Recent research from the University of Melbourne has shown that a new pair of runners is just as effective as specialised footwear.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects people on the inside (medial) portion of their knee. Researchers have developed specialised shoes that 'unload' the medial side of the knee, by having a stiffer sole on the outside (lateral) of the sole, which helps to reduce load on the medial side of the knee.
This randomised trial by Hinman et al. (2016) compared two groups. The first group received the specialised shoe (Asics GEL-Melbourne) in combination with an insole that is also designed to unload the medial side of the knee. The second group received a pair of new neutral running shoes (Ascis GEL-Odyssey). The researchers found no difference between the two groups for pain and function, with both groups significantly improving. Furthermore, the researchers found the group that wore the specialised shoes were more likely to experience minor adverse effects such as transient foot and ankle pain.
Therefore, wearing specialised shoes and insoles to unload the knee, may not provide any extra benefit, and patients should try wearing a new pair of supportive runners before purchasing specialised shoes and insoles.
Hinman RS, Wrigley TV, Metcalf BR, Campbell PK, Paterson KL, Hunter DJ, et al. Unloading Shoes for Self-Management of Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 12 July 2016] doi:10.7326/M16-0453