A running shoe for bad knees is one designed to absorb the often extreme shocks created as the foot is repeatedly driven into the ground while running.
In most cases they have slightly oversized outsoles for that purpose as well as additional padding inside. Running shoes for knee pain are often able to provide effective relief for knee pain caused by patellar tendonitis, overpronation, osteoarthritis of the knee and other causes.
While bad knees are most often associated with older individuals it is not exclusive to them. And running shoes that address knee pain can be effective for anyone of any age. We’ve surveyed the running shoe landscape to compile the following list of the best running shoes for bad knees on the market today.
1. ASICS Men’s Gel-Venture 6
Asics has a knack for producing some of the best speciality athletic footwear out there. Their weightlifting shoes are right up there with the best and their Men’s Gel-Venture shoe is at the top of the class when it comes to providing comfort and support for those with bad knees. The ride is never mushy and they do a good job correcting for overpronation or supination.
What we like: We appreciate the outstanding job these shoes do absorbing shocks. We like how firm they hold the foot and how they promote a comfortable gait. And we really like how breathable and cool they are, even on hot days. They’re also available in a couple of dozen color combinations.
Flaws: Sizing can be somewhat hit or miss. Traction loses some of its bite in the rain.
2. New Balance Women’s 1080v9
New Balance has always been the BMW of athletic footwear. Engineered to the max and presented in a clean but aggressive looking package that does nothing but perform. The Women’s 1080v9 is a high performance shoe that also just happens to be great for people with bad knees.
What we like: We like how stable they keep your feet regardless of the running surface. The foam insole is also very comfortable. The shoes promote a nice smooth step motion and they look good doing it. Great for those who experience overpronation.
Flaws: The sole is so wide it might take some getting used to. Also, the non-padded collar can irritate on hot days.
3. Nike Men’s Dart 11 Running Shoe
The Nike Men’s Dart 11 looks cheap. There we said it. With that out of the way we can then state with authority that this shoe does a good job alleviating the pain of osteoarthritis and patellar tendonitis. It’s also great for those whose knee pain may be the result of bad mechanics as it gently but firmly encourages a proper gait.
What we like: In spite of their unusual appearance the Men’s Dart 11 shoes do a good job negating the bad aspects of running. We like how breathable they are and how comfortable. It’s also a plus that they’re unusually light. And they tend to hold their ground even on wet surfaces.
Flaws: Not sure what they were thinking with the look of the shoe. And if you need serious padding this isn’t for you.
4. Saucony Women’s Cohesion 10 Running Shoe
You can tell just by looking at them that the Cohesion 10 from Saucony are serious about providing support and comfort. They hold the ground firmly in all conditions, soak up shocks like there’s no tomorrow and won’t require you take out a second mortgage to get a pair.
What we like: We like that the Cohesion 10 feels every bit as solid as they look. We like that they provide protection against both overpronation and supination. We also like the comfortable padded collar, the affordability and that they’re available in a range of compelling colors.
Flaws: They hold your feet in an unmistakably firm grip. Some will like that some will not. Some will mistake the firm hold for a sizing issue. It’s not.
5. Asics Men’s Gel-Kayano 26
Asics makes a second appearance on our list with their outstanding Men’s Gel-Kayano 26. They absorb shocks with alacrity, hold your foot in proper alignment from heel to toe and are quite cool even on steamy days. There are too many proprietary elements with names like ‘FlyteFoam’ etc to list here. But suffice to say that they work together flawlessly to get the job done.
What we like: We like the way the SepvaFoam absorbs shocks while running. The Fluid Ride midsole makes each stride even more comfy. We appreciate how light these shoes are relative to other, similar shoes. And they really provide a solid hold that makes them feel like an extension of your feet.
Flaws: The design leaves something to be desired. And if you get any color other than black you’ll discover they’re not easy to clean.
