Knee pain whilst running can have all sorts of causes, from tight muscles or an inadequate warmup to low arches or overuse.
Sometimes, though, the cause can be as simple as wearing the wrong type of running shoes.
Running in well-fitting, supportive shoes is important, whether you have an existing knee injury or are trying to avoid the pain associated with improper form.
By reducing the impact on your joints and maximizing your comfort, the right pair of shoes should help you maintain your running routine.
In this guide, we’ve brought together the very best running shoes for bad knees. We’ve also outlined their features, so you can decide which pair is best for your foot shape and gait.
Note: If you are experiencing knee pain you should seek advice from your healthcare provider before resuming training.
What to Look For in running shoes for bad knees
Here are a few things to look for when choosing running shoes to help reduce or prevent knee pain.
Support and Cushioning
Knee pain is sometimes caused by overpronation. This is when your foot leans inwards as it strikes the ground.
In this case, you’ll need running shoes with structural support to limit this inward roll.
You may also find a wider shoe more comfortable, as this helps absorb shock more efficiently and eases the pressure on your knees.
Pain may also be caused by supination or underpronation, where your foot leans outwards as it strikes the ground.
If you underpronate, then look for shoes with good support for your arches and extra cushioning. You may also prefer a roomier toe box.
Heel to Toe Drop
This describes the difference in height between the heel of the shoe and the forefoot.
Since it influences which parts of the leg are subject to the impact force from running, the heel-to-toe drop is an important factor to consider when trying to eliminate knee pain.
In general, shoes with a lower drop are kinder to your knees.
A higher drop (10 mm plus) tends to protect the lower leg by directing stress to the knee joint – something you need to avoid. This rule isn’t set in stone, however, and some runners with knee pain will find a larger heel drop more comfortable.
Minimize stress on your knees by choosing shoes that are as lightweight as possible, whilst still providing the necessary cushioning and support.
The 8 Best running shoes for bad knees in 2022
#1. HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 7 Running Shoe
– 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, full-length EVA midsole cushioning, and beveled heel
– Best shoe for shock absorption
Just looking at the Bondi 7 gives you a good idea of how well-cushioned it is!
A generous 43.5 mm of foam at the heel ensures your knees are well-protected from the stress of impact, whilst the mild support in the midsole helps limit slight overpronation.
The stiffness of the shoe allows for a natural transition from one stride to the next and the sole features Hoka’s signature Meta-Rocker technology.
This places the transition zone close to the heel, creating a smooth running motion and a quick transition from heel to forefoot.
The plush memory foam collar holds your heel comfortably in place and is designed to accommodate even the narrowest ankle. Additional support comes from the synthetic overlays on the breathable mesh upper.
This may not be the most affordable shoe, and both the stack height and rounded sole may take a little getting used to.
But in terms of cushioning, there are few shoes to rival the Bondi 7!
#2. Mizuno Wave Rider 25
– Stable platform, shock-absorbing U4ic (euphoric!) midsole, and an embedded wave plate
– A great shoe for heel strikers
The Wave Rider has always been one of Mizuno’s most versatile shoes. This version has seen changes to the level of cushioning that make it worth considering if you’re looking for running shoes for bad knees.
The combination of lightweight U4ic and Enerzy foam now used in the midsole system provides a smooth ride, which is enhanced by the embedded WAVE® plate.
This is designed to disperse energy from the site of impact, giving a feeling of superior comfort and stability.
At 12 mm the heel drop is pretty high, so these won’t be suitable for everyone and may even exacerbate knee problems for some people.
But if you’re a rearfoot striker and your heel is the first point of contact with the ground, this higher drop may feel far more comfortable.
#3. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V10
– Bootie upper construction, excellent cushioning, and an 8 mm heel drop
– Best choice for wider feet
A full-length Fresh Foam midsole in these shoes does a great job of absorbing shock to protect your knees without adding too much weight.
This gives you the pleasant sensation of running on air and adds a spring in your step to assist with speed.
The Hypoknit upper is flexible and supportive, keeping your feet cool even over long distances, whilst the Ortholite cushion inserts add comfort and control moisture.
We also like the Ultra Heel design that cradles the back of the foot and gives a stable feel.
These are shoes that will last the distance, made with a durable and stable rubber outsole.
A range of widths is available, so it’s easy to get a good fit, but these shoes are somewhat lacking in ankle support.
This means they’re not ideal if you need them for a sport involving lateral movement, or are prone to rolling your ankles.
#4. Hoka One One Clifton 8
– Ultralight midsole foam, balanced cushioning, and 5 mm heel drop
– A good choice for longer runs
The Clifton 8 is a great shoe with plenty of room in the toe box and a plush, comfortable feel.
