Choosing the Right Shoes for Arthritis

Choosing the right shoes is another great, nonmedical way to relieve your arthritis symptoms. Appropriate footwear can minimize pressure on your joints to reduce discomfort and provide effective swelling treatment as you move through your day.

But what’s the right style for you? Here’s a short list of both the painful and the pleasing.

High Heels

Experts are unanimous in their opinion of high heels—they’re bad for everyone’s feet. For people with osteoarthritis, they’re even worse. They’re hard on your arch and the ball of the foot and they erode your joints. Studies have shown that wearing high heels and stilettos contribute to arthritis and foot pain. Knee degeneration and lower back pain are more common in women who regularly wear heels.

Low Heels

Not as problematic as the high heel, but still bad, low heels include a sharp, pointed toe that will cause you discomfort. Feet will distort into the shape of a shoe and pointed shoes can cause such conditions such as hammertoes and pinched nerves. But if low heels are a must, choose a wedge design, rubber soles and spacious toe boxes. These features are less likely to slip and the larger, grippy soles add stability, absorb shock and lessen the forces applied to certain pressure points. The formula is simple—if the shoe hurts your foot, it’s causing damage.


While flat is good, you need three things in your flat shoe: shock absorption, cushioning and arch support. It must have a sturdy sole that cannot be twisted or folded in half, but equally, the shoe should have some flexibility too. An insole can provide extra cushioning if required.


Flip-flops are not very stable and increase the risk of falling in those with generally weakened joints. Surprisingly, however, flip flops may actually help your knee arthritis. According to the Honor Society of Nursing, flip flops are flat and flexible and might put less pressure on your knees compared to heavier walking shoes. (The same is true of bare feet.) Choose a specifically designed flip-flop that provides fantastic arch support, as well as pronation control.


Trainers come in a range that can be of some benefit to people with osteoarthritis. The thick cushioned heel and midsole help control over-pronation and motion. You should be aware, however, that these stability shoes can cause more stress to arthritic knees than flatter shoes. Some sports stores offer digital, high-tech foot scans that will reveal any pronation or biomechanical problems. Trainers can easily accommodate a custom orthotic or insert.


Think of boots as a stabilizing, healthy option for people with knee or ankle issues. Look for styles that that have low, wedged heels and rubber soles, or flat boots with decent arch support. Sturdy but flexible boots offer the best ankle support.