6. New Balance Women’s W890V5 Neutral Running Shoe
The New Balance Women’s W890V5 is a neutral shoe. That means it’s not designed to address issues such as overpronation. However, if what you want is an attractive, well-built shoe that will protect your knees from the wear and tear of running you won’t find better.
What we like: The shoes are very attractive as well as being durable and breathable. The sole absorbs shocks like a sponge and handles various surfaces with equal aplomb. The no-sew upper reduces irritation inside and the collar is well padded and easy on the skin.
Flaws: The toe box is pretty narrow. And they are going to be a challenge to keep clean.
7. New Balance Men’s 1080v9 Fresh Foam
Like its sibling the Women’s W890V5, the Men’s 1080v9 is an animal when it comes to absorbing the forces produced by running. They also happen to be attractive, rugged and light. So they won’t be a drag on long runs, despite the oversized sole. The thing that kept them from rising higher on our list is the lack of cushioning around the collar.
What we like: This is a reasonably priced running shoe that’s handsome and well-cushioned. Inside it’s every bit the equal of the W890V5 we just looked at. While outside it’s fitted with even more cushioning, apparently to accommodate men who are typically heavier than women.
Flaws: There’s no padding around the collar of the shoe. Not sure what the thinking was there. That and they’re pretty expensive.
8. Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 20
If your bad knees are the result of wear and tear instead of something like supination you’ll enjoy the Wave Rider 20. It’s essentially a neutral running shoe so it assumes you don’t have any alignment issues. Instead it puts all its emphasis on drinking in the shocks created by running.
What we like: If knee pain is more an occasional annoyance rather than a daily ordeal this is the shoe for you. It’s very well made, provides a solid hold for your feet and is built to last with plenty of leather in the upper. If you’re someone who tends to lead with their heel a bit these will reduce the pain of doing so.
Flaws: While they do a great job absorbing shocks they’re not as breathable as some of the other shoes on our list.
9. adidas Men’s Supernova M Running Shoe
When you hold the Supernova M Running Shoe from adidas you can feel how bulky it is. But put it down and regard it from a distance and it looks sleek and slim. Nice trick that. Fortunately, the shoe puts all that hidden bulk to good use absorbing the forces created by your foot hitting the ground.
What we like: We like the way the simple, clean lines of the shoe minimize the appearance of the oversized outsole. That oversized outsole really soaks up the shocks. While the dual density boost cushioning compensates for overpronation. You can feel the shoes pushing you forward to the next step.
Flaws: The same thing that makes them a good choice for bad knees (cushy sole, soft all around) will limit their appeal with most other folks.
10. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 Women’s Running Shoes
The last running shoe for bad knees on our list comes to us from Brooks. Not really a household name like Nike or Adidas they nonetheless have a solid reputation for producing consistently great footwear. The GTS 18 is buzzworthy for the custom-style fit it produces, the way it gobbles up shocks and for its clean lines and overall attractiveness.
What we like: The GTS 18 shoes do an admirable job offsetting overpronation. They provide thick, comfortable cushioning in the heel. And they hold the foot in a firm but agreeable grip from the minute you slip them on. They’re available in an array of compelling color combinations and are perhaps the best looking women’s shoe on our list.
Flaws: The arch is pretty firm and they tend to run a bit narrow.
Who Needs Running Shoes for Bad Knees?
Knee pain is often cumulative in character. That is, the longer you put stress and strain on the knee, the greater the likelihood of developing knee pain. As such – and although it can happen to anyone – it’s typically more of an issue with older individuals rather than 20 or 30-somethings. But regardless of your age if you are experiencing knee pain after walking or running it’s likely that your footwear is playing a part.
“How’s that?” you say. Well, either your shoes are to blame for your bad knees (perhaps they’re not providing the support you need) or, at the very least, they’re not designed to alleviate such pain when it occurs. So who needs running shoes for knee pain? Anyone who is experiencing knee pain and would like some relief. Depending on the cause of the pain you may have to engage in additional types of therapy as well. But the right running shoes should help.
