It’s one of the most common complaints seen by our Physios and coaches.
More recently, maximal shoes have seen an explosion in popularity so the other common question is “should I get Hoka running shoes for bad knees?“
(Want to skip straight to our list of the Best running shoes for bad knees? Click here!)**
What causes knee pain during running?
The area might be vulnerable due to an existing sensitive irritation or inflammatory reaction or it might be due to a previous injury or degenerative process.
As the supporting muscles begin to fatigue mid-run, the knees start to become noticeable.
Once the pain starts, pushing on with running usually maintains the ongoing irritation to the area.
It’s why the pain starts gradually but then continues to build over the next few weeks.
How to relieve knee pain from running
Rest from running will temporarily relieve the pain but it also leaves you weaker and more likely to cause irritation when you return.
(You can read more about the negative effects of rest in this post).
To avoid resting, while still getting on top of the injury, you can add strength training to your program.
But the effects tend to take up to a month before you’ll notice positive changes with less knee pain while running.
One of the best, and quickest, ways of being able to redistribute the load away from the cause of your knee pain is to find the best running shoes for bad knees.
The best running shoes for knee pain are able to move the pressure away from your knees and on to the muscles around the area.
Some shoes will even do a lot of the work for you – there’s extra plush cushioned shoes like Hoka running shoes designed to soften the landing and reduce the work on knee muscles.
Other running shoes make you more stable and controlled, allowing the stabilising muscles around the hip to work less and fatigue later.
The old approach to finding the best running shoes for bad knees used to be more support is better – luckily there’s been a big paradigm shift over the last decade.
Finding the best running shoes for bad knees is about finding the right shoe that matches your needs.
You might like cushioning or support, firm or soft, narrow or wide fit – it must match your needs.
So avoid getting recommendations from friends on their best running shoes for bad knees as your feet/knees/legs are unique (well, kind of…there’s actually two of them).
The process of testing out a new running shoe
Obviously it’d be great to test out a new shoe with a 5km run, but by then you’ve bought the shoe and there’s no going back.
You’ve either found the best running shoes for bad knees or you’ve blown $200 and just found expensive gardening shoes!
To work out if the shoe is the right match for you, try this simple process.
- Take off your existing shoes so you’re barefoot
- Perform a single leg squat and rate any knee pain out of 10
- Perform a little hop or two and rate the pain out of 10
- Try on a new shoe in the correct size
- Perform the single leg squat again – did you pain reduce by 2/10 or more?
- Try the hop again (same height as before) – did the pain reduce by 2/10 or more?
- Then twist/rotate your foot side to side – does the foot move in the shoe or does the shoe move on the ground?
If you’ve found the best running shoes for bad knees specific to your biomechanics:
- Pain on single leg squat and/or hopping will be reduced by at least 2/10 (1/10 might just be chance or wishful thinking)
- The foot is well contained in the shoe so any twisting or rotating movements causes the shoe to move on the ground, not for you to move inside the shoe
If it fits that criteria, you’ve probably found a winner!
Now to find your favourite colour…
List of the best running shoes for bad knees
Our physiotherapists have compiled a list of the best running shoes for bad knees based on the features that match different injuries around the knee.
Front of knee issues
Hoka One One Bondi
This shoe provides an extremely plush cushion to run on. This allows you to land with your knee in a straighter position to minimise pressure on the front of the knee.
You’ll struggle to find these shoes on special or discounted anywhere – Hoka doesn’t need to discount to sell.
But they are one of the most popular and best running shoes for bad knees for good reason!!!
In Australia, TAF has one of the more extensive ranges of colours and standard and wide fitting options. At least you’ll have almost enough points with this purchase to get a $30 voucher with their member program.
Hoka One One Arahi
Much like the Bondi, this shoe provides a plush cushion along with additional stability. This means you can land with a straighter knee as well as getting support from twisting pressures on the knee.
It offers a unique combination of max cushioning and some support which isn’t found in any other shoe at the moment.
On a list of the best running shoes for bad knees, it typically makes the top 5 for most Physiotherapist’s recommendations.
Medial and/or lateral knee pain
This popular shoe has been around forever. It provides a great amount of stability under the arch along with a comfortable feel.
That stability reduces the twisting motion on the knee during running, one of the main irritants of meal and lateral knee pain.
That feature, along with the fact that this model has been around since the dawn of time, puts the Asics Kayano in the top 3 shoes for any best running shoes for bad knees list.
Another sturdy shoe, the Saucony Guide provides similar stability to the Kayano but fits better for narrower feet and foot shapes that tend to like Nike, Adidas and (obviously) Saucony.
Not as popular as the Kayano or the Bondi but Saucony is making huge in-roads with the Guide after some recent design updates.
In Australia, we find the best deals directly from Saucony themselves, particularly if you’re happy with last year’s models (they usually clear them for 50% off).
Bad knees and wide feet
Wide feet are often associated with bad knees as they’re caused by the same biomechanical forces.
This classic running shoe provides moderate level stability with good cushioning.
Aside from being one of the best running shoes for bad knees, it’s also one the most popular all-rounders on the market.
It’s available in a wide fit (2E for men, D for women) and in a range of colours.
If you’re in Australia, we recommend TAF for a great colour range, wide options and typical discounts of around $60 off.
The Adrenaline has undergone a makeover in recent years, and mostly for the better.
It’s lighter, more comfortable and better fitting than previous models.
It’s available in a wide fit (D for women, 2E for men).
It used to be towards the top of the list for supportive options in the best running shoes for bad knees but the recent design changes have shifted it towards a more cushioned approach.
Buying in Australia? We find the biggest range of Adrenalines here. It’s worth noting that the Adrenaline 21 model is the new design with less support but more cushioning.
If you loved the old Adrenalines for their support, you may be better off exploring the Mizuno Wave Inspire which has support and is also available in a wide fit.
Hoka One One Speedgoat
This shoe combines Hoka’s plush cushioning with a snug fit and amazing grip – definitely one of the best running shoes for bad knees in the trail market.
It’s only been on the market for a little over 4 years but has become one of the most popular trail options for good reason.
Just be warned that each model has a very different feel. So if you try on the Speedgoat 4, avoid the temptation to pay a little less for last year’s Speedgoat 3.
Buying online in Australia? These guys have men’s and women’s in standard and wide fit. You’ll pay full price no matter where you go but at least they offer a member program with 10% back for every $300 you spend.
This solid shoe is perfect for rugged, mountainous conditions and provides a firm, well-fitted trail option.
That combination makes it one of the best running shoes for bad knees on trails and hugely popular throughout Europe, although it’s a little less suited to other conditions around the world.
The grip is super aggressive, so you won’t be able to use it on road without shredding the lugs off pretty quickly.
In Australia, TAF stocks the normal version and a Goretex version. Don’t be fooled by the waterproof Goretex lining – it’s only good for puddles that don’t flow over the top of the shoe (about 8-10cm deep) so it’s useless for creek crossings. The Goretex is also prone to overheating in Australian conditions.
Take home message
Bad knees are one of the most common causes of early retirement in runners.
But consistent running, a good strength program and the best running shoes for bad knees can postpone that retirement and keep you moving.
Disclaimer for Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees
**Special note: this article has product recommendations with affiliate links to trusted vendors, selected for their reliable service and great prices. The article was written prior to sourcing the affiliate links and the links in no way influence our recommendations.