The Cutest Shoes for Sore Knees & Bad Backs

For most of my life, I’ve been hilariously accident-prone. At 17, I spent a few weeks limping on two ankles that I sprained almost simultaneously. I subsequently sprained each more than twice. After spraining half my pelvis at 30, which led to fluctuating levels of back pain, at 36 I worked out with a personal trainer who badly damaged both of my knees. I made the rounds of orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist and found only limited relief. Then I saw a pain management specialist who said I could ease my knee and back pain by wearing stable “rocker-bottom” shoes.

Advantages of Rocker-Bottom Shoes

Benefits of rocker-bottom shoes include better support and shock absorption, allowing for longer exertion with less joint strain. Stable rocker-bottom shoes can be worn on any surface, flat or uneven. (Unstable rocker-bottom shoes you might have seen, whose soles are curved at the heel and toe, are only safe on flat surfaces).

So now I knew what type of shoes would be safe and healthy to wear. But would they be cute? For decades my friends have called me “Imelda,” after the former Filipina first lady who accrued hundreds of pairs of shoes, if not thousands. I was used to only considering size, design, and color when choosing a pair. But wearing non-rocker-bottom shoes inevitably led to pain ranging from moderate discomfort to days of agony. I had to start shopping more strategically.

Not Your Grandmother’s Orthotics 

The pain management specialist recommended the brand Mephisto. While they definitely look comfortable and supportive, they were expensive. I also didn’t love most of their designs. As a social worker with limited discretionary income–and a whole shoe wardrobe to reconstruct–I couldn’t spend a ton of money on footwear I didn’t adore. So I did some research, tried on and wore a ton of options, and came up with my own go-to list of rocker-bottom shoemakers that are definitely not your grandmother’s orthotics.


From sturdy booties to delicate kitten heels, Vionic offers a range of options for every occasion.

Josie Kitten Heel (Vionic)

This sleek pastel gray Josie Kitten heel ($139.95) is also available in sand, navy, snake print, and black.

Spring Step

Originally manufacturing clogs and occupational (nurse) shoes, Spring Step has branched out into a wide array of loafers, sandals, and boots.

Gravotta bootie (Spring Step)

This olive military-inspired Gavotta bootie ($189.99) is also available in black, navy, and brown.


Rockport shoes are renowned as elegant and comfortable. Also pricey, but if you search Amazon or bargain sites like 6pm and Overstock, you can often find markdowns.

Total Motion 75mm V Sling (Rockport)

This unique Total Motion 75mm V Sling ($89.99, originally $120) is versatile enough for jeans, a business suit or your favorite LBD.


Another somewhat pricey but definitely well-constructed and supportive brand, Clarks offers elegant pumps, classy flats, and unexpectedly inventive boots.

Poise Freya boot (Clarks)

The buckled aubergine Poise Freya boot ($170) is a stylish alternative to black or brown.


The key word for this brand is “lightweight.” Abeo shoes align your body properly and optimize weight distribution, allowing for increased stability.

Kennedy slide

The light blue suede Kennedy slide ($99.00, originally $139.95) is also available in cameo (pale pink) and black.


“Dansko” means “Danish shoe,” and in 1990 the founders began designing comfortable clogs for outdoor wear. Later, Dansko began adding boots, loafers, sneakers and dress shoes to its repertoire.

Preston loafer (Dansko)

This stone gray suede Preston loafer with a contrast black leather heel ($150) is also available in black and wine.


I had to include the brand recommended by my pain management specialist, but I’ll definitely wait for a sale before purchasing.

Ilsa Spark ankle boot (Mephisto)

The contrasting textures–smooth leather, soft suede, sparkly rhinestones–elevate this Ilsa Spark ankle boot ($399.00) from basic black to statement piece.


Another Danish brand, Ecco prioritizes craftsmanship, uniqueness, and comfort. Their unique leather designs are fused to ergonomic soles for unparalleled style and support.

Another Danish brand, Ecco prioritizes craftsmanship, uniqueness, and comfort. Their unique leather designs are fused to ergonomic soles for unparalleled style and support.

Belleair wedge (Ecco)

Crisscrossing straps and a metallic heel ($180.00) add glamor to the sleek Belleair.  Also available in black ($180.00).

Cute Shoes For Sore Knees & Bad Backs

It took me a few years, but I managed to build a new footwear wardrobe. Now when I’m on my feet for hours giving a presentation or dashing from meeting to meeting, I’m not in pain that evening or the next day. And since I keep a fair number of shoes at the office, my co-workers have taken to calling me “Imelda” as well.

***DISCLAIMER: Neither the author of this article nor Fashionably ill ® were financially compensated by any of the brands mentioned in the article.***





Abigail Strubel

Abigail Strubel is a Columbia-educated clinical social worker who uses light therapy to cope with seasonal affective disorder, and good sleep hygiene to cope with insomnia. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, two suicide attempts, and single life on the Upper West Side, she manages bipolar disorder and PTSD with medication, psychotherapy, chronotherapy, aromatherapy, and humor. Her LinkedIn profile is found at:

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