Your choice of shoes is something you should always give a lot of thought. Of course, shoes can impact the way you look and feel and make a great style statement (a lot of people claim that the shoes ‘maketh the man’), while they can also impact on your comfort and even on your physical performance on a run or in the gym.
But what not everyone realises, is that their shoes can also have a big impact on a wide range of different health issues and complaints. Your shoes can contribute to any foot pain you might be experiencing but moreover, they can also contribute to knee pain and even back pain.
This is because the body is a chain. What happens to your feet affects your gait and your gait (the biomechanics of your stride), affects your posture, your stance and even the amount of shockwaves that are travelling through the body.
So if you have back pain, there’s at least some chance that this is being caused by your footwear. Thus it follows that changing to the right footwear might also be able to cure that back pain. With that in mind, read on and let’s take a look at how you might be able to do just that.
The Right Shoes for Back Health
If you are suffering from back pain, then there are a few criteria your shoes need to meet. Of course, these criteria are born out of the specific way in which back pain and shoes are related.
For example, it is generally a good idea to avoid anything with very high heels. The reason for this is that it can throw off alignment, slightly altering your center of gravity and forcing your back to compensate. This then creates strain on the lower back. It’s also possible in some cases that a very high heel (or platform) can cause you to hunch over.
On the other hand though, if you have very flat shoes, these can actually contribute to foot or knee pain due to poor arch support. And if you have flat feet, then this can contribute to pack pain because the arches are what are supposed to absorb the shock of impact normally. According to one study, women with flat feet are 50% more likely to develop lower back pain. If you have flat feet, then the best shoes for back pain will be those that offer you more support in the arches.
Another consideration is that you may be over pronating your ankle. This means that your feet are tipping out to the side as you walk. In some cases, this is due to the anatomy of your foot, while in other cases it will be a result of carrying excess weight. This causes the body to tilt and of course you have to compensate for that somewhere – in this case it might just be your back!
There’s more too – inequalities in leg length can also result in back pain as it causes you to tilt more to one side. This is normally fairly easy to fix with a shoe insert, so you need to make sure that you choose shoes that leave space for these.
Finding Corrective Shoes
Now you understand the potential link between your choice of shoes and back pain, you should be able to see that different shoes will be better suited to different types of back pain. This means that the best shoes for lower back pain will likely vary from person to person. Likewise, the best running shoes for back pain will probably be different from the best dress shoes.
With that in mind, please consider these recommendations as tips and guidelines but be sure to do the research yourself in order to identify the cause of your specific back pain before you go ahead.
One way to do this is to visit your GP. They will be able to make sure that nothing else is triggering your discomfort and they may refer you to a podiatrist. Also important is of course to identify the type of issue you are experiencing with your feet. One way to do this is to have your stride analysed. Another tip is to try looking at your current shoes for signs of wear and tear. For example, if your shoes are more eroded on one side, this might point to possible over pronation. To look for flat feet, you can try doing the water test by getting your feet wet and then assessing the footprints you leave. If you can make out the entire outline of your foot – as opposed to seeing the ball of the foot and heel disconnected.
Once you have a good idea of what’s causing your back pain, you can start to look for shoes that will solve the problem. The best place to start is with the shoes you will wear most often. That means looking for the best dress shoes for back pain that you can wear to work.
In most cases, this simply means looking for shoes that will be flat with no discernible heel (for women) but that will also offer a decent amount of arch support to cover all bases. In that case, a good choice for women is to combine a standard flat pump/ballet shoe with extra arch support.
Dr. Scholl’s Women’s Friendly Ballet Flat
The Dr. Scholl’s Women’s Friendly Ballet Flat is a good work shoe that comes in multiple colors (just make sure to read the comments with regards to sizing). This can then be combined with the ‘footinsole Arch Support Insoles’ – these gel pads not only support the arch but also offer a gel massage feeling on the underside of the foot. This can also absorb impacts and shocks making this into a great all-around shoe for work.More Information/Purchase
Orthofeet Chelsea Womens Extra Depth Orthopedic Comfort Diabetic Shoes
For women looking for everything in one package, the Orthofeet Chelsea Women’s Extra Depth is a good option. This offers help with gait, cushioning, arch support and more than enough space to be able to slip in any insoles you may want to use.More Information/Purchase
Garmercy Men’s Extra Depth Orthopedic
For men, the Garmercy Men’s Extra Depth Orthopedic shoe, also from Orthofeet, is a great option. Not only does this offer its own arch support (with gel padding) but it also has stride support to help you maintain a healthy stride, it has extra depth (for adding or removing insoles) and it comes in both black and brown.More Information/Purchase
Orthofeet Baton Rouge Mens Extra Depth Therapeutic Arthritis and Diabetic Shoes Black Leather
For something a bit more casual, Othofeet also make a great boat shoe. If you want to swap out the included insoles for something different, then the general pain relief insoles from Dr. Scholl are very good for absorbing shock, especially in those who may be carrying a bit of extra weight.More Information/Purchase
When it comes to the best running shoes for back pain though, then we need to take a different approach. Here, we’re looking for something highly absorbent and in most cases we want a very ‘structured shoe’. This means a shoe that will absorb impact against the ground while also keeping your foot straight to avoid pronation.
New Balance trainers are fantastic for this and also make great training shoes in general. For running, the best shoes for lower back pain from New Balance are the Men’s MR1012 Nbx Motion Control Running Shoes or the Women’s W1340v2 Optimum Control Running Shoes:
New Balance Men’s MR1012 Nbx Motion Control Running Shoe
New Balance Women’s W1340v2 Optimum Control Running Shoe
Not only do they both come with Vibram insoles for improved energy return (making you faster and reducing shock) but they also offer optimal arch support and extra cushioning and support. They have space for insoles too. These are adaptable for any sport too, making them the best tennis shoes for back pain, the best squash shoes… you name it!
But before you get out your wallet, do consider that some people require a different type of trainer. Depending on whether you strike with your heel, forefoot or midfoot, you might be better suited to a ‘minimalist’ trainer. These are shoes that offer the minimal amount of support and structure and instead will simply bent and contour to the shape of your foot. There’s no ‘heel to toe drop’ and this is great if the problem has been higher heels.
What all this essentially means, is that you can run using your natural gait – the ball of your foot will strike the ground first and this will then allow it to bend underneath your knee and absorb the impact the way nature intended. This isn’t suitable for everyone but if you visit a running shop and they’re recommended to you, then you can try out the Nike Free 5.0+. Ease yourself in gently though, this is a very different running style to what you may be used to!
Nike Men’s Free 5.0+ Mens
Nike Men’s Free 5.0+ Womens
And remember: this is something of a learning curve and it’s always going to take a little trial and error. Don’t worry if you don’t find the perfect fit right away. With shoes, it is never a case of ‘one size fits all’, quite literally in fact!