Can Running Shoes Cause Knee Pain?

Can Running Shoes Cause Knee Pain_

Running is a great way to get in some exercise; however, running with knee pain can ruin your week, month, or year. Could your running shoes cause knee pain? Some evidence suggests it might.

Running shoes may cause knee pain, but not all of them do. Running shoes with excessive cushioning or a high heel drop may cause knee pain in some people. Furthermore, running in old worn-out, or the wrong running shoes for an individual may also contribute to your knee pain.

If your running shoes are causing you knee pain, you need to change them immediately. However, if you already have knee problems, choosing the right running shoe can help alleviate them. First, let’s see how running shoes can cause knee pain.

Running Shoes Can Cause Knee Pain

Running is a powerful, beneficial, and convenient form of exercise. Due to its numerous health benefits, it has become increasingly popular and part of our daily lives. However, running in certain types of running shoes can cause several injuries. It may include runner’s knees, lower back pain, ankle sprains, etc., which further results in pain when walking, jogging, and exercising.

Cushioned Running Shoes

Excessive cushioning in running shoes may cause knee pain. Running shoes with normal cushioning are fine; however, shoes with excessive cushioning may increase the risk of knee pain, particularly those with cushioning under the heel.

With excessive cushioning, the nervous system can’t detect the hardness or change in the surface to provide optimal foot strike behavior. Also, cushioning under the heel causes overstriding, reduces foot placement awareness, and leads to a greater force exchange, which results in knee pain.

Those who carefully monitor their stride and foot strick patterns can control how their feet land better. This can help prevent injury, although using an overly cushioned shoe for long periods may lead to weaker foot muscles or a lack of muscle development.

Weaker feet can eventually lead to the arch collapsing of the arch which in turn can affect the knees.

Maximum cushioning can provide protection for your knees; however, studies suggest that it is easier to heel strike in thickly cushioned shoes which leads to knee pain.

High Heel-Toe Drop in Running Shoes

Heel-toe drop refers to the height difference between the heel and the forefoot of a shoe. Running shoes with a high heel drop can contribute to knee pain.

Most runners suffer from knee pain and injuries. Research suggests that your shoes may be to blame because running shoes with a significant heel drop place more stress on the knee, resulting in increased knee pain. High heels also increase the pressure on your foot’s front part and toes. 

According to the study (The effect of heel-to-toe drop of running shoes on patellofemoral joint stress during running)

“Running shoes with a heel drop of 10mm or 15mm increase knee joint force and knee extension moment, which increases knee joint stress by 15%. It also increases knee flexion angle; as a result, wearing running shoes with a heel drop of greater than 5 mm increases knee joint stress significantly”.

The Wrong/Incorrect Running Shoes

The incorrect pair of running shoes can make your running experience miserable because it can cause severe issues like hip and knee pain, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis.

Choosing the wrong running shoes for your needs can lead to several knee problems. To avoid any knee pain or knee injury, you need to find the right running shoe that suits you. 

If you are a runner with normal feet and arches, you would probably be fine with any running shoe. Your chances of getting knee pain or injury are far less.

However, if you have flat feet or high arches, you are more prone to knee pain or an injury. It is because your feet tend to pronate or supinate too much, causing your knees to bend inward, thus putting more pressure on your knees, hips, and ankles.

In such cases, wearing running shoes designed for normal feet can cause you injury because they won’t provide enough arch support. 

If you feel pain anywhere in your knee, it is an indication that you might need a different running shoe. You can also consult your podiatrist to recommend running shoes designed specifically for your foot type or provide maximum arch support.

Make sure to get a running shoe that matches your foot type; otherwise, you may end up with knee pain, plantar fasciitis, or Achilles and hip problems.

Worn-Out Running Shoes

Just like wearing the wrong shoes, wearing worn-out running shoes can cause knee problems.

Worn-out running shoes can damage the tendons connecting your shin and knee by repetitive impact or jumping movement. You will mostly experience pain underneath your kneecap When you first start running or get up after a long sitting. This condition is called jumper’s knee or patellar tendonitis. It is mainly caused by worn-out shoes that no longer provide support.

If you notice such pain, check your running shoes if they need replacement. Since the arch support in running shoes decreases with time, you should replace them every 250-300 miles. 

However, if you are unsure how long you have worn them, I recommend getting a new pair to see if they feel better. You can also check the soles of your running shoes. If they are worn out, it’s a clear sign that you need to replace them. In case your knee pain persists, make sure to consult a physical therapist.

How To Choose Running Shoes If You Have Bad Knees?

You probably have experienced many different types of knee pain as a runner. However, wearing the right running shoes can save you from knee pain and increase comfort.

Although running is a convenient and beneficial exercise, it can sometimes be hard on your knees despite its many physical and mental benefits. Running is a high-impact exercise because when you run, you put almost four times your body weight pressure on every step, which can cause knee pain.

Strength training and the right running shoes can help you overcome knee pain. Here are a few things you need to look for in a perfect pair of running shoes.

Adequate Cushioning

As mentioned earlier, excessive cushioning can increase your risk of getting knee pain; however, some cushioning is always needed in a running shoe.

High arches can cause your feet to supinate. It usually puts pressure on the ankles, but sometimes it may cause knee pain.

If you supinate or your foot leans outward when you hit the ground, you may need extra cushioning in your shoe. Get yourself running shoes with a large toe box, extra cushioning, and maximum arch support. The extra cushion helps in shock absorption. You may need to try different cushioned running shoes to determine what works for you.

However, if you overpronate or your footfalls inwards when you land, you may need stability running shoes or motion-control running shoes with midsole cushioning. Stability running shoes designed for shock absorption may reduce pressure on your knees and ease your knee pain.

