Best Running Shoes for Sore Knees
The Best Running Shoes for Knee Pain
Running impacts your knees, as well as nearly every structure in your lower body. While studies have been inconclusive about the connection between distance running and arthritis of the knee, studies like this one from the journal Sports Health point out that 80% of running-related injuries affect the knees and lower joints. Repeated heel-strikes on a hard or uneven running surface may contribute to a raft of nagging, chronic conditions from plantar fasciitis to hip bursitis. Common sense dictates that we choose a running shoe to minimize the cumulative damage done by small, countless shocks to the body's structure. This article will discuss the best running shoes, by consensus, for lower body health, with a particular focus on the knees.
I speak from experience here -- I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) several years ago. Before it happened, I didn't even know I had an ACL, a band of connective tissue that keeps your knee stable from front to back. It happened in the most minor way -- I jumped down off a step and landed wrong. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, unable to get up. It was several weeks before I could put any weight on the knee at all, and several months before it felt anything like a stable joint.
I wasn't overweight or out of shape when this happened -- in fact, I was a fit, fairly athletic individual just a few years past 30. It was a shock, and a wake-up call.
Top-Rated Running Shoes for Sore Knees
These are among the best-rated and most highly recommended running shoes for joint protection. This list comes from both personal experience and research, with a special consideration of those shoes that are both affordable and designed with support and heel-strike deflection in mind.
1. ASICS Women's GEL-Kayano 22 Running Shoe
The first shoe on the list is a quality running shoe gets high marks from several sites for its ability to alleviate knee pain. It features a removable sole and GEL cushioning systems in both front and back to absorb shock. The makers of this shoe have updated the to make it one of the best-reviewed and high-tech foot-protecting shoes on the market. It's equipped with FluidRide, which provides more bounce-back but is lighter than the previous model. Nearly seamless construction is another feature that reinforces stability. Kayano 22 running shoe
Gel cushion soles are one of the common features in many of the best shoes for your feet and knees.Another good option is air cushion, found in Nike Air Max heel units, have also worked for me as I try to come back from the pain of over-use.
If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.— Emil Zatopek
2. Merrell Women's Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe
Our second shoe is technically designed for hiking, but if you're a walker/runner like me you won't see any reason not to use it for all terrains and speeds. This shoe gets some glowing reviews from users, includingone that cited the sturdy and durable construction -- these shoes are built to last. This model also receives very high marks for knee comfort. It features a "vibram" sole, Ortholite footbed, and breathable mesh panels to make it a good choice for long desert walks.
3. Nike Air Max Running and Basketball Shoes
The Nike Air Max line is one of my personal favorites. These are the shoes that helped cure my nagging plantar fasciitis, and also help my knees feel better after a long walk or run. The heel unit in Air Max shoes is essentially the same from model to model, which to me means they have found something that works and have decided to stick with it. I'm not sure how it works, but I have worn out several pairs and they all made my knees and heels feel better.
All Nike Air Max shoes have a special heel insert that just really works for me, and you can find that heel unit in a wide variety of makes and models. I have gone through several pairs, all with these heel modules.
One Runner's Story
When I tore my ACL, I couldn't walk at all for several weeks. It slowly came back and is now full strength. I elected not to have surgery to reconnect the completely torn ligament. After months of physical therapy I felt that I could go on with my life, knowing that I had a slightly unstable knee. It would "buckle" from time to time, nothing serious, and I learned how to be careful about sudden moves and weight shifts.
So then I decided to run a triathlon.
About five years after I tore my ACL, I began to run distances I never had before. Within ten years I ran my first triathlon, which included a mile swim, a 24 mile bike ride, and a six-mile run. I trained for almost a year, and at the age of 50, I actually did it. And I finished. Pretty far in back, but I did it.
Training for the race required me to work hard and run constantly. With a missing ACL, this meant choosing shoes very wisely. I found that the Nike Air Max was the best heel unit for me, and I wore out more than one pair. I love these shoes, and you can read about my battle with plantar fasciitis elsewhere among my Hubs.
