Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees

If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best running shoes for bad knees are, then I recommend the Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 18 as the best pair for women and the ASICS Men’s GEL-Venture 7 as the best pair for men.

Man running

Some knee pain is common for runners, but it’s always something to be taken seriously. If you’re prone to knee problems, you’ll want to invest in a good pair of shoes. They’ll give you the support you need to keep on training.

I’ve gone through dozens of pairs to help you find the best running shoes for bad knees and have included some helpful pointers to help you make your decision.

The best running shoes for bad knees in 2020 are:

Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

Contrary to popular belief, running isn’t actually bad for your knees. Studies have shown that there’s no link between running, even marathon-running, and knee problems. 

Running, and exercise in general, actually reduces inflammation in your body, which will help you keep your joints healthy for longer. This is especially the case if you’re otherwise young and healthy.

However, if you have some underlying problems, you should take them into account. You might make them worse by running in the wrong shoes or with bad form.

What Causes Knee Pain?

There are many possible causes of knee pain and what’s often called “runner’s knee,” but there are a couple of common culprits.

For example, it might just be a matter of overuse or trauma. Knee pain can also be caused by poor form, tight or weak muscles or underlying problems in your feet:

Flat Feet

Flat feet can be genetic; something you’re simply born with. They might also be caused by numerous other conditions, including extra weight, age or trauma. The problem is that they can expose you to a lot of different problems in the long run.

Runners with flat feet often tend to overpronate, which means that their feet roll inwards when they step. This can end up causing problems with your muscles and joints from your feet to the knees and hips.

If you have flat feet, make sure your shoes have enough support to the arch. This way, you’ll help your foot absorb the impact in the right position and keep your knee aligned.

High Arches

Excessively high arches are the exact opposite of flat feet, but they can be equally problematic. Many people with this condition develop supination, which means their feet markedly roll outwards when they step.

The best shoes for high arches will help you balance out your gait, forcing your foot to straighten. With your ankle in the right position, your knee won’t twist unnaturally, either.

Worn-Out Shoes

If you’ve been wearing old running shoes, you might unknowingly be causing yourself problems. The cushioning won’t absorb shock as well as when the shoes are new, and you’ll transport the impact to your knees.

Make sure you replace your running shoes when they start to get a little worn out to reduce the risk of causing unnecessary impact.

Being Overweight

Carrying extra weight puts more stress on your joints. This doesn’t mean you should stop exercising, only that you have to be more careful. Wear good shoes like the ones we’ve reviewed here, and listen to your body. If you’re in pain, give yourself some rest.

Impatience

When you first start running, you’ll notice your aerobic capacity improving fast. But you might not realize that your muscles and joints need some more time to get used to the activity.

Start slow and build up your muscle capacity with some conditioning exercises together with your running. Don’t run for more than 3 or 4 times a week, and rest if there’s any discomfort, other than normal soreness.

How to Prevent Knee Pain

Training your muscles, together with running, can help you improve your form. If you have previous problems with your knees, make sure to add a full-body conditioning routine to your training. 

Do some squats and lunges to strengthen your quads and hamstrings, and calf raises to prepare your lower leg muscles and your Achilles tendon for running. These muscles will assist your joints so they can take the impact better. 

Remember to do some exercises for the upper body, too. Many people run with bad form because they don’t have enough strength in their shoulders and back. Apart from giving you back problems, this might make you direct more impact to your knees.

How to Get Rid of Knee Pain

If you’re already experiencing pain, the most important thing is to rest. Avoid running, use ice to reduce inflammation and keep your leg elevated. 

You can also help rehabilitate the knee joint with some simple exercises at home.

What Kinds of Shoes Are Best for Running for Bad Knees?

If you tend to experience more pain in the knees when you’re running, pay attention to these characteristics.

Cushioning

Forget about the barefoot running trend if you’re just starting out or if you’ve been experiencing pain in your joints. Cushioning is key. This will help absorb the impact and keep your joints healthy.

Different brands use cushioning methods that range from air pockets to shock-absorbing gel, foam or springs. It’s mostly a matter of personal taste, but foam tends to be the lightest option. Gel and air often offer a very soft and thick cushion.

Weight

This is common for all running shoes, but it’s especially important to get lightweight shoes if you experience joint pain. If you’re forced to drag heavy shoes around, you’ll tire more easily. This might affect your gait and make you hit the ground harder than necessary.

Stability

A stable shoe will help you reduce the unnecessary movement to the sides, especially if you’re running on uneven terrain. 

This is especially important for supinators and overpronators. Look for shoes that have the right arch support for your foot while subtly guiding and correcting your stride.

The grip of the outsole is also important to not lose your balance, which is why trail running shoes are great for bad knees. They’re created to be more stable and suitable for irregular surfaces.

Ventilation

Good breathability is important for any running shoe. If you’re looking for the best shoes for bad knees, you want as much comfort as possible. If your feet are sweaty, your gait might be affected.

