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Can Shoes Cause Knee Pain?

author image Jessica McCahon
Jessica began her writing career in 1995 and is Senior Editor at a London communications agency, where she writes and edits corporate publications covering health, I.T., banking and finance. Jessica has also written for consumer magazines including "Cosmopolitan" and travel, home/lifestyle and bridal titles. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and journalism from the University of Queensland.
Can Shoes Cause Knee Pain?
A woman is holding a pair of high heels. Photo Credit Mark Edward Atkinson/Blend Images/Getty Images

Knee pain can be caused by a number of different factors, but one of the most overlooked sources is the shoes you wear. Shoes that lack the arch and heel support your feet require, or that have very high heels, can place added pressure on your knees and throw them out of alignment. This, in turn, can cause pain under and around your knee. Wearing the right shoes when you exercise, go to work and for other daily activities will help prevent knee discomfort.

About Your Knees

Your knee is not only the largest joint in your body, it’s also the most easily injured. This is partly because of the joint’s intricate design. Two major bones -- your thigh and shin bones -- converge at your kneecap, or patella, and are held in place and controlled by ligaments and shock-absorbing cartilage. Each joint component relies on the others to function properly and without pain.

Causes of Knee Pain

Your knees must take the pressure of your full body weight during normal daily activities, as well as more strenuous exercise. While the joint is strong, knee pain and injury are common, not only because of the joint’s complex design, but also because it is easily thrown out of alignment when the bones and ligaments it is connected to don’t perform as they should. Overpronation or supination, for example, are common causes of knee pain. This is when your ankles roll inwards or outwards, respectively, to an excessive degree. Another common cause of knee pain -- especially in women -- is hypermobility of the hips. This is when your hips twist or rock when running or walking, meaning your knees have to work harder to provide stability for your lower body.


While finding the correct footwear is important, seek medical advice if you experience any prolonged or persistent pain in your knees. Show the shoes you wear most often to your doctor. Your doctor will check for excessive wear on the inner and/or outer parts of the soles, and then help you make a decision about the right footwear for your feet and style of movement. This may include more or less arch support, additional heel cushioning or ankle support.

Shoes for Exercise

It is particularly important to wear the correct running shoes for your feet, due to the repetitive nature of this exercise and the resulting strain it places on the feet, ankles and knees. The correct shoes for you will depend on your specific movement and foot type, which your doctor or a running specialist will be able to determine. However, common requirements are adequate arch and ankle support and heel cushioning. Replace shoes that have worn out and, as a rule, buy running shoes that are half a size larger than your normal shoe size to allow the foot to move.

High-heeled Shoes

High heels are one of the biggest causes of knee pain because they throw your whole body out of alignment. Your feet are forced up at an unnatural angle, so your body is pushed forward and the balls of your feet are supporting all of your weight. This causes your knees to tense up and work harder to keep you upright, while the forward position puts more pressure on the shock-absorbing cartilage under your kneecaps. After a few hours in heels, you will probably feel some discomfort, but the real damage -- such as chronic knee and back pain and osteoarthritis -- may not be apparent for some time. As a general rule, wearing shoes with heels no higher than three-quarters of an inch will help to maximize knee support. However, shoes that have no heel at all can also cause knee pain by not adequately cushioning your feet as they hit the ground and increasing the amount of shock the joint has to absorb. For this reason, avoid shoes with heels that are lower than half an inch.

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