Walking shoes provide relief from knee osteoarthritis

Unloading shoes and conventional walking shoes both provide relief from knee osteoarthritis symptoms

OA Shoes

Researchers from the Centre for Health Exercise and Sports Medicine (CHESM) at the University of Melbourne have this week had the results of a footwear trial published in the highly regarded journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.

Lead author on the research paper, Professor Rana Hinman said "Our trial was a clinical trial comparing two types of shoes for managing knee osteoarthritis symptoms.

"As most people know, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, and there are very few effective treatments because most drugs have quite small short lasting effects and there is increasing concern about the harmful side effects of drugs.

"There has been the increasing recognition about the role of abnormal biomechanics in osteoarthritis and because of this there is a widely held belief that wearing appropriate footwear can help the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

"A number of footwear companies have now developed shoes specifically designed to reduce the forces across the knee joint in order to help people with osteoarthritis. But up until now there have been no clinical trials looking to see if different types of shoes can influence the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis." said Professor Hinman

The trial compared two different kinds of shoe, both manufactured by ASICS. The first shoe was the Gel Melbourne OA, a shoe developed by the same research team a number of years ago for people with knee osteoarthritis. 

"It contains a couple of design features specially aimed at trying to reduce the load across the knee joint." said Professor Hinman. "These design features encourage the foot to pronate more than usual to help reduce the load across the medial knee joint."

The second shoe was the ASICS Gel Odyssey, which is a walking shoe that doesn’t contain the specific features of the Gel Melbourne OA.

One hundred and sixty four participants with knee osteoarthritis took part in the study. Each person was provided with either the unloading Gel Melbourne OA shoe, or the conventional Gel Odyssey, and asked to wear that shoe every day for 6 months.

"What we found at the end of the trial was that both shoes were effective at reducing pain and dysfunction. On average, pain was reduced by about 25% and function was improved by about 22%, so both shoes were effective at helping to self-manage symptoms and there was no differences between the two shoes, showing either shoe option could be helpful for knee osteoarthritis patients." said Professor Hinman.

Speaking on the topic of footwear for self management of knee osteoarthritis, Professor Hinman said "I think footwear is appealing because it is such a simple and straightforward management strategy. We know that people with osteoarthritis prefer to use non-drug, non-surgical management strategies if possible, and I think that is one of the reasons why footwear is appealing. All people need to do is remember to put the footwear on in the morning and wear them as much as possible.

"We hope this trial is going to get clinicians talking more about footwear with their patients and the role they can play in the management of their symptoms."