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What's the Right Choice of Footwear for Those with Knee Arthritis? Experts are Flipped and Flopped on the Issue!

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

Nothing beats warm spring and summer days that just beg you to sit back, relax, and ditch the heels and uncomfortable career footwear in favor of the barefoot look or at least a pair of fashionable flip flops. This time of year all but requires the ceremonial unveiling of those casual shoes of summer that almost make you feel as if you are going barefoot. Nothing feels better than wearing, well, almost nothing on your feet! However, while those “non-shoes” as I call them are most definitely comfy, how do they measure up as practical foot wear? After all, they don’t seem to offer much in the way of support and stability.

Contrary to popular opinion, flip flops may actually be of some benefit to your skeletal structure, especially if you suffer from knee pain related to arthritis. Studies have shown that wearing flat, flexible shoes may actually reduce the stress placed upon the joints, keeping you more comfortable than the typical clogs or athletic shoes that tout stability features.

In a 2010 study, experts at Rush Medical College in Chicago have suggested that going barefoot is actually good for the knee load, and an in effort to determine if different shoes have varying effects on the knees, this group of researchers compared four types of shoes with going barefoot.

What surprised them is that the shoes typically recommended for patients with knee arthritis, like the stability shoes and clogs, actually produce the highest load on the knees.

The four types of shoes studied were clogs, an athletic shoe, flat walking shoes, and flip-flops. This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. The researchers measured what is referred to as a knee adduction moment, which essentially measures the extent of the force on the knee as you walk.

The results indicated that while flat walking shoes, going barefoot or wearing flip-flops all produced the same load on the knee, the clogs and stability shoes had a 15 percent greater load.

While these results are preliminary in nature, they do suggest that the flatter, more flexible footwear may decrease loads on the knee compared to shoes that are less flexible and have higher heels.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.