Best Shoes For Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

For Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), a common cause of knee pain, the best shoes for you are the ones that relieve pressure on your patella and reduce tension on your quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.

Proper footwear is an important part of treating PFPS because it can help to reduce the pressure on your patella. Here are some tips for choosing the right pair of shoes:

Choose shoes with more room in the toe box. The toes should be able to naturally splay outwards as much as possible to relieve pressure on the patella.

Choose shoes with a wide sole. Wide soles distribute weight more evenly across your foot, which reduces strain on any one area of your foot or leg. A wide sole also allows you to maintain a natural foot position while walking so that the muscles in your lower leg aren’t overworked by compensating for poor footwear choices.

Best Shoes For Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

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Treating osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee may require medication and rehabilitation, but the right choice of shoe can also go a long way.

Healthcare professionals often recommend certain shoes as a way to 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.

Why the right shoes matter

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

While everyone’s needs (and feet!) are different, people with OA 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.

How we chose the best shoes for knee pain and OA

We’ve rounded up the best walking and running shoe brands for bad knees and OA pain, along with advice on how to make the right choice when shopping for a pair of shoes.

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

  • Features. We looked for expert-recommended features for OA pain, like cushioning and shock absorption, midsole support, and motion control.
  • Customer reviews. We chose these shoes because people with OA pain rate them highly for comfort.
  • Reputation. Medical professionals who treat OA have trusted most of these brands for years.
  • Sizing. We’ve included a broad range of lengths and widths.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $100
  • $$ = $101–$150
  • $$$ = over $150

New Balance

New Balance 813 shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $–$$$

New Balance shoes are highly recommended for those with knee pain.

Many New Balance styles, especially the 813 series, offer two features that experts recommend for people with OA: cushioning and motion control.

“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,” says Jessica McManus, a physical therapist and owner of Full Circle PT and Wellness, whose top three picks included New Balance shoes.

Many people with OA also do well with motion control running shoes, although this is specific to the individual client. All of the top brands have at least a few ‘motion control’ styles.

“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,” says McManus.

According to the New Balance website, styles in the 813 series are approved Medicare/HCPCS code A5500 and may be eligible for Medicare reimbursement.


Selection of Brooks walking and running shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $$

Brooks is another top pick of the experts we reached out to, including Dr. Brad Schaeffer, a podiatrist and board certified foot and ankle surgeon who practices in New York City and can be seen on the popular TLC show “My Feet Are Killing Me.”

“These help keep feet stable, they are accommodating, and comfortable,” says Schaeffer.

And it’s not just doctors who swear by Brooks shoes. Healthline readers do too.

“After my two knee replacements, my surgeon suggested Brooks Adrenaline and/or Brooks Glycerin shoes,” says reader Lynnea Christensen. “They are a little ‘spendy,’ but the support is phenomenal and comfort is awesome!”

The Brooks Glycerin and Adrenaline both feature extra cushioning and Brooks GuideRails technology to limit excess movement for support that aids your knees, hips, and feet.

The Brooks Addiction Walker is another style that people with OA pain rave about thanks to extra cushioning and support and the diagonal rollbar that helps reduce impact on the joints.

Asics Gel

Selection of Asics walking and running shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $–$$$

Runners and walkers who have knee pain recommend shoes from Asics Gel-equipped collections, such as the Gel-Nimbus and Gel-Contend Walker. Schaefer also recommends the brand’s shoes, saying they’re lightweight and offer good support.

The collection launched in the mid-1980s and has since expanded to offer more shoes for a variety of sports, including tennis and volleyball.

Vionic with Orthaheel Technology

Selection of Vionic shoes with Orthaheel Technology for knee and back pain

Price point: $$

Formerly known as Orthaheel, Vionic with Orthaheel Technology shoes are an affordable alternative to custom orthotic shoes.

If you don’t have prescription orthotics, they’re the best,” says reader Diane Grasely. “I can even walk my dog wearing their flip-flops with built-in arch.”

Many Vionic styles are approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), including several flip-flop styles. The Classic Walker and Miles Active Sneaker are a couple of the styles people with OA swear by that also have the APMA Seal of Acceptance.


Selection of Skechers shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $

Skechers shoes are known for their ability to flex and twist, promoting a natural stride when you walk. Skechers GOwalk is an especially popular option for those with knee problems, including reader Penny Letchford.

The GOwalk Joy and GOwalk Evolution are both lightweight slip-ons featuring a roomy forefoot, breathable mesh upper, and cushioned insole.

The D’Lites line with memory foam insoles is a favorite for being fashionable and functional, with fun designs and lightweight, supportive, shock-absorbing midsoles.


Selection of Hoka shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $$$

HOKA is another brand that experts, including McManus and Schaeffer, recommend. Several of their styles have the APMA Seal of Acceptance and are highly reviewed, including the Bondi 7 and Bondi SR, which are HOKA’s most cushioned styles.

Thanks to its plush sole and all-day comfort, the all-gender Clifton L is another style with favorable reviews from people with OA and other types of foot, knee, and back pain.

Gravity Defyer

Gravity Defyer shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $–$$$

Online company Gravity Defyer sells casual and dress footwear that’s designed with pain relief in mind. Reader Dottie Brand Burns swears by the brand and owns their boots, athletic shoes, and sandals.

Except for the sandals, all Gravity Defyer shoes include corrective orthotics, and all styles feature VersoShock shock-absorbing sole technology and a roomy toe box.

Nike Air

Selection of Nike Air shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $$–$$$

Reader Jean Compton is just one of the many whose doctors have recommended Nike Airs. These shoes offer added cushioning and come in an impressive range of styles and colors for running and other activities.

Some of the Nike Air styles that get rave reviews for their shock absorption and support are the Air Zoom Pegasus and Air Zoom Structure.


Selection of Merrell shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $–$$$

Merrell offers athletic and casual styles in shoes, boots, sandals, and clogs. Reader Deanna Daisher Borton recommends their shoes, while reader Lisa Bassoff Obermeier favors their clogs.

Known for their outdoorsy style and function, Merrell offers a few styles with extra cushioning and support that appeal to walkers and hikers with arthritis. The Jungle Moc collection is a favorite with adults and kids of all ages.


Selection of Clarks shoes for knee and back pain

Price point: $–$$$

The creator of the world’s first comfort shoe back in the 1960s, Clarks remains a top pick for those with knee problems. The Wallabee is the company’s original and most popular style, but they also offer comfort shoes in athletic styles for walkers and runners.

The Wave 2.0 Vibe and Ezera Walk both feature Clarks’ ORTHOLITE high rebound foam inlay to absorb impact. If you’re looking for a stylish and versatile sneaker to dress up or down, the RaceLite offers the same cushioning with a removable footbed to customize your comfort.

Choosing the right shoe for you

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,” says 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 says.

Arch support

When it comes to footwear for pain, Schaeffer’s first priority is arch support.

“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. It is crucial to decrease the pressure from your feet to your knees, doing this will also impact any hips and back issues,” Schaeffer says.

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 but rather the position of your foot.

“It does not matter what arch support you have as long as your foot is in a neutral position,” says Schaeffer.

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