An old knee injury, arthritis, or knee pain shouldn’t keep runners from enjoying their sport. Finding the best cushioned running shoes for bad knees is essential to protecting knees and making running pain-free.
We tested a dozen of the best running shoes including top brands to find the best cushioned running shoes for bad knees. Hoka One One Bondi 7 are the best overall.
An avid distance runner and trainer who runs daily after knee injuries, I keep my knees happy, healthy, and pain-free by running with cushioning that acts like a shock absorber, protecting my knees from wear and tear.
Out of the 12 shoes reviewed, the top third made my finals for best cushioned running shoe for bad knees. The best overall was the shoe that combined exceptional cushioning and protection with a feather-light weight. I’ve included other top choices with key features, ranging from stability to value for the price.
Keep reading to find the running shoes that will get you off the sofa and on the running trails.
Top Picks for the Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Bad Knees
- Hoka One One Bondi 7 – Best Overall
- Brooks Glycerin 19 – Best Stability
- Brooks Ghost 14 – Best for a Smooth Run
- Adidas Supernova Sequence 9 – Best for Price
Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Bad Knees
These reviews give you more information about the best cushioned running shoes
Hoka One One Bondi 7 – Best Overall
The Hoka One One Bondi 7 is a running shoe that has plenty of cushioning to take the bumps out of running to protect knees, but it’s also the most lightweight running shoe out of the bunch. Don’t worry about Hokas weighing you down – most reviewers say running in the Bondi 7 is like floating!
The Bondi 7 is ideal for heel strikers. If you are still working on correcting your feet landing, the Bondi 7 will give you a breeze until you get to landing on your midfoot consistently. This is an ideal combination to recover from bad knees.
The Bondi 7 are made for comfort, not speed. It is perfect for recovery runs but don’t use it for fartlek or speed workouts.
- Plenty of cushioning
- Memory foam collar for comfortable fit
- Knees get the protection they need
- Perfect for heel strikers
- 3 widths for men and 2 widths for women
- Feels bulky
- Durability may be sacrificed by its plushness
- The Bondi 7 are among the more expensive cushioned running shoe options
Brooks Glycerin 19 – Best Stability
Brooks Glycerin 19 is the shoe for runners who can’t get too much cushioning but also want stability. Brooks’ GuideRails system support paired with its thick cushioning will prevent injuries and make running easy on the knees.
The Glycerin 19 is the softest model within the Brooks Cushion Series, which is meant to be soft and protective.
The drop of the Glycerin 19 is 10 mm, which combined with the seamless mesh upper and plush interior makes it perfect to protect the knees from the excessive impact on every stride. In addition, the Glycerin 19 has the unique premium feature of having the tongue gusseted, which prevents lateral sliding.
The sole of the Brooks Glycerin 19 is made with the latest cushioning DNA foam. The DNA loft foam is a cushioning system designed to adapt to each individual unique stride. This adaptation is critical for protecting the knees during long runs.
If you are intending to train for a marathon while treating or recovering from bad knees, the Glycerin 19 are the best running shoes for you. As the body tires with long distances, these shoes will support your imbalances and help you to protect the knees and other joints.
- Support to cradle feet
- Cushion to protect knees
- Smooth transitioning from heel to toe
- Good foot lockdown
- Wide and breathable toe box
- Limited speed
- Low energy return
- These can run small, so keep that in mind when ordering online
- Warm for summer or hot weather
Brooks Ghost 14 – Best for a Smooth Run
No matter where your foot strikes – heel to midfoot – the Brooks Ghost series will offer cushioning to take the shocks out of running. Ghost features a Segmented Crash Pad – a series of integrated shock absorbers – to cushion each step.
The Ghost 14 are ideal for long distances and steady pace runs. The perfect combination of generous cushioning and stability offers a smooth ride and protection to the knees.
The Ghost 14 has a full DNA loft midsole compared to only half DNA loft in the previous version. The former offers a massive amount of foam to protect the feet and knees.
The Ghost 14 has a 12 mm drop, which is very high compared to other shoes in the same range. However, the high drop wouldn’t significantly affect the bad knees.
The upper of the Ghost 14 highlights an abundant foam paddy in the tongue and a plushy collar, which make it highly comfortable for long runs. The only downside is that the tongue is not gusseted so it tends to slide laterally.
- Integrated shock absorbers cushion your run feet to knees
- Ideal for road running and cross training
- Neutral support with lots of cushioning
- High end upper
- Ghost is a little on the narrow side
- The Ghost 14 is heavier than previous versions
Adidas Supernova Sequence 9 – Best for Price
The lowest-priced cushioned running shoe option I reviewed is the Adidas Supernova Sequence, but it’s not stingy on cushioning.
Adidas’ Formotion technology adapts the Supernova Sequence to the running surface while its Geofit construction lets the inside of the running shoe conform to the foot. Cushioning at the forefoot provides propulsion for running while heel cushioning protects against impact.
