When considering a shoe to correct for knee pain, there are two extremes of thought and opinion you may pursue. One lies with the well-known athletic shoe companies, who have technology, new materials and advanced design in their corner. The other, quieter voice comes from a faction of runners and professionals who are beginning to question the wisdom of swaddling our feet in all of that protective padding. The gulf between the two is massive, but increasingly, injured runners, distance runners, trail runners and off-roaders are leaning toward minimalist running shoes.
Look for shoes that exert greater control over the motion of your foot. Motion control provides additional stability, addresses pronation and flat arch issues and provides more support in areas including the arch. Such shoes are created to be more or less rigid (as needed) and usually have a wider base. Vary your lacing method to address specific variations in your foot.
Find a shoe that addresses your unique combination of foot issues. Your feet may have high, mid or low arches. You may overpronate. You may tend to turn one foot out as you run. If you are a female hiker or runner, you have a completely different set of mechanics and potential issues than a male under the same conditions.
Visit a podiatrist or an athletic shoe store with a trained staff that can study wear patterns in your old shoes, check your feet while they are still and in motion and recommend the corrective features you require.
Add arch supports or orthotic inserts. Your podiatrist can create a pair to specifically fit the size, shape and length of your foot.
Try a trail shoe. They combine the best of a hiking boot with the comfort and wearability of an athletic shoe. They feature greater support at the ankle, along the sole and along the arch. They are made with larger treads to better grip in slippery circumstances.
Know your enemy. Trail enthusiasts may face greater problems than most when it comes to knee pain. The uneven surface, opportunity for missteps and obstacles of a trail run or hike can bring about pain from added stress, pounding or small twists that wrench your knee--possibly without your notice until the fatigue and damage accumulate.
Check your socks. Slippery socks worn inside even the best shoes can cause your foot to slide inside your footwear. Your body has to attempt to correct for that motion and it can lead to soreness or injury. Each step compounds the problem, so do not ignore a small issue and hope it will go away on its own.
Avoid injury. Injured runners change their normal gait to accommodate for the injured body part. You may have hurt your heel, but continue to run on the bad leg and the transfer of motion to new areas may make your knee the next victim. Wait out your injury, try upper body workouts or switch to a lower impact exercise until your body heals.
Try barefoot footwear. Huarache sandals continue to serve native peoples as primary footwear. Many groups run rugged trails in them, walk great distances in them and do not suffer the use issues common to Americans. The modern American version includes the Vibram line of trail shoes--only one of a whole host of brands coming around to this understanding.
Allow your foot to respond to feedback from the ground, to really feel what you are walking on. These shoes offer minimal protection from the elements and the odd sharp rock. This alternative footwear can be used for everything from yoga to climbing to hiking.
A faction of runners and experts have begun to question the wisdom of all of the excessive support and cushioning we pile onto the efficient machine that is the human foot (and lack of hard science to back it up). Much of it dampens the fine adjustments the nervous system, in combination with our underlying structure of ligaments and muscle, tries to make. Feet get sloppy or are forced to adjust to walking on unnaturally soft surfaces, and chronic injury follows.