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Flat, Flexible Footwear Is Easier on the Knees

Many people wear flip-flops because they’re comfortable. But according to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, there may be an even better reason to favor flat, flexible footwear: It can help protect your knees against osteoarthritis.

"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," says rheumatologist and lead study author Najia Shakoor, MD.

The study, which was published online in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, found that flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles actually cause less stress on the knees than rigid clogs or even special walking shoes. And that’s important, because a higher-than-normal load — or amount of force — on the knee joints during walking is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis, affecting both the severity and progression of the disease.

In the study, flat, flexible and lightweight flip-flops and walking shoes seemed to mimic the mechanics of walking barefoot. In fact, the force on the knee was roughly the same whether the subject wore flip-flops or went barefoot. With clogs and stability shoes (athletic shoes specifically designed to control and neutralize the stride of a person with an unstable gait), conventionally believed to provide appropriate cushioning and support, the force on the knees was up to 15 percent higher than with flat walking shoes, flip-flops or bare feet.
 

 

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