How We Ranked
When it comes to running shoes for people with bad knees we want to see plenty of support from toe to heel. Also, since knee problems are sometimes the result of undetected issues like overpronation we’re looking for shoes that encourage a proper gait. Obviously, if you have bad knees you want a shoe that’s comfortable. That means plenty of cushioning in the outsole and a midsole that does its part to absorb shocks whether walking or running.
A common complaint you hear when it comes to some of the shoes on our list is that they’re too tight. We sympathize with those who feel that way. But the fact is one of the reasons these shoes made our list is because of the firm hold they provide. People who don’t have knee issues may find that intense grasp too much to take. But those trying to alleviate knee pain are likely to appreciate it.
The shoes also need to be well built through and through. Many of the running shoes on our list cost north of $100. For a lot of folks regardless of age that’s a lot to spend on a pair of sneakers. So we subjected each and every shoe to a rigorous examination, looking carefully at every stitch and seam. We also put the insides under the microscope after running with them to see if everything stayed together.
We also considered the traction the shoe provided. Did it break down on uneven surfaces? Did it stand up to the rain? Were there any issues on nice flat, dry surfaces? The materials used to make the shoe should also be very breathable. Because of the way these shoes are constructed with larger-than-average outsoles they tend to be a bit heavier than other running shoes. This can make them hotter to run in. So it’s important the shoes were breathable in order to dissipate this extra heat.
Running shoes for bad knees will help you walk more effectively. There is compelling evidence that seniors who run several times a week retain the ability to walk as briskly and effectively as people in their 20s (1). This is important because walking may have just as many positive health benefits for seniors as running (2). So a good pair of running shoes intended to alleviate knee pain gives you a couple of equally great options. You can use them to run a few times a week and thereby enhance your walking abilities. Or you can use them to go for increasingly vigorous walks as you prepare your body for running. Or you can use them to run one day, walk the next, run the next and so on.
Running shoes for bad knees will help prevent knee pain from becoming isolation. In far too many cases physical setbacks wind up being the catalyst for older individuals to begin isolating themselves. Rather than pursuing rehabilitation they simply give up or give in to fears that more injuries await. As a result they withdraw from physical activity altogether (3). But while getting older is no picnic, isolation is not the answer (4)(5). It’s important to stay in the game and work to overcome things like knee pain. Rather than letting it become the start of a greater decline. The right running shoes can help alleviate your knee pain and keep you in the habit of pursuing robust health.
Running shoes for bad knees can help treat patellar tendonitis. Patellar tendonitis (6) is sometimes called ‘jumper’s knee’ because it affects people who jump a lot on hard surfaces, such as basketball players. But it can affect anyone. And it can be caused by things other than jumping up and down. For instance, wearing the wrong shoes can cause patellar tendonitis. If the shoes you’ve been running or walking in angle down sharply from heel to toe this can put enormous strain on the patellar tendon. The result is tendonitis and the pain that comes with it. Getting the right shoes with a gentler slope from heel to toe and plenty of cushioning can help reduce the pain associated with this condition.
Running shoes for bad knees help you maintain a healthy weight. The obesity epidemic has touched every part of the population. Including people over 50. Being overweight is a clear and present danger for older people. It has been linked to the development of type II diabetes, high blood pressure and a greatly increased risk of heart disease (7). One of the best ways to maintain a healthy body weight and a healthy BMI (8) is to run on a regular basis. Some people are hesitant to run because they have experienced knee pain in the past. But the cost of not running can wind up being far greater than the cost of a good pair of running shoes that will help alleviate knee pain.
Running shoes for bad knees help you rebuild strength after knee surgery. People who have had ACL surgery (9) or seniors who have undergone knee replacement surgery need a way to rebuild strength in their knee afterward. Running is one of the best ways to do that. But it has to be approached in a smart, patient manner. You may need to start by running on an antigravity treadmill (10). But regardless of whether you start running again on one of these state of the art devices or you simply work your way back to running in a more traditional way (11) your running shoes for knee pain can help make it happen. And because of that you’ll be able to rebuild strength in your knee so that serves you well throughout the subsequent years.
