Most of us suffer from backaches at some point in our lives. They can be bothersome, affect our ability to work, impact our quality of life and even be debilitating.
Shoes that are ill-fitting or too high-heeled can change how you walk and negatively affect your back, knees, ankles, and hip joints.
Unsupportive footwear like flip-flops can lead to poor walking patterns, which can cause more stress and strain through the lower back and surrounding joints.
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Next time you go shoe shopping, you may consider a few factors before purchasing. A fitting shoe should not irritate, pinch, or squeeze any part of your foot. Try walking in these shoes to ensure that they are also a suitable fit when you’re moving. Although it’s always nice to have an aesthetic look, being in pain is usually not worth it.
Here are a few factors to consider when finding the right shoe:
With every step you take while wearing bad shoes, poor walking biomechanics can impact the forces through our legs and spine. Over time, any additional stress or strain can build up in our joints, disks, and ligaments.
Consider purchasing shoes with some form of shock-absorbent or a buffer to protect against the hard impact on the ground. Many flat-soled shoes like flip flops, ballet flats, or slip-on sandals fail to provide this crucial component.
Doctors suggest you find an open or flat shoe in the middle ground — not too hard and not too soft.¹
Low heel height
Footwear with low heels is best. Long-term use of high heels causes an increase in the lumbar spine’s lordotic curve. A hyperlordotic lumbar can cause back pain.²
Footwear with a heel height of more than 9 cm is high, while moderate heel height ranges between 2 and 5 cm. Podiatrists agree that the ideal heel height should be one to two inches.
Wearing un-fitting, wobbly, or slippery shoes may not provide the support you need. In people who over-pronate (i.e., ankle turns out) or over-spinate (i.e., ankle turns in), not having enough shoe stability can lead to poor foot posture. Over time, if these are not managed, it may lead to an increased risk of developing lower back pain.³ Providing stability by wearing good shoes with a solid grip on the ground helps provide a strong base for the spine and limbs.
How you walk is also important in preventing back pain. Wearing shoes that cause an adjustment to your posture can affect the spine. Poor posture often leads to uneven wear on joints, disks, and back ligaments.
Your current shoes may not be appropriate if you get lower back pain. Several shoes may help ease any lower back injury or discomfort, depending on your needs.
If you can't find the right shoes to help ease your lower back pain, you may consider seeking the assistance of a shoe expert, podiatrist, or orthotist.
Here are some of the best shoes to prevent back pain:
Rocker bottom shoes
Rocker bottom shoes are ranked highly among the best shoes for lower back pain.⁴ They are designed primarily to absorb shock when our feet hit the ground during activities like walking and running.
Because of their adequate cushioning and ample arch support, these shoes are great for alleviating and preventing lower back pain.
Rocker bottom shoes have a curved or rounded sole, making it more unstable to walk. While there is yet to be a definite explanation for this, researchers suggest that wearing unstable shoes increases the activation of your back muscles which may protect the spine.⁵
While more research is required, some evidence suggests that wearing these shoes decreases pain in those with long-term lower back pain.
Rocker bottom shoes also provide plenty of ankle support, and this helps the feet maintain the correct posture by keeping them in position.
The idea of ergonomic shoes is to provide the most comfortable fit for your foot. Specifically designed to support the arches of your feet, they also offer additional features, such as shock absorption and increased stability.
Prescription shoes are made specifically for the wearer. They are made to suit an individual’s specific needs and conditions to limit unnecessary pressure or force through the feet and body.
Assessments made by podiatrists and orthotists may be necessary to cater to your foot’s specific size and shape. Using another person's prescription shoes may cause more harm to you than good.
While shoe preferences vary from person to person, some types increase the risk of lower back pain more than others. Let's look at shoe types you should avoid to alleviate back pain:
About 72% of women own at least one pair of heels since they help increase the back’s natural curve, which may seem more aesthetic.⁶ Changes in how the body moves and stands can increase stress and strain to the back, leading to pain.
High heels can also change the impact through the hips, feet, knees, and spine. For example, the calf muscles can become tighter and stiffer from being in a shortened position while walking.
Flip-flops are the most notorious cause of back pain. They do not support your feet, and you have to pinch your toes and shorten your stride while walking. The major concern is their lack of cushioning, which causes the impact of movement to be absorbed by the foot.⁷
It is important to note if you have the right shoes and are still experiencing lower back pain, consider visiting a podiatrist. Other symptoms that may warrant a trip to a podiatrist or doctor include:
Joint pain/swelling in the foot or ankles
Your feet are the foundation of your body. Whatever happens to your feet will impact the rest of your body, such as your lower back and hip pain. Poor footwear can increase stress and strain through the spine and limbs, and over time, this can cause lower back pain.
So taking care of your feet by wearing the most suitable shoes is incredibly important. Consider seeing a doctor or podiatrist for further assistance finding shoes.
Rocker bottom shoes help reduce chronic low back pain | ScienceDaily