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8 Orthopedic Shoes To Keep Your Feet Happy & Your Body Healthy

Author:

Jamey Powell

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September 28, 2022

Contributing writer

By Jamey Powell

Contributing writer

Jamey Powell is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. Previously the senior market editor at Healthline.com, she has years of experience scouring endless product reviews and testing out the latest and greatest products in the sleep, fitness, and nutrition markets.

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September 28, 2022

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

It might sound silly, but shoes can play a huge role in your overall health. Wearing the wrong shoes can not only cramp your style, but it can also cause a cascade of postural and structural issues in your body. Whether you’re a walker, a runner, or a frequent-theme-park goer, the best orthopedic shoes will offer sufficient support and cushioning to keep your feet happy–and your body healthy.

Orthopedic shoes provide intentional arch support, targeted cushioning, and room for custom orthotics. Each person has different needs when it comes to footwear, so we rounded up a few of the best orthopedic shoes to help you get a little more support in your soles.

How do you know if you need orthopedic shoes?

“The most common reason we prescribe orthopedic shoes is for foot deformity or ‘at risk’ feet,” explains holistic podiatrist, Robert Kornfeld, DPM. “Patients with diabetes (who suffer from peripheral vascular disease or peripheral neuropathy) and non-diabetics with peripheral vascular disease and peripheral neuropathy are considered at risk.”

Still, even if those conditions don’t apply to you, you may want to consider a pair of shoes that is designed to offer support and alleviate pain. Or, you might simply need a pair that can accommodate a custom orthotic, which is an insert that works to bring your foot into alignment.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of off-the-shelf shoes out there that label themselves as orthopedic, but might not be a total fit for your needs. “An authentic orthopedic shoe is fabricated off a cast of the patient, so all of the anatomy and contour is considered in the construction of the shoe,” Kornfeld explains. “There are companies who claim to make ‘orthopedic shoes’ that supposedly put the foot in its proper anatomical position for function, but there are too many variations in foot structure and function for me to feel confident that they would be fine for my patients.”

The orthopedic shoes on our list are a great starting point for addressing foot pain on their own, or with the help of an orthotic insert. But if you’re hoping to get a better understanding of your own specific footwear needs, it’s best to see a podiatrist to get to the root of the problem–especially if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort.

How we picked

Orthotic-friendly

Per our expert’s recommendations, in addition to being supportive on its own, a true orthopedic sneaker should be able to accommodate a custom orthotic if necessary.

Quality brands

We focused on brands that are transparent and reputable. Plus, we prioritized companies that take extra action to give back.

Budget

Custom orthotics can get expensive, as can off-the-shelf sneakers, so we tried to incorporate a variety of price-points to fit all budgets.

Reviews

We read hundreds of reviews, focusing on those from folks with orthotic inserts or special support needs.

our picks for the best orthopedic shoes

Best for walking: Vionic Walker Classic

Vionic Walker Classic

VIEW ON Vionic | $110VIEW ON Zappos | $110VIEW ON Amazon | From $78

Pros:

Generous arch supportAmerican Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of AcceptanceMedium & wide widths

Cons:

Not machine washableSome say they run warm

Sizes available: 5-12, (some half sizes available)

Colorways: 12 options

Return policy: 30 days

Vionic is known for creating supportive, orthotic-friendly shoes, and is a frequently recommended brand from podiatrists. These shoes are one of the brand’s best-selling products, offering serious arch support and heel cushioning. And, as the name suggests, they’re designed for walking.

The base of the shoe includes a podiatrist-designed orthotic, and the upper is breathable and water-repellant (+ the liner is also moisture-wicking). These shoes have a removable insole with a .5 elevation for extra heel-to-toe alignment. They’re on the sturdier side, which might make them too firm for some–but if you’re looking for a solid walking shoe that keeps you in alignment, this might be the pair for you.

What Customers Say:

In general, these are a long-time hit with customers who need a supportive walking shoe. One shopper writes, “I have bunions and very bony feet. I also wear custom orthotics. For years I’ve tried numerous walking shoes and none have given me the comfort and support of these shoes.” A few people do mention these shoes running small, and some say they do not hold up well over time.

Best for running: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

VIEW ON Zappos | $140VIEW ON Amazon | $140VIEW ON Brooks | $140

Pros:

Orthotic-friendlyAPMA seal of acceptanceUses recycled materials

Cons:

Shorter lacesMixed reviews about durability

Sizes available: 5-13

Colorways: 23 options

Return policy: 90 days, (varies by retailer)

Designed to accommodate both over- and under-pronators, the Adrenaline GTS 22 is one of the brand’s most supportive, yet lightweight running shoes. The sneaker uses the brands’ “GuideRails” technology to keep your foot in alignment during walks and runs. While they’re a good balance of support and cushion as-is, you also can remove the insole to insert your custom orthotics if necessary.

We also appreciate Brooks’ effort toward sustainability; the company uses recycled materials (like plastic water bottles) in its designs and aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

What Customers Say:

Runners love the roomy toe box and cushioned base of these shoes–myself included (I don’t use orthotics, but I run in these all the time!). A few folks say these came recommended from their podiatrist, and several note that it was easy to replace the insole with their custom orthotics.

