Best Shoes for Back Pain 2019 Reviewed & Rated

Footwear plays an incredibly important role in preventing back pain which is why it is imperative to find the best shoes for back pain. However, because of the way the spine sometimes processes nerve impulses – even more, important than it seems – many foot conditions cause back pain, and even more spinal conditions cause foot pain. If you have back pain and need the right shoes to reduce your pain, improve your mobility, and increase your quality of life, it’s important to understand what causes back pain, and what kinds of shoes can help prevent it.

Shoes are critical for promoting the correct body alignment that supports the whole skeleton, protecting the spine by reducing stress from misalignment and instability. The right shoes also protect the back and feet by absorbing and diffusing the forces of shock and impact as we move. As we evaluate the best shoes for back pain, we are taking a closer look at what causes this pain and how it can be alleviated or prevented, so that we know exactly what to look for in footwear.

Best Men’s Shoes for Back Pain

How Footwear Prevents Back Pain

It may seem surprising, but the health of the spine and the feet are very closely related. Both structures provide lightweight, resilient, flexible support for the body, and both are heavily affected by the impacts and shock of walking and everyday movement.

The feet and the spine are naturally aligned to absorb and transfer this pressure and energy smoothly, minimizing shocks and impacts to the rest of the body. When they are out of alignment, each shift in reaction to the other, often exaggerating the original problem as they adapt.

In fact, the two structures are so closely related, that it’s often the case that what feels like back pain is actually a foot problem, and what feels like foot pain is actually a back problem. There are a number of conditions that cause pain and discomfort in one or both.

Back Problems That Cause Foot Problems

There are a number of back conditions that cause foot and lower body pain.

  • Sciatica

Sciatica is pain that is experienced from the lower back down to the legs and feet and can be caused by a wide range of medical conditions, from mild to serious. It is estimated that as many as 40% of adults experience sciatica at some point. For most people the best treatment is pain relievers, gentle activity, and time; the symptom resolves by itself within six weeks for 90% of sufferers. However, if the pain is persistent, it may be due to an underlying medical condition and require more specialized treatment.

  • Spondylolisthesis or Spondylitis

Spondylitis is an inflammation of the vertebrae in the back, and spondylolisthesis is the actual displacement of a vertebra in relation to the rest of the spine. Depending on which vertebrae are affected, symptoms can be concentrated in the lower body, as back pain causes a change in posture and gait, affecting the entire lower body.

In spondylolisthesis, the pelvis can tilt to take pressure off the back, altering the gait to reduce movement in the back and gluteal muscles, causing a shortened stride that puts more pressure on the hamstrings. When spondylitis affects the sacral spine, it can cause pain and stiffness in the hips and knees.

  • Herniated or Degenerated Discs

Over time, the tough outer fibrous shell of a spinal disc can wear down, due to stress or injury. If the wear progresses far enough, the disc can herniate, and the inner layers of the spinal disc can slip out of place and protrude, being compressed against the surrounding vertebrae. Many spinal disc conditions can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, because they can cause axial pain that is felt in the thighs, knees, or feet, instead of in the back.

  • Facet Joint Syndrome

As with other back conditions, the type of pain experienced is highly variable depending on which part of the spine is affected. Facet joints are deep in the back, covered by the paraspinal muscles, and pain does not follow a specific nerve root pattern, so the brain can have difficulty identifying the source of the pain. While facet joint syndrome often appears as lower back pain, it can also appear as pain when standing or walking, or even as headaches.

How to Know If Your Foot Pain is Related to a Back Problem

While severe pain or sudden gait changes should always be taken to a physician, here are some basic questions that may help you identify whether your foot pain is related to a back problem:

  • Is Your Foot Pain Unilateral or Bilateral?

Spinal problems are usually felt more on one side of the body than the other, while foot pain usually appears in both feet.

  • Is There Pain in The Legs as Well as The Feet?

If it isn’t just the feet that hurt, but also the knees, legs, and hips, it is often a symptom of a back problem.

  • Foot Heaviness or Weakness

Foot drop can be a sign of severe spine or nerve problems. If you have difficulty elevating your toes when you walk, and the toes feel heavy and want to drop down and drag along the ground, so you need to exaggerate the lifting of your knees to keep your toes off the ground, you should see a doctor.

  • Difficulty Lifting Feet or Walking on Tip-Toes

If you have trouble lifting your heel off the ground or walking on tip-toes, it could be a sign of nerve problems in the spine, and you should see a physician.

