Have you searched high and low for just the right shoes to help you deal with your osteoarthritis of the knee? Perhaps the solution lies in your nearest sneaker supercenter. A recent study has found that flip-flops and sneakers that have flexible bottoms are easier on painful knees than even clogs or walking shoes.  

A team at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago examined 31 people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee. In a special motion-analysis lab they analyzed the subjects' gaits while they walked shoeless and then while wearing four different types of shoes-clogs popular with healthcare professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet, stability sneakers, flat sneakers with flexible soles, and plain old flip-flops. The surprising findings? When wearing both the clogs and the stability sneakers, the subjects experienced a 15 percent greater load on the knee joints than while wearing the other two types of shoes or while going barefoot. This is significant because pressure and loading on the knee joints is directly related to osteoporosis.

Why would shoes created and marketed as easier on the knees actually not offer any obvious benefit? Here are two possibilities:

Heel height. In this study, both the clogs and the stability shoes had higher heels than the flexible sneakers and the flip-flops. Even a small heel places a greater load on the knee than no heel at all.

Stiffness. Shoes with stiffer soles, such as clogs and stability sneakers, mean less foot flexibility when walking, which may affect pressure on the knee. Flip-flops, flexible sneakers, and going barefoot all offer greater flexibility.

Before you toss your clogs or orthopedic sneakers (or your orthotic shoe inserts or knee braces, for that matter) in order to save your knees from years of pain and misery, heed these words of caution: Flip-flops are loose-fitting and as a result can lead to falls. They're easily tripped over and slipped off the feet. If you're older or generally unstable on your feet, you should not wear them. 


Rush University Medical Center, www.rush.edu.