The 11 Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees of 2021

Keep pain at bay with your perfect fit

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Best Running Shoes for Bad Knees

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

Multiple factors can lead to knee pain while running including improper running form, running too much, working out on hard surfaces, and prolonged muscle weakness. But what some don’t know is that the wrong type of running shoes can also lead to knee pain—either occasional or chronic. 

“Comfort is one of the best predictors of whether a shoe will work for someone or not,” Jack Hackett, Head Coach and Founder of Infinity Running company, says. He notes that the second thing is support. “It should feel natural and contour your foot.” Hackett also advises looking at a shoe’s smoothness, noting that a smooth transition from landing to pushing off is essential to finding a shoe that will work long-term. 

Here are the best running shoes for bad knees on the market.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall for Women:
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 at Amazon
These shoes work well for runners, walkers, and anyone looking for an athletic shoe that can help ward off knee pain.
An ideal blend of style and performance with a modern design and a full-length, high-rebounding midsole.
A great option for casual runners, marathoners, and anyone looking for an affordable and supportive shoe.
These affordable and comfortable shoes can be worn for trail running, road running and even everyday wear.
The shoe’s durable, full-length EVA midsole cushioning provides exceptional shock absorption and stability.
A solid option for women with high arches, the shoe’s engineered air mesh upper provides a secure but flexible fit.
This shoe bounces back to its original shape after each stride, providing excellent support for runners with flat feet.
Perfect for those who need more toebox room, it's ideal for runners who like their shoes to double as athletic and casual wear.
Versatile and durable, this shoe is light enough for short runs, but also provides the comfort you need when logging extra miles.
These shoes have a wide toebox, so there’s plenty of room for your forefoot to spread when pushing off and landing.

Best Overall for Women: Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Comes in various widths and colors

  • Lightweight

Cons
  • Sizes run small

With its innovative stability features and ample cushioning, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS excels at shielding runners’ knees from injury.

The latest version of the Adrenaline has soft, high-energizing cushioning that extends beyond the heel and all the way to the forefoot, giving you a smoother, supportive transition from heel to toe. Meanwhile, the GuideRails support system allows you to run comfortably without unnecessary movement, keeping your knees stable and protected. Finally, a streamlined, engineered mesh upper hugs the foot for a soft, secure fit without excess bulk.

These shoes work well for runners, walkers, and anyone looking for an athletic shoe that can help ward off knee pain.

Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: DNA LOFT Crash Pad

Best Overall for Men: New Balance Men's 890v8 Running Shoes

New Balance Men's 890v8 Running Shoes
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Comes in various widths

  • Flexible

  • Lightweight

Cons
  • Does not offer extra-wide sizes

New Balance makes it possible to enjoy exceptional stability and cushioning in a lightweight shoe with their sleek, streamlined 890.

With a modern design, these shoes are an ideal blend of performance and style. The shoe’s full-length FuelCell midsole provides high rebound and delivers energy return and propulsion, and the REVlite outsole delivers lightweight cushioning and a flexible response. And like most New Balance shoes, they are available in regular and wide sizes, so you can get an accurate fit.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber sole | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Ground Contact IMEVA

Best Budget for Women: Saucony Versafoam Cohesion 13

Saucony Versafoam Cohesion Running Shoes
Pros
  • Excellent shock absorption

  • Lightweight

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Doesn't offer extra-wide sizes

Saucony’s Versafoam Cohesion shoe is proof that you don’t have to shell out a ton of money for a high-quality, supportive shoe. Versarun cushioning technology assists with shock absorption and reduces impact pressure on your joints even when you’re running on roads and sidewalks. Yet the shoe remains lightweight and flexible, keeping you comfortable for miles, and the breathable, reinforced upper mesh keeps your feet dry and protected.

The Cohesion is a great option for casual runners, marathoners, and anyone looking for an affordable, supportive, and well-cushioned shoe for exercise.

Materials: Rubber sole, synthetic mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Versafoam

Best Budget for Men: ASICS Men's Gel-Venture 7 Trail Running Shoes

asics-gel-venture
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Promotes smooth transitions

  • Durable

  • Comes in various widths and colors

Cons
  • Laces are flimsy

Comfortable, supportive, and versatile, ASICS GEL-Venture running shoes are an excellent choice for men who want an affordable, well-cushioned running shoe. The shoes’ popular GEL cushioning system in the rearfoot and forefoot helps with shock absorption and allows for a smooth transition.

