Are Special Shoes Needed for Knee Osteoarthritis?
Something has to be done to help people with pain from osteoarthritis (OA). According to this study from Canada, the cost of caring for musculoskeletal problems in adults is second only to cardiovascular disease. Knee OA causes pain, stiffness, and decreased function. In this study, a special walking shoe was used for 12 weeks to see if there were any changes in pain and balance.

Two groups of patients with knee OA and pain on walking were included. The first (control) group wore New Balance high-end walking shoes. The test group received a pair of Masai Barefoot Technology®(MBT®) shoes.

The MBT® shoe has a multilayered sole. It is designed to challenge the walker's balance. It turns flat, hard surfaces into uneven ground. Increased muscle activity is required in the legs to meet this challenge.

Balance was tested for each person before wearing the shoes. Pain levels and knee range of motion were also measured. Everyone in both groups wore the shoes as much as possible. All test measures were repeated at three weeks, six weeks, nine weeks, and 12 weeks. A home journal was used to track patient cooperation and compliance with the program.

The results showed no difference in pain with walking or knee and ankle motion between the two groups. Strength increased in both groups. Balance was improved only in the MBT® group.

The authors conclude a good walking shoe can reduce knee pain from OA. Special shoes such as the MBT® may be needed to improve balance. The dynamic shoe-to-surface may help train proprioceptive systems in the small muscles of the feet and legs used for balance control.
Benno M. Nigg, et al. Unstable Shoe Construction and Reduction of Pain in Osteoarthritis Patients. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. October 2006. Vol. 38. No. 10. Pp. 1701-1708.