It is primarily built for endurance rather than speed, but it has a sleek feel and a signature Meta-Rocker sole to help propel you forward and maintain your pace.
At only 10 ounces, this is a lightweight shoe with the cushioning you need to protect your knees from the impact of running on hard surfaces.
The structure is relatively rigid, which can be useful if you have high arches and a tendency to underpronate.
We also like the support around the ankle which helps keep your foot properly placed as you run.
The mesh upper is firm and durable yet breathable – quite an improvement over previous iterations that weren’t as porous.
You can see our full review of the Hoka One One Clifton 8 here
#5. Asics GEL-Kayano 27 Running Shoes
– Rearfoot and forefoot GEL cushioning, high abrasion rubber outsole, 10 mm heel drop
– Best running shoes for bad knees if you overpronate
The GEL-Kayano 27 uses DYNAMIC DUOMAX™ technology to support the foot, providing the stability needed to stop your foot from rolling inwards.
Since overpronation is a common contributing factor to knee injury, this makes these among the best running shoes for bad knees.
The flexible sole promotes a natural roll through the gait cycle, assisted by the grooved heel that gives a softer, smoother landing.
SPACE TRUSSTIC™ technology in the midsole provides further stability which, when combined with the grooves in the forefoot, allows for a smooth and natural toe-off.
The GEL cushioning in the forefoot and rearfoot delivers great shock absorption to avoid stress on your joints.
Added comfort comes from the padded tongue, which helps minimize any pressure from the laces.
The reflective materials in the rearfoot are a nice touch, enhancing your safety when paired with reflective clothing for running in low-light conditions.
You also get a great choice of colors!
#6. Hoka Challenger ATR 6 Trail Shoe
– Removable foam padded insole, durable full-length EVA midsole, and 4mm lugs for superior traction
– Best trail running shoes for bad knees
Another great offering from Hoka, this neutral shoe performs well in all terrains, from trail to road.
The oversized foam midsole gives you stability and effectively absorbs impact.
Meanwhile, the low 5 mm heel drop shifts your center of mass backwards, reducing the load on your knees and preventing pain.
Weighing just under 10 ounces, this is a reasonably lightweight trail shoe.
It’s well-balanced, too, combining extra cushioning with an effective toe-off for when you want to build speed. You’re also well-protected by the dual-layer mesh upper from sticks, gravel, and debris.
#7. Saucony Cohesion 14
– 12 mm heel drop, VERSARUN cushioning, and an injection-molded EVA midsole
– Most affordable running shoes for bad knees
They may not have all the bells and whistles of pricier shoes but Saucony’s entry-level Cohesion 14s shouldn’t be underestimated.
For such a budget-friendly shoe they are surprisingly comfortable, with a nice roomy toe box, good arch support, and fantastic traction on a variety of surfaces.
Reasonably lightweight and well-cushioned throughout, the shoe feels stable during your runs.
The heel drop is on the high side, though, and would be better suited to rearfoot strikers.
The heel itself is well-padded on the inside and keeps the heel securely locked down.
The thick tongue provides a welcome layer of cushioning between the laces and your foot, but the dense mesh upper doesn’t breathe well and won’t be ideal for running in very warm conditions.
#8. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
– GuideRails support system for motion control, balanced cushioning, and a streamlined fit
– An ideal everyday running shoe
Well-known for its high-performance running shoes, Brooks delivers a combination of responsive cushioning and support with the Adrenaline GTS 21.
It is built to minimize pronation – reducing any associated knee pain – and has a midsole that combines the company’s DNA LOFT and BioMoGo DNA foams.
The result is protection from impact on hard surfaces, benefiting not just your knees but also your lower back, ankle, and hip joints.
The overall design is lightweight and the 3D Fit Print provides structure to the breathable upper without adding bulk.
The toe box is somewhat narrow, so you might prefer a wider fitting if you like a roomier forefoot.
The best running shoes for bad knees: Key Takeaways
The repetitive nature of running can help strengthen your knees and enhance your mobility, but it can cause problems if your shoes don’t provide enough cushioning and support.
The ideal pair of running shoes for bad knees will protect your joints from stress and give you the stability needed to run with good form.
Whether you’re looking for a trail shoe like the Hoka Challenger or a great all-rounder like the Adrenaline GTS, I hope you’ve found the perfect shoe in our guide to reduce pain and improve your running efficiency.
Should You Try a Knee Brace?
Depending on the cause, knee pain can persist no matter which running shoes you wear. A knee brace can help, providing support to the patella and the ligaments of the knee.
Here’s our pick of the 6 Best Knee Braces for Running in 2022