Chondromalacia patellae, patellofemoral pain syndrome, PFPS—if you’ve had runner’s knee, these are words that strike fear in your heart. At first you think it’s just a little soreness after a run, but left untreated, runner’s knee can stop your fitness plan in its tracks, force you to cancel your race calendar, and even make walking difficult. The good news, according to the Mayo Clinic, is that runner’s knee often responds to simple treatments like rest and icing, although physical therapy is sometimes necessary. But it can also help to buy the best pair of running shoes for Runner's Knee.
While you’re trying to correct the underlying causes, you also need to think about your running shoes. For treating runner’s knee, the illustrious WebMD recommends “quality running shoes” and replacing worn-out trainers. You’ll need to try different models to find the right shoe for you, as the best shoe to treat or prevent runner’s knee is a highly individual question. Fortunately, fit and comfort are good guides.
To help you reach a decision, 4000 runners were asked to select the best shoes for runner’s knee. Although each of the thirteen models listed here (seven for women, six for men) are different, an overall pattern emerges. Many of these shoes achieve a difficult balance between cushion, support, and comfort, on the one hand, and a light, fast, firm ride on the other.
7. Women's Mizuno Wave Rider 21, MSRP $120 Neutral Shoe
Many runners have two pairs of running shoes: their “everyday” trainers and their “fast” shoes for races or faster workouts. If you’re looking for the best jogging shoes for knee pain, don’t overlook shoes like the Wave Rider 21 that are capable performers at any speed. While the Mizuno Wave Rider 21 is cushioned for daily running, it’s relatively lightweight and works for faster workouts, too. Intelligent engineering results in a shoe that provides both stability and a quick ride.
6. Women's Brooks Ravenna 9, MSRP $110 Stability Shoe
Both women’s models from Brooks are Runner’s World best buy picks. The Brooks Ravenna 9 earns that distinction by offering premium materials and comfort at a mid-range price, helping to make it not just one of the best running shoes for patellar tendonitis, but also one of the best ways to prevent “empty wallet syndrome” as well. The Ravenna 9 spans categories in other ways, too: while it’s a stable shoe that provides the appropriate level of support and cushioning, it offers a surprisingly responsive ride and feels springy and lightweight on your feet.
5. Women's Mizuno Wave Inspire 14, MSRP $120 Stability Shoe
You might notice a trend developing: like the Wave Rider 21, the Wave Inspire 14 from Mizuno is ready for both your daily jog around the park and for up-tempo training runs. This gravity-defying feat—the Wave Inspire 14 is one of the heavier shoes for women, weighing in at 9.2 ounces in a size 8—might be attributable to Mizuno’s signature Wave technology, a length of thermal plastic extending from the heel to mid-sole. The result is a full-size stability shoe with a lightweight feel, which is just the thing many people looking for the best running shoes for sore knees are hoping to find.
4. Women's Hoka One One Clifton 4, MSRP $30 Neutral Shoe
Hoka One One is the next company offering two variations on one theme. With Hoka, the theme is maximal cushioning, a high heel stack, and low heel-toe drop—all in an ultra lightweight package. The Hoka One One Clifton 4 looks like it should weigh a ton, but it’s actually the lightest model on this list, weighing only 8 ounces in a size 8. The improbable combination of a smooth, highly-cushioned ride in a lightweight package might explain why many runners choose them as the best running shoes for bad back and knees.
3. Women's Hoka One One Vanquish 3, MSRP $170, Neutral Shoe
Sometimes the best running shoe for knee pain means one thing above all else: cushioning. For that, it’s difficult to beat the Vanquish 3, whose laboratory-measured cushioning profile surpasses nearly every other shoe on the market. Think of the Vanquish 3 as premium Hoka: still stable and responsive, but with a uniquely soft ride.
2. Women's Brooks Ghost 10, MSRP $120, Neutral Shoe
Another Brooks shoe, another Runner’s World Best Buy award winner. It’s the heaviest shoe on this list (9.5 ounces in a size 8), but it feels fast. It’s a neutral trainer, but it offers good arch support. If finding the best running shoes for bad back and knees seems impossible, take a close look at the Brooks Ghost 10. It’s already managed a couple other things that seem impossible. And if you're looking for it cheap, the Brooks Ghost 11 is now available, which means further discounts on the 10.
1. Women's Saucony Zealot ISO 3, MSRP $130, Neutral Shoe
You need the best running shoes for weak knees, naturally. And Saucony couldn’t agree more. They claimed the top-ranked spot among women’s models by taking a page from the natural running movement. The Zealot ISO 3 is one of the lightest shoes here and, at just 4 mm, has the lowest heel-toe drop. Generous cushioning along with low weight give the Zealot ISO 3 a ride that’s both springy and luxuriously cushioned. How’s that for doing the impossible?
Best Men's Running Shoes for Knee Pain
6. Men's Asics Gel-Nimbus 20, MSRP $160, Neutral Shoe
If you were asked to draw a picture of the perfect running shoes for runner’s knee, you might come up with clouds or feather pillows that attach to the bottom of your feet, something so soft that your knees hardly feel what goes on between your heels and the road beneath them. That is the approach Asics has taken with both their men’s models on this list. The Asics Gel-Nimbus 20 is their top-of-the line neutral running shoe.
5. Men's Brooks PureCadence 7, MSRP $120, Stability Shoe
The natural running philosophy that worked for the Zealot ISO 3 for women also provides a solution for men seeking the best running shoes for knee problems in the form of the Brooks PureCadence 7. As part of the Brooks Pure Project, the PureCadence is the lightest shoe on the list (only 8.6 ounces in size 9), with a flexible sole that offers the lowest heel-toe drop, only 4 mm. The result is a shoe that is incredibly versatile, with an unusual combination of support and performance.
4. Men's Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35, MSRP $110, Neutral Shoe
What do you want in a shoe? If you need shoes for patellar tendonitis, you want everything: cushioning, comfort, and a fast and responsive ride. If you still think back fondly on the first time you ran in the Nike Pegasus as a teenager, it might be time to go back to your roots—just as Nike has with recent Pegasus models to produce a shoe as outstanding as the shoes you remember.
3. Men's Asics Gel-Kayano 24, MSRP $160, Stability Shoe
Like the Gel-Nimbus, the Asics Gel-Kayano 24 offers maximum support and luxurious comfort. The Gel-Kayano is the premium Asics model for runners who need a support shoe. But if you need running sneakers for bad knees, a premium price tag in return for a stable, cushioned shoe that offers an all-round great ride is a price worth paying.
2. Men's Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18, MSRP $120, Stability Shoe
Shoes for runner’s knee often have to meet some steep qualifications. They have to provide maximum support, high cushioning, and reliable stability. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 does all that, and also offers a quality ride that feels fast despite the shoe’s weight. There's a reason this is consistently one of the best selling running shoes in nearly every running store across the country.
1. Men's Hoka One One Clifton 4, MSRP $130, Neutral Shoe
For many runners, the Hoka One One Clifton 4 has found the winning formula that yields the best running shoes for bad back and knees. As with the women’s model, the high stack height offers maximal cushioning in an ultra lightweight format. That pays dividend not only for your back and knee but for plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and Achilles tendonitis. Runners notice the smooth ride, the light yet cushioned feel, and the combination of support and comfort. All that adds up to reduced impact forces on runners’ feet—and on their knees as well.