Could Better Shoes Help My Back Pain?


High-heeled shoes contribute to back pain by changing the body’s natural equilibrium, putting extra stress on the calves and lower back.

The Right Shoes Can Make a Huge Difference

The feet are the foundation of your body — and of your posture. The way your weight is distributed on your feet while you walk, stand, and run can contribute to knee pain, ankle pain, and lower back pain, as well as painful conditions of the foot such as blisters, bunions, and even stress fractures. In a sort of domino effect, your body forms a “kinetic chain” and how the feet are positioned and supported can positively or negatively impact the rest of your muscles and joints. Providing the right support for your feet with properly fitted or specially made shoes, or foot orthotics can help your posture and thereby your muscles and joints.

Choosing the Right Shoes

How to select the right pair of shoes depends on a lot of factors, such as your average daily physical activity, whether or not you suffer from back pain, or require special support due to shallow arches or another issue. Here are some tips to help you choose the right shoes for your specific needs.

  1. Don’t Buy Shoes That Need Breaking In. Shoes should be comfortable the first time you try them on. Buying shoes thinking you’ll break them in is a bad idea — you could end up hurting yourself with ill-fitting shoes that never conform to the shape of your feet.
  2. Measure Your Feet Every Time You Buy Shoes. Shoes should have at least enough space to fit your index finger between your foot and the back of the shoe, which is a more reliable measurement than checking for toe space. You should have your feet measured each time you purchase shoes because the shape and length of your feet can change over time.
  3. Shop for Shoes at the End of the Day. In the late afternoon and evening your feet are larger due to a buildup of fluid, so shopping at the end of a long day means your shoes won’t be too tight when your feet are worn out.
  4. Consider the Terrain. Whether you’re buying shoes for exercise or work, keeping your environment in mind can help you purchase the right shoes. For instance, if you’re running on a concrete track or standing on concrete floors for extended periods, choose shoes with extra cushion in the heels.
  5. Avoid Shoes With No Support. Shoes with flat soles like flip-flops have absolutely no support or cushion and can lead to pain in your arches, heels, or knees. If you need sandals, look for a pair with better arch and heel support, or switch shoes after a while.
  6. Replace Your Shoes Frequently. Worn out shoes don’t provide the kind of support your feet, ankles, knees, and back require and can contribute to back pain or injury during physical activity. Running shoes can last for approximately 400 miles, or six months for an active runner.
  7. Avoid Wearing High Heels for Long Periods of Time. High heels throw off your body’s equilibrium, tipping the pelvis forward and increasing the curvature of the back. This artificial interruption in your body’s natural balance can contribute to lower back pain. If you must wear heels for work, look for orthotic inserts and bring a second pair of shoes to switch into whenever possible.
  8. Choose the Right Shoes for Each Activity. When buying exercise shoes, keep in mind that running shoes are not the same as tennis shoes or basketball shoes. Visit an athletic shoe store with a specialist who is familiar with different kinds of athletic shoes and can guide you to the right purchase for your activity.

Extra Support for Back Pain

For those who suffer from back pain, even supportive shoes that fit well may not meet your individual needs. Foot problems like bunions, plantar fasciitis, pronation (when the ankles roll inward), or supination (when the ankles roll outward), can disrupt your body’s natural balance and cause back pain through chronic misuse of muscles while walking and running.
Specialized footwear or orthotic inserts can provide extra support and remove strain that might be contributing to your back pain. When first using inserts, you may notice an increase in tenderness in the feet, which usually subsides. But orthotics, which are even available for high heels, can provide a noninvasive, conservative treatment for lower back pain.
Prescription inserts are custom-made orthotics fitted by a podiatrist or foot specialist. Your chiropractor can also help you with custom orthotics by doing a custom fitting and by ordering the appropriate orthotic for you. Custom inserts may be a good solution if your foot or ankle problems are severe. While prescription orthotics are costly, insurance often helps pay for them and they are made with durable, high-quality materials.
Over-the-counter inserts, which can be purchased at retail stores, often are a less costly way to find relief. There are a variety of inserts on the market that address common needs like arch support.

Depending on Your Feet

Back pain is the second most common reason people see a doctor, and the single most common reason people see a chiropractor. But far too many people don’t pay enough attention when shopping for shoes. Whether you’re working or exercising, your body depends on your feet to support the balance of your posture and your gait. Choosing the right shoes can make a huge difference in your overall balance and contribute to fewer injuries and less pain.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how the shoes you wear can affect your posture, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can also recommend a podiatrist to patients who need extra care for their feet and gait.
Image Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

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