Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees 2021

by | Updated on September 6, 2021
runner with bad knee

Several factors contribute to a bad knee – wearing ill-fitting shoes, being overweight, aging, weak lower limb, and lack of warm-up before a workout. But regardless of these factors, the pain in your knees can happen when your calcaneus (or heel bone) shifts too far inside or too far outside during the impact phase. Experts call this calcaneal shifting. This heel movement can cause a bad knee because it will change the alignment of your lower limb.

Your calcaneus should be right underneath your tibia, the larger and stronger bone connecting the knee to your ankle bones, during perfect alignment. If you can keep the right alignment, you’ll help ease the pressure going through your knee during a foot strike. But why is it important to protect your knees when you run? Experts believe that your knee is the most injury-prone part of your body when you run.

What are the Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees?

The best running shoes for bad knees have bumpers that can prevent unnatural calcaneal shifting and too much roll of the foot. This will protect your foot from deviating out of your perfect run signature. The right shoes for bad knees are excellent in absorbing shock on an impact and redirecting force away from your knees.

With that said, you may need the shoes with a lower heel-toe drop (4 mm to 8 mm) to redirect pressure away from your knees and hips during the gait cycle. Although the lower the shoe differential, the more calf flexibility and ankle mobility you need.

How We Choose an Athletic Shoe

We spend many hours reading discoveries, expert advice, and consumer testimonials on various foot conditions. And we choose the most suitable athletic shoes for a specific foot problem.

Disclosure: We provide links to shoes mentioned in our reviews and use affiliate links to earn commission income from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. This site is an associate of Nike, On, and Zappos.

Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees

– Brooks Ravenna 11 –

Brooks Ravenna 11
Image source: Zappos.com

Update: This running shoe has been replaced by Brooks Launch GTS 8, a more popular model with similar DNA as the Ravenna 11 but $10 cheaper.

This running shoe has a GuideRails Holistic Support System, a technology that supports not just your feet but every part of your body that exerts effort during running. The GuideRails in Brooks Ravenna 11 uses bumper systems on the lateral side and medial side. These bumpers help align your heel bone and prevent calcaneal shifting (lateral) and too much roll of the foot (medial). This results in a perfect run signature that can prevent knee pain and injury.

Other key features:

  • Mesh upper for superior breathability
  • BioMoGo DNA midsole which supplies long-lasting cushioning
  • Midfoot Transition Zone, a technology designed to go from heel to toe quickly for a smooth transition

Most helpful consumer review:

They have supported my knees and back well, with no pain after my workout.

– Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 –

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
Image source: Zappos.com

This running shoe has a GuideRails Holistic Support System, a technology that supports not just your feet but every part of your body that exerts effort while running. The GuideRails on this model uses bumper systems on the lateral side and medial side. These bumpers help align your heel bone and prevent calcaneal shifting (lateral) and too much roll of the foot (medial). This results in a perfect run signature that can prevent knee pain and injury.

Other key features:

  • Engineered mesh upper for a structured and comfortable fit
  • BioMoGo DNA and DNA Loft midsole cushioning, foam technologies that work together to provide an ideal underfoot softness and support

Most helpful  consumer review:

Now I can only wear adrenaline shoes as they support my alignment and help prevent knee and hip pain.

Shop Adrenaline GTS 21 »

– Brooks Bedlam 3 –

Brooks Bedlam 3
Image source: Zappos.com

This running shoe has GuideRails Holistic Support System, a technology that supports not just your feet but every part of your body that exerts effort during running. The GuideRails in Brooks Bedlam 3 uses bumper systems on the lateral side and medial side. These bumpers help align your heel bone and prevent calcaneal shifting (lateral) and too much roll of the foot (medial). This results in a perfect run signature that can prevent knee pain and injury.

Another feature is the DNA AMP midsole that captures the energy created by each foot strike.

Most helpful consumer review:

I overpronate and was having knee pain when I started running … got these shoes and the knee pain went away.

Shop Bedlam 3 »

– Nike Air Zoom Winflo 8 –

nike winflo 8
Image source: Nike.com

This running shoe has a full-length Cushlon foam that works together with Zoom Air technology in the heel to deliver cushioning and stability. Nike Air Zoom Winflo 8 also has a Cushlon crash rail on the lateral outsole, which cushions transitions and prevent calcaneal shifting.

Nike brings back its Flywire technology for this new model to give the upper maximum support that follows the foot as you run.

Other key features:

  • EVA Strobel delivers a softer underfoot feeling
  • Cushlon crash rail on the lateral outsole which cushions transitions

Most helpful consumer review:

I have a bad knee from a skiing accident and the extra stability here really made a difference.