On the negative side, some complain that the laces are much shorter than other sneakers (I haven’t noticed this personally), and there are mixed reviews about their long term durability. However, if you purchase your shoes through Brooks or a retail partner, they offer a Run Happy promise that lets you return or exchange your shoes, even after 90 days of wear. And if you haven’t worn them, you have a full year to return them.

Best affordable: Skechers GOwalk Joy

Skechers GOwalk Joy

VIEW ON Sketchers | $65VIEW ON Amazon | From $35VIEW ON Zappos | From $45

Pros:

Less expensiveSeveral color & width options

Cons:

Insoles might not be removableSome say they run large

Sizes available: 5-13

Colorways: 26 options

Return policy: 30 days, (varies by retailer)

For a super comfortable and supportive shoe that won’t break the bank, we like Skechers’ GOwalk Joy sneakers. They’re under $75 (and oftentimes under $50) on most sites, and get rave reviews from folks who say they provide great cushion and stability. The Ortholite sole is made from PU foam and aerogel, which is meant to make the shoe’s cushioning last longer. With a breathable mesh upper and the lightweight cushioning, these shoes are great for long days on your feet–no matter the time of year.

What Customers Say:

An Amazon best-seller with more than 64,000 ratings, these sneakers earn heavy praise for being lightweight and breathable, yet supportive. A lot of folks who use custom orthotics say they’re easily compatible, and one even writes, “I have spent a ton of money on orthotics and this shoe beats them all for all-day comfort!” On the con side, it’s unclear from reviews as to whether the original insoles are glued down or not, so if you do want to replace them you may need to use pliers. Several people also mention these shoes running large or being “long,” so keep that in mind when choosing your size.

Best for plantar fasciitis: Kuru Atom Sneakers

Kuru Atom Sneakers

VIEW ON Kuru | $160

Pros:

Generous arch supportRave reviews from people with plantar fasciitis

Cons:

ExpensiveMixed reviews about durability

Sizes available: 5-12, (half sizes available)

Colorways: 9 options

Return policy: 45 days

These shoes were designed specifically for people with high arches. They come in medium and wide widths, and the neutral aesthetic makes them a great option for a range of activities including walking, running, cross-training, and errands. The breathable mesh upper contrasts a more stable base, and the heel finger loop makes them extra easy to slip on. With a thicker midsole than the brand’s other shoe models, the Atom sneakers give you a bit of a height-lift–and a sufficient amount of cushioning.

Kuru has a strong sustainability mission as well. The brand encourages you to support either a cause or specific charity simply by registering your purchase. Once you select your charity, a portion of your purchase will be donated.

What Customers Say:

The Atom sneaker gets excellent reviews, especially from folks with plantar fasciitis. “This is my second pair. They really make my legs feel less tired after my very busy 8-hour shift, and my plantar fasciitis pain got much better with these shoes,” one reviewer raves. On the negative side, those who weren’t happy with their purchase complain that the durability didn’t fit these shoes’ high price tag. A few people warn that they run large, so you may want to size up if you purchase.

Best for bunions: Orthofeet Coral Stretch Knit

Orthofeet Coral Stretch Knit

VIEW ON Orthofeet | $120VIEW ON Zappos | $140VIEW ON Amazon | From $143

Pros:

Optional arch booster & spacerStretchy outer material

Cons:

ExpensiveMight be narrow for some

Sizes available: 5-12, (half sizes available)

Colorways: 9 options

Return policy: 60 days, (varies by retailer)

For those looking for customized options, these shoes are a great pick. In addition to having orthopedic insoles, these sneakers come with a plastic arch booster that slides under the insole (for a little extra lift), plus two insole spacers to help you find that just-right fit. And, even with all of this extra technology, they don’t scream “I’m an orthopedic shoe!” which is a win.

The wide toe-box is what makes these a great option for people with bunions, as well as anyone with swollen feet or hammertoes. Extra cushioning in the sole and a soft, padded interior give your feet a ton of comfort and support–and the stretchy knitted upper helps these shoes mold to your specific shape.

What Customers Say:

Customers with plantar fasciitis and bunions rave about these shoes. Several people with bunions praise these shoes’ generously stretchy outer material, including one reviewer who says, “these shoes are great for my narrow feet and yet the stretch component makes it also comfortable to wear without irritating my bunion. Perfect combination!” However, some people do note that the toe box wasn’t roomy enough for them, despite the stretchy material. If that’s a concern for you, you might want to consider the wide model. We also have a few other suggestions for shoes that can ease bunion pain.

Best for back & knee pain: Saucony Integrity Walker 3

Saucony Integrity Walker 3

VIEW ON Amazon | From $80VIEW ON Zappos | From $70

Pros:

Less expensiveAPMA seal of acceptanceGreat durability

Cons:

Low heelOnly 3 colors

Sizes available: 5-12

Colorways: 3 options

Return policy: 30 days, +$5 charge

Durable and supportive, the Integrity Walker 3’s are a great pick to wear as-is, or with custom orthotics. With a responsive and springy insole, and a sturdy leather outer, they’re suitable for anything from occasional walking to hours-long work shifts on your feet. While they’re more affordable than other sneaker options, most reviewers say they last a long time–so it’s likely you’ll get good value out of these kicks.