4. Vionic Walker White/Purple Women's Lace Up Sneakers
The next shoe on the list is the Vionic Walker. This shoe shows up again and again on "best of" lists for walkers and runners. For what it's worth, the maker suggests that you only wear these shoes on the first day for a couple of hours, so you can adapt to the "new level of orthotic comfort and support." One of the unique features of this model is the Advanced Motion System (AMS), which is described as technology that provides flexible and cushioned sole and aids "energy return" on the push off of each stride. The Vionic also has an EVA mid-sole that provides extra support nd shock relief for arches and the ball of your foot. Leather and mesh uppers.
Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days...I run, pound it out on the pavement, channel that energy into my legs, and when I'm done with my run, I'm done with it.— Rob Haneisen, runner
5. Nike Dart 12 Black/Cool Grey/Dark Grey/Pink Blast Women's Running Shoes
The Nike Dart is a good-looking shoe with excellent marks for knee protection. Like the Air Max, this Nike shoe has a focus on cushioning the heel strike that has such a deleterious effect on the plantar fascia. User reviews refer to the stability and joint protection of the . I have always liked Nike for men, so it seems logical to also trust Nike to come up with a solid women's shoe. Nike Dart running shoe
Why Your Knees Hurt, Part One
There are several reasons your knees hurt. Age, of course, is a part of it, as is weight. But there is often much ore to it than that. Here are some reasons you have pain in our knees (information here is condensed and adapted from Web MD and other quality health sites):
Bursitis: You have bursa throughout your joints. They're small sacs of fluid that act as shock absorbers, and if you do things that irritate them you can wind up with a painful condition called bursitis. In this situation, your bursa become inflamed and painful to the touch. Overuse and repeated bending and kneeling are among the moves that can insult your bursa. I had this condition for several months as part of the damage caused by my ACL tear, and it was pretty bad. The bursa on top of your kneecap can get inflamed, causing pain and swelling.
Patellar tendinitis: This diagnosis means you have inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin bone. The most common cause is hard landings, so the term "jumper's knee" is sometimes applied to this condition
IT (iliotibial) band syndrome: The iliotibial (IT) band is a long band of tough connective tissue that runs from your hip down to the outer part of your knee. Like other connective tissue, it can be irritated by overuse or injury. Pain from this condition typically occurs on the outer side of your knee. It's most common in runners and walkers who spend a lot of time going downhill.
Some Benefits of Being Able to Run (or at least walk!)
When you have shoes that alleviate the pain in your knees and let you move, you really open up all kinds of options for getting active. In addition to the well-documented medical benefits of getting exercise, here are a few good reasons to run and move that you may not have thought of:
- Pain makes me/you cranky and no fun to be around
- You can walk through life without limping
- You can enjoy your kids and grandkids
- You can shop and never drop!
- SAVE MONEY on doctor visits and medicines
- Get off pain meds -- they're addictive
6. New Balance Men's M890 Neutral Light Running Shoe
Next up is the well-reviewed . New Balance likes to come up with fancy terms to brand its unique features, so you may want to look into terms like "FantomFit upper" and "REVlite foam midsole" and "ABZORB shock-absorbing cushioning." Very detailed reviews of this shoe cite the following things to consider: New Balance Neutral Light running shoe
- This show is very light, meaning you can wear them all day
- Appropriate heel drop to protect ankle and knee joints
- Perfect for medium and lighter frames; larger people may need more structure/weight in the shoe.
- Very lightweight but also very thin to keep weight down, so durability may suffer.
- These shoes run large, so consider buying a size larger than your usual.
Why Your Knees Hurt, Part Two
Loose cartilage: It can happen that cartilage in your knees can suffer from small tears. In some cases, small pieces of your cartilage tear loose and impede the joint itself, which is a painful situation. If you have a small bit of cartilage inside your knee, the joint can click and even get "stuck." I have never had this, but my partner has, and it's truly terrible.