If you have flat feet or low arches, you will likely experience knee pain because flat feet tend to overpronate. Although some pronation is natural and necessary, if your pronation is causing knee pain, you may need to get the right cushioned shoes.

Before buying your running shoes, check for proper fit and not wait for the break-in period. Performing a test run would also help to ensure its comfort level.

Heel-Toe Drop

The change in heel drop affects the muscles that sustain the impact of every step. A heel-toe drop lower than 5mm is better for most types of knee pain, such as runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. However, if you have plantar fasciitis that is causing your knee pain, you may need a higher heel-toe drop.

Breathable Upper

Before buying your running shoes, make sure they have moisture-wicking and breathable uppers. It will keep your feet cool and dry. Also, look for shoes that fit your feet like a glove or a sock and provide targeted cushioning and support.

Lightweight Running Shoes

Heavy running shoes will put undue stress and pressure on your knees. So, you need to look for lightweight running shoes that won’t weigh you down. Find a shoe that feels light but gives adequate support and cushioning.

Excessive cushioning can cause knee pain.Excessive cushioning doesn’t allow your nervous system to detect the hardness or change in the surface to provide optimal foot strike behavior.If you supinate, only then wear running shoes with extra cushioning, a large toe box, and maximum arch support.
Cushioning under the heel can cause knee pain.Cushioning under the heel causes overstriding and reduces foot placement awareness, resulting in knee pain.If you are a heel striker, only then wear running shoes with extra cushioning under the heel.
You can also consider running shoes built for heel shock absorption.
Flat feet are more prone to getting knee pain or an injury.If you have flat feet or low arches, your feet will overpronate, thus putting extra pressure on your knees, hips, and ankles.If you overpronate, wear stability running shoes or motion control running shoes with midsole cushioning.
The incorrect pair of running shoes can cause severe hip and knee pain, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis.Wearing running shoes that are not designed for your foot type won’t provide you with enough arch support.Wear a running shoe that matches your foot type.
High heel-toe drop can contribute to knee pain.High heel-toe drop places more stress on the knee, resulting in increased knee pain.Wear running shoes with heel-toe drop lower than 5mm.
Worn-out running shoes can cause knee problems,
Jumper’s knee or patellar tendonitis. 
Worn-out shoes do not provide adequate support.
Worn-out running shoes damage the tendons connecting your shin and knee by repetitive impact or jumping movement.
Replace your running shoes every 250-300 miles. 
Look for signs to know when you need to replace your running shoes.
Why Running Shoes Cause Knee Pain and Their Solution?

When To Replace Running Shoes?

Your running shoes lose support, stability, cushioning, and shock absorption with time. These are the most crucial qualities in a running shoe. The best way to avoid foot, leg, and knee pain is to replace your running shoes at the right time. Here are a few signs that might help you to know when to replace your running shoes:


To avoid any knee pain or injury, you need to keep track of the mileage of your running shoes. In addition, it will give you an idea of how long your running shoes will last. As mentioned earlier, I would recommend replacing your running shoes after 300 miles; however, this may differ based on your running style and running terrain.

If you run less often or on smooth surfaces, you may need to replace your running shoes less frequently. However, if you frequently run on rough terrains, you need to replace your shoes more often.

By knowing your running shoes’ mileage, you can replace them at the right time and at the recommended intervals. It will help you avoid several common knee injuries.


The appearance of your running shoes also gives several signs showing it’s time to replace them.

The shoe’s tread is the most vulnerable part since it is in constant contact with the ground and is most likely to get damaged. In addition, the friction between your foot and the ground can easily wear out the shoe soles, causing a loss of stability, support, and shock absorption.

If the soles of your shoes look worn out, it is probably time to replace your running shoes. 

Size, Fit, and Shape

As your foot size, shape, width, and length change over time, it makes sense to replace your running shoes whenever you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, you may feel a shoe that fitted well a few months or a year ago is now causing discomfort in certain areas of your feet, such as your heel, toes, or arch. If you experience this, immediately get yourself a new pair of running shoes.

Your running shoes need to support the size and shape of your foot effectively. Don’t forget to consider whether you have normal or flat feet, wide or narrow feet, and high or low arches.

I would recommend getting shoes with a wide toe box since they will prevent injuries such as blisters, bunions, and black toes. Also, comfort is the most important thing in a running shoe, so make sure every part of your foot feels at ease in the shoe.

Your shoes should feel like a functioning part of your foot which enhances the natural movement of your feet.

Pain or Discomfort

If you experience any knee pain or discomfort, that might signify that you need to replace your running shoes. As worn-out running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning, and support over time, they can cause shin splints, muscle fatigue, joint pain, and knee pain.

Your running shoes should have adequate cushioning and shock absorption to combat and prevent knee pain or leg injury. While running, you hit the surface with nearly four times your body weight, so you need good shock absorption in your shoes to prevent injuries and pain.


Running can cause blisters whether you are a casual runner or a marathon runner, especially when your running shoes are worn out. Getting blisters on your feet, toes, or ankles is a sign that your shoes need to be replaced, or else they can cause more serious issues.

Wearing toe sleeves or taping can prevent blisters, but they are temporary fixes; buying new shoes is a permanent solution to avoid blisters.

Weather plays a significant part in getting the blisters. If you run in hot or humid weather, you will likely get blisters, so wearing breathable and moisture-wicking socks may help. However, suppose you run in normal weather and still get continuous foot blisters. In that case, it indicates that your running shoes might be ill-fitted, and you need to replace them.

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