Going Barefoot Easier on the Knees?

Dr. Mark Borigini Health Guide
  • Ah, the holidays. It is a time when many of us revert to our stereotypical roles. The men are in the family room watching the latest bowl game, and the women are in the kitchen cooking.

     

    But are some of those poor ladies cooking doing so on painful knees? And if so, what can the rest of us do--short of asking them to relax and not cook this holiday season?

     

    Some of my colleagues at the recent American College of Rheumatology meeting in Boston earlier this month suggest that we take their shoes.

     

    Data presented at the meeting confirmed what we all know: footwear has an impact on the feet, and on the amount of force the knees experience as a person strolls along through life, according to researchers at Rush University Medical College in Chicago.

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    The researchers analyzed how research subjects with osteoarthritis of the knee walked, first barefoot, then with two stability shoes (Dansko clogs and Brooks Addiction shoes), flip-flops and flexible walking shoes (Puma H-Street). At the time this study was undertaken, experts were recommending stability shoes as the most supportive and comfortable walking shoes.

     

    Interestingly, the researchers found that the stability shoes were associated with increased pressure on the knees. And they found that flip-flops, flexible walking shoes and being barefoot all resulted in similar and less stress on the knees while walking.

     

    However, as tempting as it might be for those of us who get tired of polishing our shoes, we probably should not all start slipping into flip-flops. Routine flip-flop wearers can eventually suffer from plantar fasciitis. In addition, flip-flops can easily cause a person to trip and fall, and perhaps break a hip or some other valuable part of the body. Also, the sole of the shoe is important--it could be that many stability shoes are fine; they just need a better shock-absorbing sole. Many people actually need the stability shoes to allow for appropriate alignment of the hip and knee joints, or to help with arch difficulties. (In fact, the average age of the study subjects was 56, an age when fallen arches become common.)

     

    Despite all these second thoughts regarding the study, we all must consider what we wear and what kind of impact our shoes can have on not just our feet, but also our knees.

     

    Osteoarthritis affects tens of millions of people in this country. Osteoarthritis of the knees is related to age, being overweight, knee injuries and family history. And to the amount of stress on the knee joint.

     

    So, perhaps for at least some people, being barefoot is better for the knees.

Published On: December 21, 2007