Worth noting: these shoes are American Podiatric Medical Association approved, but if you’re looking to solve back and knee pain specifically, it’s probably worthwhile to get a gait analysis from a podiatrist.

What Customers Say:

Many reviewers praise the Integrity Walkers for relieving back and knee pain, as well as plantar fasciitis. “They seem to have more arch support than most other Saucony shoes and definitely more than other athletic shoes that I have tried. I can walk considerable distances without my back hurting,” one shopper writes. Folks with custom orthotics say they work well, too, and most people comment on how durable they are (one person has worn the same pair for 3 years!). On the negative side, some don’t love the low heel on these shoes, and wish they offered more ankle support.

Best for wide feet: Vionic Miles Active Sneaker

Vionic Miles Active Sneaker

VIEW ON Vionic | $110VIEW ON Amazon | From $75

Pros:

Lightweight designGenerous arch support

Cons:

Not all half sizes availableSome say the quality is not worth the price

Sizes available: 5-12, (some half sizes available)

Colorways: 13 options

Return policy: 30 days

To be clear, just because someone else’s doctor recommended these kicks doesn’t mean you should skip seeing your own doctor if you’re struggling with foot pain. Still, when it comes to shoes for support and comfort, Vionic is a go-to recommendation from podiatrists–and the brand actually works with podiatrist to formulate its design.

The Miles Active Sneaker is a great lightweight pick for anyone needing arch support and extra cushion. The shoe’s midsole is removable, and the outsole is made from a durable rubber. They come in medium and wide versions, and Amazon has them in a few more colors than the Vionic website.

What Customers Say:

Most reviewers say they were recommended these shoes from their podiatrist and that they offer great support, especially for people with high arches. One writes, “I bought a pair of Miles almost a year ago after my podiatrist recommended them. I loved them so much I purchased a replacement pair last week. I have high arches and the arch support is great in the Miles.” On the con side, some reviewers on Amazon complain about the quality for the price (which could be a distribution issue) and a few folks warn they run a little snug.

Best machine washable: The Clove Shoe

The Clove Shoe

VIEW ON Clove | $139

Pros:

Orthotic-friendlyGood for high arches

Cons:

Restocking fee for returns

Sizes available: 5-12, (half sizes available)

Colorways: 19 options

Return policy: 30 days, +$10 restocking fee

Clove shoes are extremely popular among healthcare workers (the brand was started by the husband of a nurse!) but you don’t need to be a medical professional to rock your own pair. These shoes are lace-free and super supportive–again, designed for healthcare workers who are on their feet all day. They also have plenty of room for custom orthotics if needed. The outer material is water-resistant and wipeable, and the insole is odor-resistant and machine washable, too. Something else we love? Clove has donated more than $300,000 worth of shoes to front-line healthcare professionals across the country since March 2020.

What Customers Say:

With nearly 1,000 reviews on the Clove website, these shoes have a staggering 4.9 out of 5-star rating. One reviewer who uses custom orthotics says, “So comfortable, I can walk 12 hours without any problem. So easy to put on.” Most people recommend sizing up a half-size with these shoes, so keep that in mind if you’re in between sizes or prefer a more wide toe box. And while they have a lot of fun colors and patterns available, the wipe-clean material might not be for everyone.

How to choose

When picking out the right orthopedic shoes for you, you’ll want to consider how much flexibility you like in a shoe and what you’ll be using them for. For example, runners will need a little more flexibility in an orthopedic shoe than folks who stand all day.

Most orthopedic shoes are designed for people seeking arch support, but this can vary by brand (and of course, your foot’s arch). If it’s a top priority for you, make sure it’s called out in the shoe’s design.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you need a shoe that accommodates a custom orthotic. Some folks need a little more spaciousness for their orthotics, so it might help to look for shoes that have a wide version available.

All the shoes on our list are sneakers, as they offer the most orthopedic support–but we also have a list of podiatrist-recommended sandals, too!

FAQ

What is the difference between orthotic shoes and orthopedic shoes?

Orthotics are shoe inserts that bring your foot into proper alignment–they can be custom made or purchased over the counter. Orthopedic shoes are designed to support your feet and legs while relieving pain and can be purchased both from a podiatrist or off the shelf.

How do you know if you need orthopedic shoes?

If you have a foot deformity or constant foot pain, you may need orthopedic shoes or inserts. It’s best to see a podiatrist for a full diagnosis.

Can anyone wear orthopedic shoes?

“Absolutely,” Kornfeld confirms. “However, if there is no medical requirement it will not be covered by insurance and they can be quite expensive.”

The takeaway

Whether you’re a walker, a runner (or someone who stands all day at work), our feet go through a lot–and it’s up to us to keep them happy and healthy. If you’re needing more stability and cushion in your shoe, one of the orthopedic and orthotic-friendly shoes on our list might just do the trick. Just remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to a podiatrist if you’re experiencing any concerning foot or ankle pain–life’s too short to let the wrong shoes slow you down.

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