Researchers at the American College of Rheumatology are suggesting people with osteoarthritis to use special mobility shoes, noting that it could help reduce knee pain.

Osteoarthritis, or OA, the most common joint disease affecting middle-aged people, is characterized by progressive damage to the joint cartilage. There could be fluid accumulation, bony overgrowth, and loosening and weakness of muscles and tendons, all of which may limit movement and cause pain and swelling.

"Forces on the knee joint during walking have been shown to be related to pain, severity and progression of knee osteoarthritis," explains Najia Shakoor, MD; associate professor of medicine at Rush University in Chicago and lead investigator in the study. "Therefore, researchers currently investigate strategies to reduce these forces or loads on the knee joint in hopes of preventing progression of the disease."

Dr. Shakoor's study has analyzed how these mobility shoes could help.

Researchers initially used a camera to observe the gait of a person, and noticed differences when they wore normal shoes and when they used these mobility shoes. After the initial tests, they were asked to wear these shoes for a minimum of six hours per day, six days a week for six months.

As against normal shoes, these led to decreased knee loads in the participants. Researchers suggested that longer use could lead to better outcomes. They noted a reduction in knee load that increased from 3.7 per cent at the beginning of the study to 9.4 per cent after six weeks, and to 18 per cent at six months. In fact, participants could walk better in 24 weeks after the study.

"This study showed that specialized footwear was beneficial in reducing knee loads substantially over six months," says Dr. Shakoor. "It is also the first study to show that chronic use of a mechanical, knee-load reducing intervention could lead to favorable alterations in the way participants walk - even once the intervention is removed."