Does This $46 Running Shoe Prevent Knee Pain as Well as This $165 Pair? Here's the One That's Right for You

We put two popular sneakers head-to-head.

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Save vs Splurge
Courtesy of Zappos.

Whether you’re a runner, lifter, or Zumba-lover, your knees are integral to nearly every kind of workout. Consequently, soreness and injury in these hard-working joints can slow down or fully hault your fitness routine — and this sort of disruption is fairly common. According to a 2018 report from the American Academy of Family Physicians, knee pain affects more than 25 percent of adults in the United States. While causes can vary from over-exercising to long periods of sitting, wearing comfortable, supportive sneakers can broadly reduce pain by improving your overall knee health.

Thanks to ever-developing technology, athletic shoes have come a long way from the flat, flimsy lace ups of yore with shock-absorbant cushioning, ample support, and soles that are shaped to easily transition through strides. These features relieve stress from your joints, allowing them to strengthen over time. However, anyone who loves to get their steps in knows that replacing quality kicks is an investment, as leading brands can be aggravatingly pricey. Below, we compared New Balance’s $46 Fresh Foam 680v7s and Hoka’s $165 Bondi 8s to explore whether knee pain-friendly sneakers are actually worth spending on.

Save: New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7 Sneakers

New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7


Buy It: $46 (was $80),

Key Features:

Main Specs: New Balance’s Fresh Foam cushioning shoulders the impact of walking and high intensity workouts, while remaining flexible enough for a full range of motion.

Other Features: Despite the shoes’ foot bed offering ample arch support, it can be removed or replaced with an orthotic. What’s more, mesh lining throughout the upper creates a cool, airy sensation. 

Best for: Walkers dealing with moderate knee pain and new runners looking to prevent joint discomfort. 

What We Love:

New Balance has built a reputation for creating comfy running shoes at a reasonable price point, and this style is no exception. One Zappos reviewer with ongoing knee-soreness wrote that the style offers “support and comfort,” even after walking 7 miles on pavement — a tribute to the brand’s patented cushioning. 

Keep In Mind:

While many love the non-restricting, flexible structure of this sneaker, it’s not the best choice for activities that require a more rigid, secure fit — like sprinting, long-distance running, and jumping. 

Splurge: Hoka Bondi 8 Sneakers

Hoka Bondi 8


Buy It: $165,

Key Features:

Main Specs: The shock-absorbing sole extends from back to forefoot, providing arch support and a plush feel. 

Other Features: The breathable, mesh upper allows for cooling airflow, while a rear crash pad transitions your weight from heel-strike to forefoot.

Best for: Exercise and all-day use for anyone who’s significantly impacted by knee pain and injury. Additionally, this style is a good pick for runners and athletes who expose their joints to long periods of high-impact activity. 

What We Love:

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) awarded this style a seal of approval for promoting good foot health, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to providing an energetic bounce with every step, the extra-cushy sole protects your knees by minimizing the impact from walking, running, and jumping. “These shoes give me the comfort and cushioning I need to keep running,” wrote a Zappos reviewer with chronic joint pain. Another agreed that their knee-soreness “greatly improved” after switching to this pair.

Keep In Mind:

Weighing 9 ounces, this shoe may be heavier than some wearers prefer. Additionally, some shoppers say that the Bondi 8 model is much narrower than its predecessor, the Bondi 7, which can be a problem for those with wide feet. 

In Conclusion:

The right shoe for your knee pain hinges on the severity of your joint discomfort and the types of workouts you do most often. While they’re certainly a splurge, Hoka’s podiatrist-approved design comes with loads of knee- and foot-supportive benefits that are particularly ideal for those recovering from injury or surgery, while also being a great choice for those who work out everyday. This being said, the New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7s are perfectly supportive for anyone looking to manage achy joints while on your feet throughout the day.

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