Osgood-Schlatter disease: This condition is really only an issue among young people, typically young adolescents. When young people are growing, this condition can cause a painful bump below the knee, which is caused by inflammation of a tendon that runs from the kneecap to the shin. Too much exercise canmake this area hurt. The ache may come and go over time.
Osteoarthritis: As we age, our joints tend to simply wear out. This is not to say you should stay still and not move -- that's actually worse for your joints. Osteoarthritis isn't always all that bad, and those of us of a certain age all have it to some degree. But it is among the major causes of knee pain in those of us past the age of 50. It causes the knee joint to ache when you’re active. Good running shoes can really make a difference with osteoarthritis -- not as a cure, but as a way to ease the impact of running and walking.
Injury: This was my story -- my torn ligament was a turning point and led me to seek out high-quality shoes that would ease my discomfort. The ACL is one of the main parts of your knee, and once it's completely torn like mine was, it never grows back on its own -- you either get surgery or undergo physical therapy.
7. Reebok Women's Zquick Dash Running Shoe, Black/Blue Pool/White, 6.5 M US
The ZQuick is lightweight but strong in support of your ankle and knee joints. According to RunRepeat.com and other sites, this shoe is effective at alleviating knee pain. Like other Reeboks, this features an EVA midsole for underfoot cushioning.
8. Vionic Women's Agile FYN Sneaker
Number eight on the list is the , a very popular shoe with excellent reviews. It's also among the better-looking options here. The Vionic Agile features "Advanced Motion System (AMS) technology, combining our podiatrist-designed orthotic with a flexible, cushioned outsole." This shoe is also recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil. Vionic Agile running shoe
According to the manufacturer, the shoe's EVA midsole adds stability, and the improved rubber tread contributes to added traction. A breathable mesh upper with a little stretch adds to the comfort of the shoe. Orthotics designed by a podiatrist adds an assurance of quality.
Nothing, not even pain, lasts forever. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the end.— Kim Cowart
My Knee Pain Experience
After my injury, and all through my training, I fought knee pain. When I wasn't training, I still needed running shoes to keep my pain under control. Lacking a major ligament in one knee had interesting consequences -- the worst pain I experienced wasn't actually in the bad knee, but in the good one. My doctor said it was because I unconsciously favored my bad knee, which made my good knee unhappy. I suppose she was right, but then there were many days when both knees hurt, and also some when neither one did. It was unpredictable, but having good shoes that supported my joints made all the difference in the world.
9. New Balance Women's 928v2 Walking Shoe
The New Balance 928 is a good-looking leather runner/walker that has an EVA sole and something called "roll bar technology." I have to admit I don't know what that is, but healthline.com considers this shoe among the best for those of us with aching knees.
Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.— Julie Isphording
10. ASICS Men's GEL-Kayano 22 Lite Show Running Shoe
Finally, the is both affordable and highly designed. The list of special features and design innovations in the Kayano is impressive, and may be one of the reasons that this shoe shows up on lists of running shoes for us sore knee people. The tech advances in the Kayano include: ASICS GEL-Kayano running shoe
- I.G.S (impact guidance system): An Asics design “philosophy” that uses linked componentry to enhance your natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
- Fluidride midsole: provides the ultimate combination of bounce back and cushioning properties
- Fluid fit upper: combines multi-directional stretch mesh with stretch reinforcements that adapt to the your foot
- Heel clutching system: an “exoskeletal heel counter” provides improved support and improved heel fit.
- Rearfoot and forefoot gel cushioning systems: attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases.
Finally, a little inspiration to keep us all going...
Information for this article comes from several sources, including my own extensive experience, online running sites, and product reviews. This method gives you the best cross-section of data about what actually works for your knees when it comes to selecting a quality running shoe.
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