Mesh on the upper layer is a great choice to add breathability, even if the shoe is cushioned at the sides to stabilize your foot. A wide toe box will also give your feet some room to breathe. Some shoes also have a midsole that will add extra thermal insulation.

Reviews of the Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees

After filtering the insane amount of running shoes on the market, here’s my shortlist of the five best running shoes for bad knees.

1. Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 18 

Brooks is a brand many serious long-time runners love. Its shoes have the durability and cushioning that are needed for long distances and tough training. This model, especially, has been a runners’ favorite for years, and every update provides consistent quality.

The Women’s Adrenaline GTS has a GuideRail Support System that stabilizes the foot and keeps movement to a minimum. It also has soft cushioning throughout the length of the foot that makes you feel like you’re walking on a cloud. Still, it’s flexible enough, so you won’t feel like you’re carrying around bricks on your feet.

These shoes are comfortable and stable, and the heel really locks in—you’ll have great support for both the heel and ankle. This will help you guarantee your gait is as neutral as possible.

You can find this model in sizes 5 to 13 with options for wide, extra-wide and narrow feet. These shoes are at the top of their game, but they’re not cheap.

Pros

  • Sufficient, soft cushioning.
  • Heel support.
  • Flexible.
  • Excellent quality.

Cons

  • Higher price point.

2. Asics Men’s GEL-Venture 7

If you’re looking for some added stability, try a pair of trail running shoes. The Asics GEL-Venture 7 is among the favorites of many runners who enjoy the rougher outdoor terrains. 

The outside is durable synthetic leather with mesh fabric for increased breathability.

Asics includes a GEL-cushioning system that feels soft and light. The high abrasion rubber helps keep the soles in good shape.

These shoes are best for slight underpronation or a neutral gait. People with higher or normal arches will find them comfortable. If you’re looking for something specifically for flat feet, you should look to their other models.

It’s available in sizes from 7 to 15, with extra-wide options available.

Pros 

  • Great stability.
  • The gel cushioning is bouncy but flexible.
  • Amazing grip.

Cons

  • Not the best arch support.

3. Saucony Men’s Cohesion 12

Saucony’s famed Cohesion is one of the most popular models for people who struggle with joint pain. This shoe is also very affordable, costing around half of what you’d expect from the more famous brands.

These shoes are best for neutral pronation, so it doesn’t give you much correction for the gait. The Versafoam cushioning holds up and supports you well, even for people who are overweight or obese. The upper mesh fabric is breathable but reinforced at the toe for added durability.

Cohesion comes in men’s and women’s models and for both road and trail. Overall, it’s an amazing shoe for an affordable price.

They’re available in sizes 7 to 14.

Pros

  • Fantastic cushioning.
  • Affordable.
  • Great quality.
  • Comfortable.
  • Lightweight.
  • Great arch support.

Cons

  • Narrower than previous models, especially at the front. 
  • The sizing is a little snug.

4. Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 23 

Mizuno is another great choice for women. These shoes are a solid option for anybody looking for a quality shoe for longer runs. The dual-compound midsole responds well to impact, adding an extra bounce beneath your foot. 

The Wave Rider is a neutral shoe, designed for increased stability but not for correcting your gait. It’s a good choice for normal arches, but not a great option for more than slight over- or underpronation.

The upper mesh fabric is very breathable and light. It’s not reinforced at the toes, which means it may not be durable. The cushioning absorbs shock very nicely in the heel area, but it’s practically nonexistent in the front.

You can find this shoe in sizes 6 to 12.

Pros

  • Well-cushioned.
  • Breathable.
  • The dual-compound midsole is very responsive and bouncy.

Cons

  • Snug sizing compared to previous models, consider sizing up.
  • The cushioning isn’t consistent from the heel to the toe area.

5. Hoka One Men’s Clifton 5 

HOKA ONE makes some of the best-cushioned running shoes that are still amazingly light. Some of them take some getting used to due to the wide cushion, but this model is balanced and ideal for runners. It weighs 7.6 ounces, and the soft layer beneath the heel will help absorb impact to save your joints.

This shoe is more for neutral runners or people who have moderate supination. The soft heel angle makes the transition from heel to toes seamless. You get good arch support and control for a stable stride. 

The upper mesh layer is breathable but isn’t reinforced at the toe, which can reduce durability. This is a wide shoe, so it may not be the right choice if your feet are narrow.

You can find this model in sizes 8 to 13.

Pros

  • Featherlight.
  • Superb cushioning.
  • Balanced.
  • Breathable.

Cons

  • The upper layer can be less durable.
  • Wide shoe, not the best option for narrow feet.

The Best of the Best

Man running on the beach

For women, I’ve found the best running shoe for bad knees to be Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 18. It’s a stability shoe that wraps around your midfoot and reduces movement. The cushioning is soft but springy, and the shoe is breathable, despite the soft padding on the sides that keeps your foot in place.

For a durable and well-cushioned men’s shoe, in my opinion, the ASICS GEL-Venture 7 is your best bet. It’s a trail runners’ shoe that can handle a lot of mileage while keeping your knees and ankles safe. However, note that it’s best for a neutral gait. 

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