The Adidas Sequence 9 falls within the category of ‘firm support and mid weight’ running shoes. The Supernova Sequence 9 offers a mildly responsive ride, mainly because of the firm cushioning. There is not much difference in firmness from the previous version, the Sequence 8.
The ‘Stableframe’ EVA foam component supports the midfoot and overlays the Boost foam. The Adidas Boost technology brings together the benefits of soft and responsive cushioning.
The average durability of the Supernova Sequence 9 is 450 miles, and the most common points of failure are the outsole rubber and the urethane layer peeling off from the upper.
- Priced under $100
- Soft tongue with wide flap
- Conforms to foot with wear
- Continental outsole grip is outstanding
- Adapts to running surface
- Sole durability is lower than previous versions
- Supernova Sequence can feel tight, so runners may need to go up a half size
- The last eyelet is stiff
How To Choose The Best Cushioned Running Shoes For Bad Knees – Buying Guide
When you’re looking for the best cushioned running shoes that, right out of the box, will bring you a safe, comfortable run, there are features to consider. These essential factors include:
Knowing where your foot strikes the ground when running can give you a clue about cushioning. You’ll want to have cushioning where your foot hits the ground to lessen the impact on your feet and knees. Most runners have a heel strike, but others hit the ground midfoot. Know your running style to get cushioning in the right area.
Level of Cushioning
Know the areas you run, how long you plan to run, and how much protection your knees need. Those factors help in determining how much cushioning is needed.
Cushioning in running shoes can make them weigh more because they tend to have thicker midsoles. This can be a negative for those who run for speed.
Sometimes the cushioning sacrifices the durability of the running shoes. Since the key component for bad knees is cushioning, it is important that you choose running shoes that will hold up to the tear and wear of running on hard surfaces.
Comfort plays an important role when it comes to choosing the right fit for your running shoes. There should be enough space in the toe box to allow free movement of the toes and the normal expansion of the feet while running. It is recommended to use half a number bigger than your regular shoes. And don’t be afraid of feeling some extra space while trying it for the first time, your feet will expand with the heat and excessive movement. Your toenails will thank you for that additional space.
FAQs – Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Bad Knees
You may still have questions about finding the best cushioned running shoes for bad knees, but these frequently asked questions may give you more insight.
Don’t Most Running Shoes Have Cushioning?
Running shoes have varying amounts of cushioning, with lighter-weight shoes sometimes carrying minimal cushioning. Other running shoes are designed to have greater shock-absorbing qualities for those running on hard surfaces or for runners with bad knees.
What’s the Purpose of Cushioning in a Running Shoe?
Cushioning does more than feel good on your feet. Cushioning is included in running shoes to make contact with the ground as gradual and gentle as possible. This protects knees from impact and injury and makes running accessible for those with previous knee injuries or knee pain.
What’s the Best Running Surface for Bad Knees?
The cushioning of running shoes protects knees from the impact of running, but the running surface can also affect knee health. Runners with bad knees should run on grass, small gravel, or asphalt, all of which can be more forgiving than concrete. If you’re vacationing or live near the shore, running on a sandy beach is also a knee-friendly option.
How Does Running Style Affect Knee Health?
It’s a myth that running causes arthritic knees. However, running with poor form, running too far too soon, and in the wrong shoes can be harmful.
What Should I Do if My Knees Hurt While Running?
Experts recommend runners pay attention to pain instead of enduring it while running. Pain while running is a sign of injury, so a painful knee is a message to go home and apply an ice pack to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
Do These Models Come in Men’s and Women’s Versions?
Running’s a sport enjoyed by men and women, and men and women both can have knee issues, so my picks come in versions for guys and girls.
What are the best exercises for bad knees?
The best exercises for runners with bad knees are strengthening exercises that will balance strength with flexibility. You can include in your weekly routine the following exercises:
- Walking lunges
- Ice skaters
- Wall sits
- Box jumps
We describe each one of them in detail in our article on Knee strengthening exercises for runners.
The cushioned running shoes I reviewed here are the best of the bunch, but I could only pick one running shoe as best overall. That honor goes to the Hoka One One Bondi 7. Hoka has cushioning that will make you feel like you’re running on clouds, but that cushioning feels like it weighs as much as a cloud, too.
That combination of cushioning and ultra-lightweight makes running in Hoka One Ones a joy. These shoes take the shock out of running on hard surfaces to protect the knees.
When comparing the Brooks Ghost vs Glycerin, the result is very tight in terms of cushioning and stability. Both shoes offer adequate protection to the knees and joints. To make the right choice between these two titans you’ll need to look at other characteristics like upper comfort and drop.
Every foot is different, and so are runners. That’s why there’s no one perfect running shoe for every runner. The running surface, length of runs, running style, and knee condition all are factors in the cushioning needed. The shape of the foot is a factor in shoe choice and sizing, as no one wants to wear a running shoe that’s too tight or causes blisters. For that we have a complete guide on how to measure a shoe size for runners.
Finding the best cushioned running shoe is essential to giving everyone – even those with bad knees – access to running. Ordering one of these options is easy. Click on the links to send a pair of these running shoes to your doorstep.