The classification and monitoring of individuals with early knee osteoarthritis (OA) are important considerations for the design and evaluation of therapeutic interventions and require the identification of appropriate outcome measures. Potential outcome domains to assess for early OA include patient-reported outcomes (such as pain, function and quality of life), features of clinical examination (such as joint line tenderness and crepitus), objective measures of physical function, levels of physical activity, features of imaging modalities (such as of magnetic resonance imaging) and biochemical markers in body fluid. Patient characteristics such as adiposity and biomechanics of the knee could also have relevance to the assessment of early OA. Importantly, research is needed to enable the selection of outcome measures that are feasible, reliable and validated in individuals at risk of knee OA or with early knee OA. In this Perspectives article, potential outcome measures for early symptomatic knee OA are discussed, including those measures that could be of use in clinical practice and/or the research setting.