What Kind of Shoes Should People With Osteoarthritis Wear?

Written by holly huntington
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The condition of osteoarthritis only gets worse over time, so it is important to learn ways to manage it or limit its impact on daily activities. Wearing special shoes can help those with knee osteoarthritis to reduce their pain when walking.


Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, occurs because the cartilage in the joint wears down. This process of cartilage wearing down occurs over time and can affect any joint within the body, including the knees. While osteoarthritis cannot be cured, it can be treated so that pain is reduced and physical activity remains an option, according to the Mayo Clinic. Therefore, one of the ways to treat this most common arthritic condition---of the knees, at least---is to wear a certain type of shoe.


Women are twice as likely as men to get osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a study by the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School (May 1998). And women who wear high-heeled shoes are increasing that likelihood because high-heeled shoes cause more force to occur in the leg's knee joint. This additional force to the patellofemoral and medial compartment---where osteoarthritis knee degeneration usually occurs---is 23 per cent greater when high heels are worn versus going barefoot.

Shoe Considerations

The Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine at the University of Melbourne published research findings in March of 2009---in PubMed.gov---which support that certain types of shoes help reduce knee movement of the medial compartment of the knee. Medial compartment load (force) that occurs in some knee movements, like walking in high heels, can contribute to osteoarthritis degeneration.

The Centre's findings showed that shoes that have a low heel (or no heel at all)---and are flexible (bend, rather than restrict movement)---are more favourable than shoes with higher heels and less flexibility for osteoarthritis sufferers.

Shoe Types

On-the-shelf shoes sold in retail stores generally only offer a flat-type surface on the bottom of the shoe. But individuals suffering from knee osteoarthritis can benefit from shoes that have bottom surfaces that are uneven, if designed specifically for those with knee osteoarthritis.

The APOS System shoes are one example. These shoes, which resemble a roller skate from the side, uses a wedge system that helps reduce pain and increase mobility for those with knee osteoarthritis.


Having knee osteoarthritis doesn't mean that an individual needs to seek out flat surfaces in order to avoid knee complications, falls or additional degeneration. Instead, it means that certain movements can create a faster degeneration of the cartilage in the knee than other movements. Therefore, avoiding those types of movements (like when walking in high-heels or tight shoes) is what should be avoided.


In addition to certain types of shoes helping with knee osteoarthritis, special shoe insoles are also helpful. Wedged insoles made specifically for those with knee osteoarthritis can provide the support needed to encourage movement (or limit it) within the shoe that is beneficial to those with knee osteoarthritis.

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