Why more women than men get arthritis in their knees — and how to avoid it

June 09, 2009
Volume 06    |   Issue 25

Did you know that women are far more susceptible to pain in their leg joints than men? In fact, women get twice as much osteoarthritis in their knees as men. And the reason is so simple that most women never give it a thought.

If you have ankle, knee, or hip pain and wear high heels, you may want to exchange them for shoes with lower heels. There’s nearly a 25% greater compression force on your knees when you walk on high-heels than when your shoes are flat. The higher your heels, the greater the force. This means that fashionable four-inch heels would increase knee compression much more than two-inch heels.

The length of time you wear high heels could contribute to knee problems as well. So does walking up stairs or hills, where more force naturally occurs around the knee joint.

In addition to the compression, the high heels cause a twisting, or torque, to the ankles and hips. This adversely affects all of these joints as well. As your body tries to stabilize itself, the pressure centers on your knee. Knee pain is not always an indication of a problem in your knees. Remember, your knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone.

If you switch to shoes with lower heels and your pain doesn’t lessen or go away, seek the help of a podiatrist, chiropractor, or osteopath. Try to find one who is familiar with orthotics and can fit them to your specific needs. Orthotics are customized insoles that normalize your gait and relieve unwanted pressure on various parts of your foot. They are superior to the ready-made orthotics you can find in drug stores or on the Internet.

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In addition to orthotics, you may also need chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments. This combination of adjustments, orthotics, and flatter shoes will often resolve knee problems. They may even relieve headaches, backaches, and more. Before you resort to arthroscopic surgery or other more complex treatments, you may want to try wearing different shoes. It really could be that simple.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Kerrigan, D Casey, et al. “Knee osteoarthritis and high-heeled shoes,” The Lancet, May 9, 1998.

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