With a durable rubber outsole and trail-specific lugs, these shoes can be worn for trail running and hiking, but also work well for road running and even everyday wear.

Materials: Rubber sole, synthetic leather upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Rearfoot GEL technology

Best Cushioned: Hoka One One Bondi 7 Running Shoe

Hoka One One Bondi 7 Running Shoe
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Durable

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Doesn't offer various widths

These super-cushioned shoes aren’t the most stylish option, but with their thick and wide soles, they’re tough to beat in terms of comfort. The durable, full-length EVA midsole cushioning provides exceptional shock absorption and stability. And even with all that cushioning, the shoe still has an optimal amount of rigidness to give your feet the support they need. The synthetic sole with grippy rubber inserts adds to the shoes’ overall durability as well.

While Bondi shoes definitely aren't cheap, they are high-quality running shoes that provide maximum cushioning and stability. For many, they're worth every penny.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Maximum

Best for High Arches: Brooks Women's Ghost 13 Running Shoes

Brooks Women's Ghost 13 Running Shoes
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Promotes smooth transitions

  • Breathable

  • Comes in various widths

Cons
  • Doesn't offer extra-wide sizes

Runners with a history of knee pain need shoes with exceptional support and cushioning like this popular pick from Brooks. Fortunately, those same features are also beneficial for runners who have high arches, so the Ghost is a solid option for them as well.

The shoe’s DNA Loft foam is super soft and allows for smooth, easy landings on the heel and lateral side while the firm BioMoGo DNA foam provides support and stability under the arch. Additionally, the shoe’s engineered air mesh upper provides a secure but flexible fit that breathes well.

Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: BioMoGo DNA

Best for Flat Feet: Asics Women's GEL-Kayano 27 Running Shoes

Asics Women's Gel-Kayano 27
Pros
  • Excellent shock absorption

  • Comes in various widths and colors

  • Lightweight

Cons
  • Doesn't offer extra-wide sizes

With its technical design and innovative features, the popular Asics GEL Kayano running shoe gives runners with flat feet and a history of knee pain the support and cushioning they need. Asics’ Flytefoam technology helps the shoe bounce back to its original shape after each stride. Meanwhile, the shoe’s dynamic DuoMax support system gives your feet stability and support, and the impact guidance system promotes a more natural gait.

With Asics’ signature GEL cushioning in the forefoot and rearfoot, the shoes also deliver superior shock absorption and comfort. The heel clutch technology provides a secure fit as well, so there’s no concern about your rearfoot sliding around.

Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Forefoot GEL Technology

Best for Wide Feet: New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080 V10

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080 V10
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Lightweight

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Comes in various widths and colors

Cons
  • Sizes run small

The New Balance 1080 Fresh Foam running shoes have just the right amount of support and cushioning to protect your knees while running. The full-length Fresh Foam midsole keeps your feet comfortable without weighing the shoes down or making them feel too bulky. The shoes’ Ortholite cushion inserts also enhance their comfort while helping with moisture control.

These running shoes are available in several different widths, so those who need some extra room in the toebox can find their perfect fit. With a sleek style and a variety of fun colors and patterns to choose from, these comfy kicks are perfect for runners who like their shoes to serve double-duty as athletic and casual wear.

Materials: Rubber sole, knit upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Fresh Foam

Best Lightweight: Brooks Glycerin 18 Running Shoes

Brooks Glycerin 18 Running Shoes
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Durable

  • Promotes smooth transitions

Cons
  • Expensive

If you want a lot of cushioning for knee protection but still desire a lightweight feel, the Brooks Glycerin shoe is an excellent pick. Versatile and durable, it's light enough for shorter runs or casual wear, but also provides the comfort and support you need when hitting higher mileage.

The soft cushioning adapts to each step, keeping your feet from straining and helping to protect your knees from the pounding of the pavement. Additionally, the shoe’s transition zone assists with shock absorption and evenly disperses impact for a smooth, even ride. Similar to other well-designed running shoes, this pair of Brooks is on the pricey side, but the high-quality comfort and protection they provide make them well worth the cost.

Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: DNA LOFT 

Best for Overpronators: Saucony Women's Guide 13 Running Shoe

Saucony Women's Guide 13 Running Shoe
Pros
  • Excellent shock absorption

  • Lightweight

  • Comes in various widths and colors

Cons
  • Doesn't offer extra-wide sizes

With an outstanding cushioning system and fantastic shock absorption, Saucony Guide running shoes are a perfect choice for overpronators who want to protect their knees. PWRRUN cushioning provides the right amount of softness and responsiveness while still maintaining a lightweight feel. Additionally, the medial TPU guidance frame keeps your feet tracking straight, providing the stability and motion control that overpronators need.

These shoes also have a wide toebox, so there’s plenty of room for your forefoot to spread when pushing off and landing.

Materials: Mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: PWRRUN 

Best for Underpronators: Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 24 Running Shoes

Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 24 Running Shoes
Pros
  • Durable

  • Excellent cushioning and shock absorption

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Expensive

If you’re a neutral runner or underpronator, consider the Mizuno Wave Rider, a durable running shoe with consistent support and cushioning.

Wave technology offers responsive, energetic cushioning, as well as optimal shock absorption. Yet the shoes remain lightweight and flexible, making them a versatile choice for any type of run. The shoe’s engineered mesh, breathable upper adds to their overall sense of comfort as well.

Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper | Closure: Lace-up | Cushioning: Wave® technology 

Final Verdict

Both the Brooks Adrenaline GTS (view at Amazon) and New Balance 890 (view at Amazon) running shoes offer the ideal mix of support and cushioning that make for a quality, well-rounded shoe that protects from knee pain. Enjoy a smooth and comfortable run every time with these running shoes, no matter your pace or how many miles you want to log each week.

What to Look for in Running Shoes for Bad Knees

Cushioning 

One of the best ways to protect your knees while running is to wear running shoes that absorb most of the shock from hitting the ground and provide plenty of cushioning. “Properly supportive and appropriately cushioned running shoes can help to dampen the repetitive loading stresses of running,” says Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, a physical therapist based in Washington, D.C.

Durability

You want to choose a shoe that’s durable so the support and cushioning won’t wear out quickly. Look for shoes with sturdy rubber outsoles that will hold up to pounding and abrasion from running on hard surfaces.

Fit

Physical therapists and other movement experts can evaluate runners to determine the best shoes for their gait, foot type, and injury history. “This type of assessment can provide a roadmap for runners to return to pain-free miles,” said Gillanders. When choosing your running shoes, they should fit comfortably right out of the box—no break-in period required. And be sure you have plenty of room in the toe box to wiggle your toes.

FAQs

How can I run with bad knees?

If you’ve had a history of knee injuries, you may want to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist for a comprehensive evaluation before you start a running program. “Understanding why someone is having knee pain will help us determine whether running will be a safe fitness activity,” says Brent Rader, DPT, physical therapist for The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics.

Once a PT has determined the cause of your knee pain, they can recommend the best running shoes for you, as well as lower body stretches and strengthening exercises for the muscles that support and stabilize your knees.

Can running shoes affect your knees?

Yes, running in improper or worn-out running shoes can lead to knee pain. Before starting a running program, make sure to get a running gait analysis done at a specialty running store so you can get the right shoes for your foot type and gait.  Also, replace your running shoes often (every 300 to 400 miles), as lack of shoe cushioning and support can also lead to knee pain.

Why do certain shoes hurt my knees?

Wearing running shoes with inadequate support or cushioning can lead to knee pain that would have been preventable with the proper shoes. “Shoes that don’t support a patient’s natural foot structure and running mechanics will cause the body to compensate, increasing the likelihood of poor positioning and overload in the ankle, knee, or hip,” says Dr. Rader. You may need running shoes with more cushioning or stability to prevent overpronation, which can lead to knee pain.

What are the best exercises for bad knees?

If you have existing knee pain or have a history of knee injuries, the best exercises for you really depend on any weakness or other deficit, as well as your goals, says Brandon Schmitt, DPT, ATC, chair of the Knee Special Interest Group of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy.

A physical therapist or certified personal trainer can give you recommendations for safe exercises that will help to alleviate existing pain and can prevent future issues. “For sustainable results, the best exercise is the one someone is willing to actually perform regularly,” says Dr. Schmitt.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Through many years as a running coach and marathon runner, Christine Luff has dealt with knee injuries, both personally and in her trainees. For protection from knee pain, she recommends regularly replacing running shoes and sticking to reputable brands like Asics, Brooks, New Balance, Hoka, and Saucony.

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