7 Shoes a Physical Therapist Recommends for Injury Prevention

Photo: Getty Images / Oleg Breslavtsev
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Injuries, be it shin splints or knee pain, are no joke. One wrong twist or weird landing can leave you injured for weeks or months (we wish we were exaggerating!). For inflammation or sprains, doctors may call on you to rest, ice, compress, and elevate (aka, RICE). Some ways to prevent sports injuries is by stretching and having proper form—and wearing good shoes is also a must. If you’re in the market for injury-proofing your footwear, keep scrolling for your best options. When you’re looking to take preventative measures, shoes for injury prevention are worth looking into.

Experts In This Article

Footwear research has shown promising results when it comes to wearing proper shoes when exercising. One study found that harder shoes are associated with a higher risk of injury compared to people who wear softer shoes. “Certainly, shoe wear has and still is being researched and understood to improve performance, prevent injuries, and even utilized to recover from injuries as well,” says Jacob VanDenMeerendonk, PT, DPT, FCRms, a physical therapist based in Temecula, California. Based on what we know and the experts we’ve spoken to, it’s definitely possible to proactively prevent injury by choosing the right kind of shoes—you just need to know what to look for.

What to look for in a shoe for injury prevention

Wide toe box

The toes are meant to be spread out to allow for optimal mobility at the forefoot, says Dr. VanDenMeerendonk. Injuries can occur due to limited range of motion and mobility, so having a wider toe box is ideal for injury prevention.

Heel cushion

“Other qualities that could help prevent injuries include a quality heel cushion—the part of the shoe where the bottom of your heel meets the shoe—can help absorb shock during impact activities,” says Dr. VanDenMeerendonk. He adds that a solid heel counter is essential as it can offer rear foot stability and prevent your foot from rolling in and out during workouts.

Durable outsole

Last but not least, Dr. VanDenMeerendonk recommends looking at the outsole of the shoe, which “must be made so that the areas of more wear are strategically designed to accept more stress so that the shoe lasts longer,” he says. Consider polyurethane soles—which are resistant and have shock absorption capabilities.

What to avoid

Apologies, heel lovers—high heels have made it onto the list of things to avoid. “Having too high of a heel can shorten the calf muscles and achilles tendon, which may lead to tendonitis of the foot and ankle or things like plantar fasciitis,” says Dr. VanDenMeerendonk. He also suggests steering clear of narrow toe boxes, as this can contribute to hallux valgus or bunion formation.

We chatted with Dr. VanDenMeerendonk about the best shoes for injury prevention. Here are seven pairs that keep pain away.

The best shoes for injury prevention

hoka mafate speed 4
Hoka, Mafate Speed 4 — $185.00

Hokas are great for running, walking, and recovery—all while providing enough cushion and stability to help avoid injury and foot pain. The Mafates are best for hitting the trails. These kicks are equipped with a plush midsole that absorbs shock and a durable, Vibram outsole that “provides support for the more unstable foot,” Dr. VanDenMeerendonk says. The Mafate Speed 4 doesn’t leave feet sweaty, thanks to the Jacquard mesh. Plus, we dig the mix of colors. So funky fresh!

Colors: 6

Sizes: 5-11, in half sizes

Weight: 8.5 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 4 mm


  • Has a Vibram sole  
  • Shock-absorbing midsole  
  • Breathable  
  • Cool design


  • Expensive
  • Ideal for trail running
hoka arahi 6
Hoka, Arahi 6 — $140.00

Another Hoka option, the Arahi 6 got the stamp of approval from Dr. VanDenMeerendonk for its stabilizing frame, which is ideal “for those with overpronated collapsing arches who need support when running.” The shoe also marries pillow-y cushioning and a lightweight body to ensure you’re supported but not bogged down, making them ideal for everyday runs. Bonus: It’s approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting happy feet.

Colors: 12

Sizes: 5-12, in half sizes

Weight: 7.6 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 5 mm



  • Pillow-y cushioning  
  • Lightweight  
  • Has a frame for overpronation


  • May be too narrow for some
new balance fuel cell rebel v3
New Balance, FuelCell Rebel V3 — $130.00

If you’re looking for a featherlight running experience, New Balance’s FuelCell Rebel V3 clocks in at 6.2 ounces. The foam midsole, and durable sole propels you into your next step while minimizing your risk for injury. What’s more, the shoe is built with an engineered knit upper that comes in handy for sweaty runs or walks. In no time, you’ll reach top speeds. Vroom, vroom. These shoes are great for everyday runs, long distances, or training sessions.

Colors: 2

Sizes: 5-12, in half sizes and two widths

Weight: 6.2 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 6 mm



  • Lightweight  
  • Propels you into your next step  
  • Breathable  
  • Available in two widths


  • Limited colors
cloves classic sneaker
Cloves, Women’s Classic — $139.00

If there’s anything to learn from healthcare professionals, it’s their footwear. And registered nurses and Dr. VanDenMeerendonk are well aware that the footwear brand Cloves is where it’s at. Ideal for walking, the classic sneakers are extremely comfortable, easy to clean, and have an anti-odor insert that keeps the stench at arm’s length. Most importantly, the shoe boasts a wide box and soft heel cushion to prevent injuries for people who are on their feet all day. Back pain, no more!

Colors: 20

Sizes: 5-12.5, in half sizes

Weight: 10 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 10 mm



  • Designed for healthcare workers  
  • Easy to remove stains  
  • Comfortable  
  • Squeak-free


  • May have to test out sizes or read reviews for best sizing
kuru quantum
Kuru, Quantum — $160.00

The wide toe box and cushioned midsole puts Kuru’s Quantum shoes high on top of Dr. VanDenMeerendonk’s list. Additionally, the sole is structured to offer stability during walks and for everyday wear. We’re also a fan of the mesh uppers, venting hot air so that your toes can breathe. While they’re not the most fashionable shoes on the list, they sure do make an impression on the wearer. At the end of the day, comfort, stability, and support are all that matter. These kicks are ideal for walks, workouts, and everyday activities.

Colors: 9

Sizes: 5-12, in half sizes and two widths

Weight: 10.5 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 6.3 mm


  • Breathable  
  • Cushioned midsole  
  • Durable outsole


  • Not as fashionable  
  • Expensive
flux adapt runner
Flux, Adapt Runner — $140.00

With an adaptive midsole and additional cushion, Flux’s Adapt Runner helps you go the distance sans pain. The “zero drop allows for more mobility of the foot,” and the shoe has a breathable knit upper that doesn’t trap heat. Plus, these kicks are machine washable. How’s that for cleaning? Designed for runs, long walks, and everyday wear—Flux’s Adapt Runner is going to be in your shoe rotation.

Colors: 8

Sizes: 5-15.5, in half sizes

Weight: 12.2 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 0 mm


  • Zero drop allows more mobility  
  • Machine washable  
  • Has additional cushioning


  • May run large
altra solstice sneaker
Altra, Women’s Solstice XT 2 — $130.00

Injuries are no match for Solstice XT 2s. These kicks rock a wide toe box and a zero drop to enhance mobility and wiggle room for your toes. Dr. VanDenMeerendonk also points out the outsole, which is made of durable rubber and ideal for pounding the pavement. Lightweight, comfortable, and supportive—the Solstice XT 2s will add protection and safety back into movement. Rock these during strength training, cardio, or yoga.

Colors: 2

Sizes: 5-12, in half sizes

Weight: 8.3 oz

Heel-to-toe drop: 0 mm


  • Lightweight  
  • Wide toe box    
  • Zero drop allows more mobility


  • Limited colors

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