Objective: To investigate moderators and biomechanical mediators of effects of unloading shoes on knee pain in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Methods: Exploratory analysis from 164 participants in a clinical trial comparing unloading (ASICS GEL-Melbourne OA) to conventional walking shoes. The primary outcome was 6-month change in knee pain (11-point numerical rating scale (NRS)). Moderators included baseline peak knee adduction moment (KAM), radiographic severity (Kellgren & Lawrence (KL) scale), body mass, foot posture, neuropathic pain and diffuse knee pain. Mediators included change in peak KAM and KAM impulse. Results: Radiographic severity was the only moderator to interact with footwear group (P = 0.02). Participants with KL = 2 experienced greater pain reductions with conventional compared to unloading shoes (mean difference in change in pain -1.64 units, 95% CI -3.07, -0.21), while unloading shoes tended to result in greater pain reductions than conventional shoes in KL = 3 (0.98, 95% CI -0.44, 2.39) and KL = 4 (0.64, 95% CI -0.64, 1.93). No variable showed any significant mediating effect in the entire cohort. However, there was some evidence that unloading shoes may reduce pain through reductions in peak KAM (indirect effect -0.31, 95% CIs -0.65, 0.03; P = 0.07) in people with KL ≥ 3, compared to conventional shoes. Conclusion: Unloading shoes conferred additional symptomatic benefits over conventional shoes in people with moderate to severe knee OA. There was some evidence effects may be mediated by a reduction in peak KAM. However, we were underpowered for subgroup analyses. These patients may represent a subgroup to which biomechanical interventions designed to reduce the KAM may be more effectively targeted.
- Knee adduction moment