Running shoes for bad knees help you reduce the risk of heart disease. Anything that helps you become more physically active is going to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease (12). Remember, the heart is a muscle. As such it is capable of responding to exercise, just as your biceps do. Research has found that people who run often actually have larger, more efficient hearts that those who don’t (13). This larger, stronger heart pumps more blood with greater ease and can also help lower blood pressure. Running also tends to help reduce the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in a person’s blood.
Running shoes for bad knees can help prevent falls. Most of the benefits we list here stem from the act of running. And not from the shoes themselves. The shoes enable you to run which produces the various benefits. This one is no different. Now that we’re clear on that, leg weakness is a major contributing factor to older people falling and hurting themselves (14). Once you are able to start running you will strengthen the leg muscles from hip to heel. This increased leg strength will go a long way toward improving your overall stability and preventing falls as you age.
Running shoes for bad knees can help improve bone density. When older folks do fall the biggest reason they wind up breaking a bone is because their bones are weak. As such, a combination of strong leg muscles and strong bones will provide a robust defense against falling and against broken bones should a fall occur. Running, even light running a few times a week, is a great way to not only build stronger leg muscles, but to build stronger leg bones (15) as well. Running shoes that reduce knee pain will allow you to get out there and strengthen your legs inside and out.
Running shoes for bad knees can help stave off dementia. That’s quite a claim we know. But hear us out. As people age they tend to become increasingly sedentary. And sedentary behavior has been linked to a loss of control over blood sugars. This loss of glycemic control, as it’s called, is now believed to be a major contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (16)(17). So, while running shoes by themselves won’t do anything to stave off dementia actually putting them on and running will.
Q: Why would a person with bad knees run at all?
A: Because running is good for you. That said, if your pain is acute and intense the first thing you should do is see your doctor and determine the cause of the pain. Once this has been established, and as long as the cause is something that can be effectively addressed with the right shoes, you may start running. You’ll need to wait until the pain subsides in most cases. And when you do start running you’ll likely need to ease your way into it. But as long as the pain is the result of poor footwear or something else that can be effectively addressed with the right shoes then there’s no reason you can’t run again. And you should.
Q: Can you run with osteoarthritis?
A: Yes, it is possible to run with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the knee (18) is a degenerative condition wherein the cartilage in the knee joint is gradually worn away. Over time bone begins to contact bone and the resulting pain can be intense. Many believe arthritis of the knee to be a one-way street to pain and immobility. But rather than allowing it to sideline you a better response is to keep the knee joint active (19). This builds up the muscles around the joint and can actually help slow joint degradation. The key is to engage in the right kinds of activity. If you’ve never run before, build up slowly by swimming or riding a stationary bike. Then move on to walking before you lace up your running shoes and start jogging.
Q: Will the right shoes let me run on any terrain?
A: If you suffer from knee pain but are determined to run it is advisable that you try and run on smooth, flat surfaces. This will minimize unexpected shocks, jolts and twists that can sometimes be encountered when trail running. If your knee pain was the result of low-quality or poorly fitting footwear it’s possible that over time the knee pain will be a thing of the past and you can consider more challenging terrain. But when first starting out after experiencing knee pain the flatter and smoother the surface the better.
Q: What are some common causes of knee pain?
A: Knee pain has a variety of possible causes including bursitis (20), bone chips (21), osteoarthritis, patellar tendonitis, a dislocated knee cap (22) and wearing the wrong shoes (23). That’s the bad news. The good news is that many of these conditions can be effectively treated by using the right running shoes. Others may require surgical intervention. Even so, running can once again enter the picture either as part of the rehabilitation process or afterward to keep the knee loose and strong.
Q: Can running shoes for bad knees help with overpronation?
