) when it comes to other types of pain too. In general, shoes for arthritic feet should include cushion and arch support, as this can greatly reduce foot pain.

“I am a big fan of Dr. Scholl’s insoles … Osteoarthritis knee pain is due to wear and tear. If you support your feet properly, it will alleviate pain everywhere: your feet, knees, hips, and lower back,” Schaeffer said.

If you’re daunted by the arch support options available and worried about just how much you need, the answer isn’t a specific product or height. Instead, focus on finding arch support that puts your foot in a neutral position.

Here’s more on treatments for arch support pain.

According to Schaeffer, people with arthritis should avoid any shoe that’s flat or doesn’t have cushioning. A lack of support in your feet can have a cascading effect on your whole body and lead to additional pain over time.

The short answer is yes. “Whenever you have osteoarthritis, it is due to wear and tear, and it can definitely be made worse,” Schaeffer said.

However, it can get a little better when you move around with proper footwear. It’s important to create a good foundation for your feet, and that will, in turn, support your whole body more efficiently.

It depends on the type of shoe you choose and your unique anatomy, but yes, Skechers can be good for your knees as they tend to be flexible and supportive.

The Skechers GOwalk Joy made our list of best shoes for back and knee pain. These slip-on shoes are lightweight but cushioned, making them a comfortable choice for knee pain.

When it comes to choosing the best shoes to alleviate painful joints, you’ll want to opt for something that has adequate cushioning and arch support. Since every foot is different, you may have to try a few options before you find the best footwear for your unique anatomy.

Beyond choosing comfortable shoes, you may need to consult with a healthcare professional. They may prescribe medication or suggest over-the-counter medications to reduce pain.

A professional might also advise you on starting a gentle exercise program and making lifestyle changes to soothe back and knee pain.

Investing in a pair of comfortable running or walking shoes is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for those with knee, back, and hip pain. Whether you want a walking or a running shoe, look for designs that offer arch support, cushion, and motion control.

Still, even the best pair of shoes won’t solve all your joint problems. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you have OA or knee or back pain. They can help you set up other treatments and potentially help you get fitted for custom orthotics.