How Footwear Can Impact Pain Management of Disorders of the Knee Joint

November 5, 2018

Knee joint disorders like osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis, fractures, meniscus tear (better known as torn cartilage), torn ligaments, misalignment of the kneecap, or drying up of the fluid between the knee bones result in excruciating pain. The last thing you want is to wear shoes, sandals, or flip-flops which aggravate the condition. Though few people realize it, the footwear you opt for might increase or lessen your pain depending on the design and specifications.

Knee Pain

So, What Is Right for You?

You might have heard that flats are the most desirable footwear. If you have an unstable knee, then wearing flat-heeled shoes and sandals are safer wear. However, you need to ensure that the insoles have adequate cushioning, and the instep is supported. For most people, wearing flats all the time is as dangerous as wearing stilettoes all day. Your heel needs cushioning to protect it from the impact of quick steps, and purposeful walking. Not just your heels, but your knees get jarred too when the heel isn’t adequately cushioned.

Look to soft, but low platforms:Platform shoes and sandals make you look taller. The downside is that most of such footwear is that they are hard and very heavy. The hardness makes the impact stronger when you step ahead. The sheer weight makes it even more problematic. The effort required to simply raise your foot places an increasing stress on your knees, thereby aggravating the pain. Save the flimsy and high heeled shoes for special occasions.

Shifting the Pressure on the Knees
One sensible way to reduce the pressure on your knees for better pain management is to redistribute the force needed to walk, run, climb stairs, and rise from a chair or bed. While ballerinas and Ugg boots look stylish and enjoy significant popularity, they carry an inherent risk of introducing deformities of the feet which didn’t exist at birth. The compression of the front part of the foot means increased pressure on the knees as the foot is robbed of natural support. It causes the body to bend forward to compensate the center of gravity; thereby increasing the stress on the knees.

Replace old, worn out shoes: Though many people imagine that old shoes are more comfortable just the way old clothes are; they are mistaken. Favorite shoes which have been worn regularly for more than three years probably have had their soles and heels worn down. This can increase the risk of strain on the knees, especially if you already have osteoarthritis or osteoporosis as their ability to reduce or control impact has gone.

Why High Heels Increase Pain in the Knees

The biggest issue with high heels is that you need to constantly keep your knees bent when you stand or walk in them. Any kind of footwear which keeps the heel shifted away from the floor, or doesn’t allow the foot to remain parallel to the floor necessarily cause the center of gravity to shift, and strain the knees; while an anterior pelvic tilt strains the tibiofemoral and patellofemoral joints by increasing the load on them. Stilettoes, wedges, kitten heels, spool heels, cone heels, and court shoes are some of the high heeled shoes which are quite popular with people of diverse ages. Without exception, all of them strain your knees and heels.

Whether It Is a Matter of Controlling or Reducing Pain, Proper Footwear Holds the Key

Don’t underestimate the value of wearing appropriate footwear to reduce or control knee pain. You can opt for shoes which are flat and flexible or those that are supportive to protect unstable knees. Much depends on the nature of your knee damage or ailment. You can ask your orthopedist about orthotic shoes. Doctors have observed reduction of pain levels when footwear had support, fastening straps, and cushioning. If you have fallen arches or were born with flat feet; then you definitely need corrective footwear which supports your arches. Such shoes literally take the weight off your back and knees. There are shoes called mobility shoes which effectively reduce joint loads, especially for patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Takeaway: Choose comfort over style for everyday shoes. Different people experience different changes in their knee pains, just as there are different causes for those pains. So, it is vital that you understand what is causing the pain in your knees and/or feet before you look for shoe designs. Keep in mind the potential for creating foot and knee issues when you are browsing designs. Also, consider why you need that footwear — work, walking, running, playing games, or having to sit at a desk all day. Consulting an orthopedist before choosing footwear, if you have known joint pains, makes sense.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors