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The best orthopedic shoes, according to experts

The best orthopedic shoes, according to experts

Enduring chronic joint or foot pain can destroy not only your day but also your mental health. For many, especially those with plantar fasciitis, those first few steps out of bed in the morning can feel like you're walking on pins and needles. If this sounds familiar, you've likely already tried everything from orthotic shoe inserts to electric foot massagers to just plain staying off your feet. Thankfully, there's an actual answer to your aching arches: orthopedic shoes. Research shows that orthopedic shoes can significantly relieve and prevent foot, joint and back pain, allowing you to feel and function better.

Quick overview
  • Best overall orthopedic shoe

    Klaw 528

  • Best orthopedic dress shoe for women

    Dansko Fawna Mary Jane for Women

  • Best orthopedic dress shoe for men

    Cole Haan Men's Original Grand Shortwing Oxford

  • Best orthopedic walking shoe

    Hoka Bondi 8

  • Best orthopedic tennis shoe

    Puma Deviate Nitro 2 Running Shoes

  • Best orthopedic shoe for back pain

    Oofos OOmg Recovery Shoe

  • Best orthopedic shoe for plantar fasciitis

    Vionic Karmelle Oxford Casual Sneaker

  • Best orthopedic shoe for wide feet

    Kuru Atom

  • Best orthopedic shoe for diabetic neuropathy

    Orthofeet Edgewater

  • Best orthotic insoles

    Walk-hero Insoles Arch Support Orthotics

  • The best orthopedic socks for plantar fasciitis

    OS1st FS4 Plantar Fasciitis Socks

See 6 more

Liza Egbogah, a chiropractor, osteopath, and body and posture expert, tells Yahoo Life, “Orthopedic shoes are designed to support the feet, address specific foot disorders and provide comfort." The shoes are specially designed to help with conditions such as plantar fasciitis, neuromas, bunions, metatarsalgia, hammertoe, arthritis, knee pain, hip pain and back pain.

If you're at your wit's end with foot and joint pain that's creeping up to your back and desperately need a great pair of orthopedic shoes, you've come to the right place. With Egbogah's guidance, we zeroed in on the best orthopedic shoes on the market today based on the types of foot conditions addressed, cost, style and actual user feedback. Get ready to be pleasantly surprised by how far orthopedic shoes have come to give us comfort, relief and, most of all, the style and support we all desperately want out of a shoe, orthopedic or not.

 

Colors available: White, yellow, gray, black

Sizes available: Women’s: 6-9 in whole and half sizes for 10, 11 (wide available) Men’s: 8-13 whole sizes only (wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Heel-to-forefoot cushioning; water-resistant leather; firm arch support

Cons: Runs wide; heavier shoe

Why we recommend it

Designed by one of New York's most prominent podiatrists, Nelya Lobkova, DPM, the Klaw 528 orthopedic shoe alleviates foot and joint issues caused by conditions such as hammertoe, plantar fasciitis, overpronation and bunions. The shoe offers a deep, supportive heel cup, medial and lateral arch support, and a rocker outsole — a feature Egbogah tells us should always be found in a great orthotic shoe. The extensive cushioning in the midsole provides and maintains pain relief, especially for those who have plantar fasciitis.

Something to consider: The women’s Klaw 528 runs a bit wide, which is great for those with wide feet; however, the wider heel paired with the deep heel cup could lead to heel rubbing for those with narrow feet.

$148 at Klaw

Colors available: Black, brown, navy (red available on Amazon)

Sizes available: 6-12 (No half sizes; wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Cushioned insole; contoured arch support; classy and versatile

Cons: Stiff toe may be uncomfortable for some until broken in; severe foot conditions may need more arch support

Why we recommend it

Traditionally, orthopedic shoes were designed for function, not fashion. These beautiful Dansko’s Fawna Mary Jane shoes are a great example of how far the once notoriously ugly shoes have come. The cult favorite Fawna shoe is made of soft stain-resistant leather, with removable EVA footbeds — a cushioned shock-absorbing material Egbogah recommends for absorbing the impact of each step you take — and special ergonomic insoles that provide cushioned arch support. 

