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What is knee osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition characterised by joint deterioration. It affects nearly 1 in 4 adults worldwide, and the knee is one of the most common affected joints.

Symptoms generally include pain and stiffness of the knee joint. Those at most risk of developing knee OA are elderly, overweight, have an existing knee injury and/or occupations requiring kneeling, climbing or squatting.

There is no cure for OA, thus treatment is focused on pain management and limiting further joint destruction. This is sometimes achieved though medication and exercises.

How do shoes affect my knee?

Many people with knee OA believe shoes can impact on joint comfort. It is generally recommended that appropriate footwear be worn to help reduce pain. These shoes are usually described as ‘shock absorbing soles with adequate support’.

What does the evidence say?

Despite the well-known belief that cushioned, flat, supportive shoes are most appropriate, the research has yet to prove this is the case.

However, current international guidelines recommend this type of footwear is most beneficial for those living with knee OA. This advice is mainly based on expert opinion.

So what shoes are best?

Firstly, to help your knee, you need comfortable shoes for your feet! With that in mind, the following are features are recommended:

  1. Well-fitting shoes – for all day comfort and confidence.
  2. Low-heeled/flat – high heels increase pressure on the knees.
  3. Cushioning – thick/solid, cushioned mid-soles to absorb impact.
  4. Support – to improve knee stability.
  5. Laces/Velcro – ensuring the shoe is held on firm to maximise benefits.

How often do I need to wear these shoes?

Shoes can only provide relief while you are wearing them. It is advised you wear this style of shoe whenever you are required to wear shoes in general. This is because poor footwear choice may aggravate the arthritis. For example, high heels place more pressure on the knee joint.

Will this footwear advice cure my knee pain?

It is unlikely the choice of footwear alone will relieve all of your knee pain. That being said, wearing appropriate shoes will help significantly.

Living with knee OA may require appointments with many professionals such as doctors, specialists, physiotherapists and podiatrists.

In addition to footwear, management of the condition may include medications, exercises, manipulation, orthotic devices and possibly surgery.