Flip Flops and Osteoarthritis

March 31, 2010


If you suffer from osteoarthritis in your knees then there may be no need to spend a lot of money on expensive specialist shoes. A study by Rush University Medical Center has found that flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and a significant source of disability and impaired quality of life. A higher-than-normal load on the knees during walking is a hallmark of the disease, associated with both the severity of osteoarthritis and its progression.

Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush and the primary author of the study, said “Traditionally, footwear has been engineered to provide maximum support and comfort for the foot, with little attention paid to the biomechanical effects on the rest of the leg but the shoes we wear have a substantial impact on the load on the knee joints, particularly when we walk.” They analyzed the gait of patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis while they walked barefoot and with four popular shoe types: Dansko clogs, which are often worn by those who have to be on their feet much of the day; stability shoes; Puma sneakers; and flip-flops.

The loads on the knee joints differed significantly depending on the footwear. For the clogs and stability shoes, the loads on the knee joints were up to 15 percent greater than with the flat walking shoes, flip-flops or barefoot walking. Knee loading was roughly the same whether the subject wore flips-flops or walked barefoot.

Several aspects of footwear affect the joint loading: heel height and stiffness of the sole being the most important. Earlier studies have shown that barefoot walking is associated with lower knee loads than walking with conventional footwear. Flip-flops and sneakers are flat, flexible and lightweight and seem to mimic the mechanics of walking with bare feet.

Clogs and stability shoes that are usually suggested to provide appropriate cushioning and support were shown to actually increase the loading on the knee joints, as opposed to shoes with less ‘support,’ flatter heels and more flexibility. But, bear in mind that flip flops could contribute to falls because of their loose-fitting design so maybe seek out some fancy sneakers instead.


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One Response to “Flip Flops and Osteoarthritis”

  1. Andrew on March 31st, 2010 2:01 pm

    Good job. Haven’t see a site so well laid out in a while. I will be coming back!

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