Shop Winflo 8 »

– ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 –

asics gel-kayano 28
Image source: Zappos.com

ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 has a redesigned external heel counter, which helps keep the foot stable and more comfortable as you run. It also has Impact Guidance System (I.G.S), which offers over one solution to deliver a holistic approach: Guidance Line which increases stability; Guidance Trussic which aids in smoother landings; and Dynamic DuoMax, which boosts stability and supports without the added weight. This new model feels softer and more flexible than its predecessor.

Most helpful consumer review:

Wearing them right when I got them and the knee pain from the old non-supportive shoes has gone away.

Shop GEL-Kayano 28 »

– New Balance 990v5 –

New Balance 990v5
Image source: Zappos.com

This running shoe has an ENCAP PU ring with an EVA core which wraps the lateral mid-foot through the heel and around the medial midfoot for enhanced stability. New Balance 990v5 also uses a long-lasting Ortholite premium footbed which provides cushioning and arch support. Ortholite footbed is lightweight yet compresses only less than 5% over its lifetime to ensure you get optimum cushioning, fit, comfort, and performance.

Most helpful consumer review:

I had a dislocated disk and a knee injury just over 10 years ago, and since I switched to these sneakers because they are well padded and thick and soft to run, running has never been a problem.

Shop N 990v5 »

– Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 –

Mizuno Wave Inspire 17
Image source: Zappos.com

This running shoe has an improved DynamotionFit technology which creates an upper that moves naturally with your foot. DynamotionFit locks down the heel during foot stride and delivers a contoured fit that can prevent your foot from deviating out of your normal run signature. Even the Mizuno logo on the sides of the shoe seems to give support to lateral movements. Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 also has the famous Wave technology, which provides a stable platform and superior cushioning.

Other key features:

  • Wave technology that offers energetic cushioning, support, and a stable ride
  • U4icX midsole that delivers lightweight cushioning for a smooth transition and superior ride
  • SmoothRide engineering promotes a great transition from heel to toe with each stride.

Most helpful consumer review:

I suffer from shin splints and knee pain from running and have felt neither so far.

Shop Inspire 17 »

– Hoka One One Arahi 5 –

Hoka One One Arahi 5
Image source: Zappos.com

Hoka One One shoes have an oversized base (or big footprint) which adds stability, but if you need more stability to protect your knees, the Arahi 5 is one of your best options. This running shoe has a firmer EVA J-Frame, which adds extra help to your stability by preventing your foot from overpronating. The J-Frame extends to the lateral side, which helps align the heel during the gait cycle. Hoka One One Arahi 5 is one of the lightest stability running shoes in the world.

Most helpful consumer review:

These shoes will save your knees, back, neck, etc.

Shop Arahi 5 »

– Hoka One One Gaviota 3 –

Hoka One One Gaviota 3
Image source: Zappos.com

Hoka One One shoes have an oversized base (or big footprint) which is stable, but if you need more stability to protect your knees, the Gaviota 3 is one of your best options. This running shoe has a firmer Firm RMAT J-Frame which adds extra help to your stability by preventing your foot from overpronating. The J-Frame extends to the lateral side, which helps align the heel during the gait cycle. Hoka One One Gaviota 3 is one of the lightest stability running shoes in the world.

Most helpful consumer review:

I have become so used to hobbling around in pain; I was in shock and awe when I tried this shoe along with my custom orthos and actually walked — upright — no ankle, knee, hip, back pain.

Shop Gaviota 3 »

– On Cloudace –

On Cloudace
Image source: On-running.com

This running shoe has injected a TPU heel counter with 3D-molded heel pads, keeping the foot in perfect position, cradles the heel, and providing side-to-side support. ON Cloudace can give you more comfort and cushion with more padding on the inside.

Key features:

  • CloudTec technology that delivers a soft landing followed by an explosive take-off
  • Injected TPU heel counter with 3D-molded heel pads to keep the foot snug and in the perfect position
  • Liquid-injected Speedboard in an extra-wide design that stabilizes the foot during the rolling motion

Shop Cloudace »

Final Thoughts

Many shoe technologies can prevent pain and injury in the foot, but the ones that can protect the most injury-prone parts of your body when you run (your knees) give over one solution: a holistic approach. What is common to this list of running shoes is the group of shoe components that work together to align your heel bone right below your tibia and prevent it from shifting too far inside or too far outside. This results in a perfect alignment of the knee. And this can prevent knee pain and injury.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can shoes cause knee pain?

An ill-fitting shoe can cause knee pain, but the shoes with bumpers that can prevent unnatural calcaneal shifting and too much roll of the foot can help prevent knee pain. The shoe with a lower heel-to-toe drop (4 mm to 8 mm) can redirect the pressure away from your knees and hips during foot strike. Although, a lower-drop shoe will require more calf flexibility and ankle mobility.