How's that for getting the support your aching heels need, all while still looking fabulous?

Something to consider: While the Velcro closure may be easier for some to navigate than a clasp or snap, the Velcro may catch on clothing and could lose strength over time.

$140 at Amazon$140 at Dansko$140 at DSW

Colors available: 7 options in various shades of black and brown with various sole colors

Sizes available: 6.5-11.5 in whole and half sizes, 12-16 (wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Cushioned comfort; exceptionally high-quality materials; lightweight athletic feel with a polished look

Cons: May run narrow; stiff and will take time to break in

Why we recommend it

Cole Haan Wingtip Oxford shoes drive home orthopedic-shoe function with dress-shoe elegance thanks to Cole Haan's patented Grand OS cushioning technology, sturdy arch support and lightweight rubber outsoles. We really love the fact these shoes offer that favorite tennis-shoe feel along with a polished dress-shoe look. The shoes are also orthotic-friendly, should you want to use a custom insole for one foot or both feet. With so many colors available, congratulations: You can officially say goodbye to painful dress shoes. Forever. 

Something to consider: This sale is outstanding and may not last long.

$77 at Amazon$130 at Zappos

Colors available: 16+

Sizes available: Women’s: 5-10.5 in whole and half sizes, 11-12 (wide available) Men’s: 7-12.5 in whole and half sizes, 13-16 (wide and x-wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Plush EVA cushioning; rocker sole for correct gait; lightweight

Pros and cons

Cons: Clunky look and feel, not stable enough for strength training or hiking

Why we recommend it

Hoka's Bondi 8 not only provides the highest level of cushioning the brand offers and has been upgraded with a more stable, extended heel, but the shoe also features three of Egbogah’s recommendations when choosing orthopedic shoes: a wide toe box, shock-absorbing soles with materials like EVA to cushion each step and a rocker sole to minimize pressure points when walking. One tester said he had "horribly painful diabetic feet" including experiencing pain while he was sitting. He reported that the Bondi 8 shoes were "life-changing," providing comfort and stability to the point he is walking around the block nightly. He added that now his wife and 11-year-old son each have a pair.

Something to consider: The Bondi 8 has ​the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance, which recognizes products that benefit foot health. 

$180 at Amazon$166 at Zappos$165 at Hoka

Colors available: 5 (women); 3 (men)

Sizes available: Women’s: 5.5-11 in whole and half sizes; Men’s: 7-11.5 whole and half sizes, 12-14

Pros and cons

Pros: Plush cushioning; carbon plate for stabilization; rocker sole

Cons: Heavier than some competitors; limited color options

Why we recommend it

If you’re searching for a deeply cushioned yet stable and responsive running shoe, the Puma Deviate Nitro 2 is for you. The shoe features extra foam cushioning in the midsole to minimize joint impact while still propelling you forward — as all good running shoes should. The impressive 6mm heel-to-toe drop makes for an easy transition with each stride, while the engineered carbon plate provides stability. The shoe is durable, breathable and reflective for early and late runs, and it offers real grip for ultimate road safety. 

Something to consider: The Diviate's wider-than-average toe box (96.3 mm) provides comfortable space for those with toe issues, yet is not so wide that it causes chafing or blisters.

$127 at Puma$160 at DICK'S

Colors available: 6

Sizes available: 5-9.5 in whole and half sizes, 10-12 (Amazon carries only whole sizes)

Pros and cons

Pros: Highly cushioned foam; easy slip-on design; arch support specifically for back and joints

Cons: Run about a half size small for most; top may be too tight for some

Why we recommend it

Oofos OOmg slip-on sneakers reduce compressive forces on your joints, making them ideal for those with back pain. The OOmg shoes provide exceptional arch support, absorb impact and rebound slowly to soothe joints and muscles after a long day on your feet. The entire line of Oofos shoes has the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance. This company knows how to make a great orthopedic shoe, including orthopedic flip-flops and slides.

Something to consider: The brand recommends going up by a half size for the best fit. Half sizes are available only through the Oofos website — Amazon and other retailers offer only whole sizes.

$140 at Amazon$140 at ZAPPOS$140 at OOFOS

Colors available: White; cream white

Sizes available: 5-9.5 in whole and half sizes; 10-13 (wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Corrects pronation that causes plantar fasciitis; EVA foam cushioning; Arch support

Cons: Limited colors

Why we recommend it

Plantar fasciitis (PF) is a painful inflammatory condition that causes excruciating pain in your heel and arch. Having high arches, incorrect pronation and wearing shoes that aren’t supportive enough can all further exacerbate PF. Vionic makes shoes that truly combat the painful condition, thanks to its patented VIO Motion technology that corrects pronation and promotes full-body alignment. The cult favorite Vionic Karmelle Oxford Casual Sneakers provide the alignment, comfort, arch support and the shock-absorbing cushioning it takes to overcome PF.

Something to consider: Men can find the same comfort and casual style with the Vionic Men's Walker shoe.

$140 at Amazon$140 at Zappos$140 at DSW

Colors available: 11

Sizes available: 5-12 in whole and half sizes (wide available)

Pros and cons

Pros: Arch-supporting insoles; plush cushioning in heel and midsole; deep heel cup and wide toe box

Cons: May take time to break in

Why we recommend it

Kuru's Atom Athletic Sneaker prevents and relieves pain thanks to extra cushioning in the heel and midsole, exceptional arch support and a deep heel cup that hugs your foot and prevents slippage. The wide toe box's anatomical fit helps prevent issues such as bunions, hammertoe and pinched nerves — conditions that can be more common for those with wide feet.

Something to consider: The shoe's breathable mesh design works well to keep feet cool and dry during workouts, walks and everyday wear.

$160 at Kuru

Colors available: Gray, black, blue

Sizes available: 7-11.5 in whole and half sizes, 12-15 (available in standard, wide, xwide and xxwide)

Pros and cons

Pros: Orthotic insoles with adjustable arch support; additional heel padding; soft non-irritating inner liner

Cons: May not be grippy enough for wet days

Why we recommend it

Diabetic nerve damage that occurs in the feet is known as peripheral neuropathy (PN) and can cause a tingling sensation through the foot and a feeling of walking on pins and needles. (OUCH!) Alternatively, PN can cause the loss of pain sensation in the feet, which can lead to sores, calluses, injuries and infection if left untreated. Studies show wearing the correct footwear reduces the likelihood of developing these issues. 

Orthofeet’s Edgewater Stretch shoe provides everything a person with diabetes should look for in a shoe: made with antimicrobial materials, superior orthotic insoles with adjustable arch support, loads of comfortable cushioning, the ever-important rocker sole and a nonfriction inner lining that prevents sores and infections. 

Something to consider: Orthofeet’s Edgewater Stretch shoes are available in four widths, so you can find the ideal fit to relieve pain and prevent complications from neuropathy or other foot conditions.

$140 at Amazon$135 at Zappos$120 at Orthofeet

Sizes: Women's 6-14 with half sizes; Men's 4-16 with half sizes

Pros and cons

Pros: Inexpensive; highly-rated; can be moved from one shoe to the next if compatible with insoles

Cons: Not as robust as an orthopedic shoe; may have to trim the insoles to fit in your shoe

Why we recommend it

If you're experiencing sticker shock from how much a pair of orthopedic shoes cost, you could try starting with a simple orthotic shoe insole. Walk-hero's orthotics are particularly great because the insoles feature a deep heel cup, EVA shock absorption and arch support. Something else that is pretty spectacular is the nearly 38,000 five-star Amazon reviews. These insoles work by removing your shoe's existing insoles and replacing it with the orthotic insole. 

Something to consider: These insoles can be a great inexpensive first line of defense before spending money on orthopedic shoes, though, if you are in severe, chronic pain, a visit to your doctor should be your true first line of defense.

