Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease caused by wear and tear of the cartilage in the joints. It occurs when there is an increased loss of joint cartilage, which is the substance that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. As cartilage breaks down, it is replaced with bone and develops into osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis affects about 27 million Americans and is the most common form of arthritis (1). The knees are one of the most commonly affected joints. According to research from 2013, up to 60% of people over 50 have mild osteoarthritis in their knees (2).
Throughout this article I will be referring to “osteoarthritis” as OA although there are actually many different types including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis etc. For simplicity’s sake I will refer only to OA here, but if you have any concerns or questions please ask your physician.
Best Shoes For Osteoarthritis Of The Knee
People living with arthritis deal with some combination of joint pain and swelling, which can make standing, or walking a challenge. That’s why it’s important to have a good pair of shoes. “A supportive shoe also supports the many joints and ligaments and tendons of the foot which can help reduce inflammation,” says Bruce Pinker, DPM, board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon practicing in White Plains, New York.
Best Overall: ECCO SOFT 7 Slip-On Sneakers
- Supportive, stylish, and versatile
- Removable, leather-covered insole
- Slip on easily
- May run narrow
We chose this sneaker as our top pick because it’s lightweight, can be slipped on, and provides cushioning and support for people with arthritis. The shoe has a removable insole, allowing you to add your own orthotics to meet your specific needs. Plus, it comes with elastic panels on the side of the shoe that make them easy to slip on and off—a bonus for those dealing with arthritis in their hands, wrists, or fingers.
A fabric lining makes the shoes breathable, so your feet will stay cool and comfortable even after wearing them for hours. Even though they feel like athletic shoes, the style can be worn with everything from athleisure to business casual.
Sizes Available: Womens 4/4.5 – 12/12.5 | Materials: Full grain nappa leather; textile lining | Width: Standard | Arch Support: Neutral | Weight: Lightweight
Best Budget: Vionic Malibu Slip On at Vionic
- Made from upcycled cotton
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Great value
- Only comes in medium (B) width
Comfortable right out of the box, these shoes are from podiatrist-approved brand Vionic and come at a lower price point than most of their products—making their well-constructed shoes accessible to more people. With an upcycled cotton upper and a sole made from a combination of rubber and soybean-based compound, they’re not just friendly on your feet: they’re friendly to the environment too. Plus, if they get dirty because you’re wearing them so often, just pop them in the washing machine.
Sizes Available: Women’s 5-11 | Materials: Cotton canvas textile upper, TPR outsole | Width: Medium (B) | Arch Support: Neutral
Best for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Mephisto Hadrian Perf
- Shock-absorbing heel
- Easy to put on and take off
- Removable footbed
These classic casual slip-ons are easy to put on and remove, thanks to elastic stretchy material on the sides—which also ensure a perfect fit. This is particularly important for someone with rheumatoid arthritis, who may have difficulty bending over or experience pain in their hands or wrists. While the shock-absorbing heel is built into the shoe, the insole it comes with is removable, in case you want to put in your own orthotics. Made from leather on the inside and outside of the shoes, they’re on the pricey side, but make up for that in versatility.
Sizes Available: Men’s 6-13 | Materials: 100% leather; rubber sole | Width: Medium | Arch Support: Neutral | Weight: 10 oz
Best for Ankle Arthritis: SAS Kich Lace Up Ankle Boot
- Comes in 5 different widths
- Added metatarsal and arch support
- Removable insoles
- Narrow heel
This soft-but-structured boot provides extra support for someone with ankle arthritis. The sides come up around the ankles to help keep you stable and are made with leather that molds to the foot instead of feeling stiff. The insoles are removable, but with reinforced metatarsal and arch support they may be exactly what you need. Beneath the insoles is shock-absorbing cushioning which provides extra support to the three main pressure points of the foot: inside ball, outside ball, and heel.
