How Your Shoe Choice Affects Your Joint Health

Your feet play a vital role in your mobility, and the right footwear can help keep your feet and your joints healthy. Shoes that are too tight or lack support not only have a negative impact on your feet, but they also can place stress on your lower legs and other joints. Over time, wearing ill-fitting shoes may contribute to chronic pain.

The wrong shoes also make existing joint problems worse. Millions of Americans are living with arthritis, osteoarthritis being the most common form. If you have knee or hip arthritis, choosing the right shoes is crucial for easing pain and relieving some of the stress on your joints.

It may surprise you to know that a key part of managing your arthritis could be in your closet. Shoes that fail to provide the proper support can cause uneven distribution of your weight. As you walk or climb stairs, this places pressure on your joints and can accelerate wear and tear.

Unsupportive shoes can exacerbate arthritis pain. They place higher loads on the joints of your knees, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re managing a condition like knee arthritis.

Certain shoes may increase your risk of osteoarthritis

If you don’t have osteoarthritis, your shoe choice may increase your risk of developing it. For example, pumps, stilettos, and other high-heeled shoes put added strain on your knees. This excess strain sets the stage for the development of osteoarthritis.

Over time, regularly wearing these types of shoes increases the wear on your knee joints. As the joint breaks down, you lose crucial tissue that provides a cushion between your bones, causing them to rub together. People with knee arthritis experience a scraping sensation during movement, causing pain and limiting mobility.

Even a short duration in the wrong shoes can cause problems

You’re not out of the woods if you wear improperly fitting or unsupportive shoes for short periods. If you stand as part of your job and your shoes fail to provide enough support or don’t fit well, you’re placing added stress on your joints and increasing your risk of pain. Wearing the proper shoes at all times can help prevent joint problems down the road.

Shoes to avoid

When it comes to keeping your joints healthy, high heels and flip-flops are the two main types of shoes to avoid. When you wear high heels, your body has to use different muscles in an effort to keep you upright and in alignment. High heels change your gait by shifting your center of gravity forward, placing unnecessary stress and strain on your joints, including your knees.

Flip-flops prematurely age your joints because they lack arch support and don’t provide support for your lower back. While they don’t shift your center of gravity, they’re just as damaging as high heels. Shoes that lack the proper support or cushion to act as a shock absorber when you move place stress on your joints with every step you take.

Characteristics of good footwear

Now that you know the types of shoes that are best to avoid, you may wonder how to choose the right footwear. Here’s what to look for:

Fits well

One of the most important factors in choosing appropriate footwear is finding shoes that fit well. They should feel snug but not tight, and you should have enough room at the toe of each shoe. Look for shoes in wide or narrow widths if you need them, rather than trying to make do with a standard-width shoe.


Comfort and style don’t always go together — trendy shoes are often uncomfortable. Some may say this is the sacrifice you make for style, but no fashion trend is worth damaging your joints down the line. Look for shoes that feel comfortable when you move. They shouldn’t squeeze or pinch.


Shoes that provide the proper support help keep your foot aligned when it touches the ground and supports your stride so you have the proper gait. Look for shoes with good arch support that are made with flexible material.

At Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain, our providers are dedicated to getting to the root cause of your pain. We offer a complete course of treatment for chronic pain. For more information and to schedule an appointment, contact one of our six centers conveniently located throughout North and South Carolina.

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