A: Yes, many of the running shoes on our list will help with overpronation. Pronation is a term used to describe the tendency of the foot to roll slightly inward while walking or running. It’s part of the natural motion of the foot and is necessary to properly distribute the forces generated from these motions. In some people, however, this inward rolling motion is excessive. This is called ‘overpronation’ (24). Overpronation can create all sorts of uneven forces that radiate up the leg and put unnatural stress on the knee joint. With the right shoes this problem can be effectively addressed alleviating pain and discomfort.
Q: What can be done to minimize knee pain while running?
A: The right shoes are critical if you’re to avoid creating knee pain. But there are other things that will also help prevent knee pain from rearing its head. Strength training of the lower body is paramount among them. Knee pain is sometimes caused by your legs simply not being up to what you’re asking of them. Strengthening your legs can fix this problem.
Q: Can being overweight cause knee pain?
A: It certainly can. Watching your weight is a crucial to ensuring you don’t develop knee pain either from running or walking. Our bodies were simply not designed to handle the kind of weight many people today are carrying around. It’s imperative that if you are running as part of a weight loss program that you start slowly and only increase how much you run as you lose weight.
Q: Could my running form be causing my knee pain?
A: Yes, it’s very possible that your running form may be causing your knee pain. A lot of folks with knee pain assume the problem is something serious like bone spurs or arthritis. When in fact, the pain they’re experiencing is a direct result of using improper form while running. Improper form will almost always make knee pain worse. And in some cases it will be the one and only cause of bad knees.
Q: What are some basics of proper running form?
A: The basics of proper running form include leaning forward while you run, making sure your feet don’t get out in front of you while running, keeping your knees low and keeping your feet oriented forward at all times. When we say ‘don’t let your feet get out in front of you’ we mean make sure they don’t get so far out front that the heel is driven into the ground absorbing all the shock. This is a recipe for all kinds of trouble. Including knee pain.
Q: Is it important to stretch before running?
A: Stretching before you run is incredibly important (25). Even more so for older folks. When you’re in your teens and twenties the body can compensate for your lack of stretching to some degree. But as you age your body becomes less willing to entertain your bad habits. Regardless of your age if you want to enjoy optimal benefits from your new running shoes you’ll make sure you take the time to stretch prior to running. Stretching the quads and hamstrings is particularly important if you want to prevent knee pain.
Q: Should I ice my knees after running?
A: Pain and stiffness is often caused by inflammation of the knee joint. Despite some conflicting stories in the media lately ice remains an effective method for reducing inflammation and the pain and stiffness it can create (26). The right running shoes should help alleviate the problem of swollen knees. But if your knees are swelling up anyway after a run or vigorous walk you would do well to ice them down. Just make sure you put a cloth of some kind between the ice and your skin. If it turns out the running shoes you chose are not preventing swollen, painful knees stop running and discuss the matter with your physician.
Q: How quickly will the right running shoes get rid of my knee pain?
A: There is simply no way to say with any certainty. That’s because there are so many variables involved. Your age, weight and overall physical condition will all play a part. What caused the knee pain in the first place is also going to weigh heavily on recovery time. As will the type of surfaces you’re running on, how far you run and whether you are using the proper form while running. The key is to be patient and methodical. Determine the cause beyond any doubt. Do whatever therapy is necessary before you take to the road again. When you do, make sure you’re using running shoes that will fend off knee pain and don’t push yourself too far, too fast.
Running shoes for knee pain can play a major role in helping people of all ages stay engaged and maintain vigorous health. In some cases they will be all that is needed to alleviate your knee pain. In other cases they will be part of a comprehensive therapeutic approach to recovery.
The best running shoes for bad knees feature plenty of shock-absorbant padding both outside and inside the shoe. They also tend to fit snug in order to ensure a proper motion while running or walking. And they’re made of lightweight, breathable materials to prevent your feet from overheating, which could undermine the effectiveness of the shoe.
All of the shoes on our list have been rigorously tested for comfort and effectiveness. Regardless of the source of your knee pain you’re certain to find one that will help.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended running shoe for bad knees, click here.