Sizes Available: Women’s 5-10 | Materials: Leather upper | Width: Narrow, medium, wide, double wide | Arch Support: Neutral
Best for Toe Arthritis: Hoka One One Bondi 7
- Available in men’s and women’s varieties/sizes
- Highly cushioned sole
- Rocker-bottom sole
- Runs slightly narrow
Technically, these are running shoes, but they work just as well for running errands as they do around a track. People with toe arthritis will appreciate the rocker-bottom sole, which helps take pressure off the big toe, as well as the shoe’s toe box—which is roomy while still being supportive. The breathable lining was designed to cut down on rubbing, so it’s also a good option for those prone to blisters.
Sizes Available: Men’s sizes 7-16; women’s sizes 5-12 | Materials: Mesh upper, memory foam collar | Width: Men’s widths: regular (D), wide (EE), and x-wide (EEEE); women’s widths: regular (B) and wide (D) | Arch Support: Neutral | Weight: Men: 10.7 oz; women: 8.9 oz
What the Experts Say
“One of the ways to minimize pain associated with arthritis is to minimize excessive flexion of joints through shoes with rocker-bottom or rigid outsoles. All HOKA ONE ONE sneakers have the rocker-bottom sole, which minimizes pain at the big toe joint. The rocker-bottom sole also allows the torso to smoothly shift weight forward over the ankle during walking, minimizing arthritic pain in the ankle and subtalar joints.” —Dr. Nelya Lobkova, a podiatrist in private practice in New York City
Best Running Shoes: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11
- Available in men’s and women’s sizes and styles
- Responsive foam footbed
- Comfortable and supportive
- Very thick sole
If you have arthritis and are looking for a solid running shoe, this is it. The Fresh Foam 1080 V11’s highly cushioned footbed comes standard in all shoes in this line for both men and women. Three widths and a soft, stretchy knit upper that offers 360-degree support make these an incredibly comfortable—but highly supportive—option.
Sizes Available: Men’s sizes 7-16; women’s sizes 5-13 | Materials: 50% synthetic, 50% mesh; rubber sole | Width: Narrow, Standard, Wide, X-Wide | Arch Support: Neutral | Weight: Men: 9.3 oz; women: 8.1 oz
Best Boots: Drew Bronx Boots
- Removable footbed with arch build-up
- Shock-absorbing outsole
- Odor and stain control
- Takes a while to break in
These boots offer so many features that it’s hard to keep track of them all. From an extended heel stabilizer to a heel notch, a tempered steel shank, to a soft, padded tongue and collar, every part of this boot is designed to fully support both the foot and ankle. As a bonus, the insole wicks moisture away from the foot, keeping it not only dry but reducing odor.
Sizes Available: Mens 7-16 | Materials: Leather upper, polyurethane outer, leather and Drilex lining | Width: Narrow (B); Medium (D); Wide (EE); 4W (4E); 6E | Arch Support: Maximum arch buildup
What Experts the Say
“Boots, if improperly fitted, can cause plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and bursitis of the heel. The reason boots can cause these conditions is that they actually restrict a lot of the natural motion that is needed in the foot and ankle when walking.” —Dr. Emily Splichal, a podiatrist based in New York City.
Best Heels: Sole Bliss Ingrid
- Rubber shock-resistant heel
- Bunion support
- Anti-bacterial, custom-cushioning memory foam
Only recently available in the United States, Sole Bliss already had a celebrity following in the UK, counting Dame Helen Mirren and Camilla Parker-Bowles as fans of the brand. And that should give you an idea of the type of support and cushioning that comes with their shoes, including this modest 2” block heel. Though technically designed for people with bunions, they also tick the boxes for someone with arthritis.
Sizes Available: 5-11 | Materials: Leather upper, leather lined | Width: Wide | Arch Support: Anti-pronating
With the ideal mix of comfort, cushion, support, and style, it’s hard to beat the ECCO SOFT 7 Slip-On Sneakers (view at Amazon)—especially considering their versatility for a wide range of occasions. That is why we chose it as the best overall. Easy to slip on and off and also breathable, these workhorse shoes make it worth the price. But for those looking for a more affordable option, Vionic’s Malibu Slip-On (view at Amazon) offers many of the brand’s signature foot-friendly features at a wallet-friendly price.