$20 at Amazon

Sock styles: No-show; crew; full calf

Sizes: Men's and Women's S-XL

Why we recommend it

Yahoo's health editor is always singing the praises of the OS1st brand of compression and sports socks. The company specializes in high-quality, medical-grade socks for just about every foot condition (plantar fasciitis, bunion, diabetic and others). The FS4 plantar fasciitis socks are designed with OS1st's patented Compression Zone Technology®, antibacterial fabric and Y-Gore heel for anatomical shape, including a left/right design for a great fit (a little R/L at the toe of the sock lets you know which foot). 

$25 at Amazon$25 at OS1st$24 at Holabird Sports

How to choose the best orthopedic shoes for you

  • Fit: Ensuring the correct fit is vital for comfort and, most of all, pain relief. Shoes that are too big or wide can lead to slipping, poor gait and chafing. Pro tip: Measure your feet at the end of the day when your feet are generally their biggest due to fluid settling.

  • Cushioned sole: A well-cushioned sole will relieve the impact on the joints, feet and back for less compressive force and pain. However, a firm arch support is vital for those with painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

  • Toe box: A wide toe box prevents issues such as pinched nerves, bunions and hammertoe thanks to being more anatomically correct. As a general rule, you should always look for shoes with a wide-enough toe box to suit your feet.

  • Cost: Though budget is normally the driving force behind most purchases, orthopedic shoes are not cheap, so it's essential you weigh construction and cost to ensure you get the most bang for your buck and a well-made shoe that will last.

  • Style: Even though today's orthopedic shoes don't sacrifice fashion for function, you should still look for a pair that you can wear with your overall wardrobe, including your work clothes and casual wear, to ensure you get the most use out of the shoe. Orthopedic running shoes are great, but can you wear them regularly with your wardrobe?

How we researched and tested orthopedic shoes

We researched 36 top-rated orthopedic shoes in various styles and price points — shoes offering pain relief, arch support and superior cushioning while also ensuring each pair is aligned with our expert’s recommendations for the features the best orthopedic shoes should possess. We then further narrowed the list based on price versus quality, accessibility, style, sizes and colors offered, and, course, those that received glowing customer reviews. Finally, we consulted with experts to ensure our final list of winners was, in fact, a roundup of the very best orthopedic shoes.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if I need orthopedic shoes?

If you are an overpronator (your foot rolls in when you’re walking) or have ever suffered from any degree of foot, knee, hip or back pain, you would likely benefit from orthopedic shoes. Egbogah adds, “If you find it uncomfortable to walk barefoot, that’s also a good indicator that you need more support, and orthopedic shoes can provide just that."

What conditions do orthopedic shoes help with?

According to Egbogah, orthopedic shoes are designed to help with conditions such as plantar fasciitis, neuromas, bunions, metatarsalgia, hammertoe, arthritis, knee pain, hip pain and back pain. Orthopedic shoes can also prevent issues like pinched nerves thanks to the wide toe box. The shoes can also help prevent and treat osteoarthritis. “Osteoarthritis is essentially wear and tear on the joints," says Egbogah, "and this can be slowed down by wearing supportive footwear that improves alignment."

What's the difference between orthopedic shoes and orthotics?

Orthotics are inserts you can put into most shoes. You can either buy orthotics through a retailer or have a podiatrist custom make one or a set for you. “Orthopedic shoes work to correct gait —the way we walk, provide support for your arches and improve overall alignment so that your body can function better,” says Egbogah. Put simply: Orthotics are an insert and only one part of the puzzle, while orthopedic shoes offer 360-degree support from the inside of the shoe to the outside sole. “With features such as orthotic insoles and rocker soles, our body functions more efficiently and endures less wear and tear,” Egbogah says.

How do orthopedic shoes work?

Orthopedic shoes provide shock-absorbing cushioning to protect your joints and reduce pain, arch support to ward off plantar fasciitis and a wide toe box to prevent bunions and hammertoe. And, as a whole, the shoes improves overall alignment so that your body can function better thanks to an optimal gait. According to Egbogah, “Orthopedic shoes address movement dysfunctions that lead to foot problems and can also be used proactively to slow down the degeneration of weight-bearing joints in our body.”