Foot Problems That Feel Like Back Problems

While it sometimes happens that back problems cause pain in the feet, it is much more common for problems with the feet to cause pain in the back. Here are some of the foot problems that can cause back pain:

  • Fallen Arches

When arches “fall,” it means that the connecting tendons, ligaments, and muscles that lift the foot into the arch shape have weakened over time. While fallen arches generally look exactly like flat feet, a person usually has flat feet their whole adult life. Fallen arches, on the other hand, are due to damage or degeneration over time. The early signs of fallen arches are often foot pain and fatigue, and a person may notice that their shoes get tighter over time.

As the arch of the foot flattens, the foot itself becomes longer, and shoes may start to pinch in the toes or heel. Because the fallen arch no longer provides the elastic support and impact protection that it once did, fallen arches often cause lower back pain, as the spine has less cushioning, and the body weight distribution shifts.

  • Hyper Pronation or Supination

Pronation is a shifting of body weight toward the inside of the foot as you move, and supination is the shifting of body weight toward the outside of the foot. While every normal gait includes some degree of this lateral movement, some people over-pronate or over-supinate their feet when they walk. Excessive rotation in the feet means that impact is not evenly absorbed and transferred from the feet through the ankles and up to the rest of the body.

Because the feet are misaligned and the heel isn’t taking the bulk of the pressure as designed, the ankle has to compensate by absorbing more impact and providing more stability then it normally does. This increased pressure and motion in the ankle transfers instability to the knees, up to the hips, and finally to the pelvis and lower back, which compensate to stabilize the upper body. In other words, this excess lateral motion can travel all the way up the legs and be experienced as lower back pain.

How to Know If Your Back Pain is Related to a Foot Problem

Here are some basic questions that can help you identify if your back pain may be caused by problems with your feet:

  • Is Your Back Pain Worse at The End of a Day on Your Feet?

If you notice that your back pain increases as you stand, walk, or move at work, or over the course of a workout or sports activity, it may be related to your feet.

  • Does Your Back Pain Persist Regardless of Your Footwear?

If your back pain seems related to your choice of shoes, then it’s probably related to your feet.

  • Do Your Feet Hurt?

Remember that pain is never normal, and if your back and feet hurt, you should take steps to seek relief before you develop a medical issue. You should not expect to experience blisters, chafing, rubbing, or pinching in your shoes, and have to suffer until you have “broken in” your shoes. Accepting daily foot pain is dangerous for your health, and also causes a constant, low-grade distraction and irritation that prevents you from fully concentrating and doing your best on the task at hand.

Choosing the Best Shoes to Prevent Back Pain

Whether the cause of your back pain is in your back or in your feet, the right footwear can support the proper body alignment and shock absorption that will ease your pain. Choosing the correct shoes will alleviate both back and foot pain, enabling you to avoid pain and fatigue, and improving your mood and performance. Look for shoes with these features:

  • Cushioned (but Stable) Sole

A cushioned sole will absorb and disperse the pressure of hard surfaces and help to protect your foot. However, it shouldn’t be soft as a marshmallow: you also need stability from the sole of your shoe, so look for resistance without rigidity.

  • Shock Absorption

Shock absorbing shoes will prevent the transfer of energy from your shoes to your spine, protecting your feet, lower body, and back with every stride.

  • Arch Support

The arch of the foot is vital for proper weight distribution and impact protection. Choosing a shoe that supports the arch of the foot prevents fallen arches, which protects the back, and also improves long-term comfort and prevents fatigue.

  • Ankle Support

If you over-pronate, and especially if you over-supinate your feet, shoes that provide support for your ankles will help add stability and keep your body properly aligned. Pronation and supination refer to the degree to which your feet “roll” to the inside or outside as you walk, rather than rolling forward heel-to-toe. Over supinated feet are particularly prone to ankle sprains and strains, and supportive shoes can help add the strength they need.

  • Stability

Avoid high heels, narrow heels, or shoes that don’t fit well, forcing your feet to shift or grip unnaturally in the shoe. To prevent back pain, you need shoes that provide excellent stability, transferring weight and pressure evenly down from your skeleton to the ground, promoting proper alignment of the body.

Conclusion

The feet are responsible for supporting and protecting the whole skeleton and promote healthy alignment in the whole body. Foot and back pain often exacerbate each other, as the body shifts our center of gravity and transfers pressure from one place to another. As we change our gait to alleviate pain, we often throw ourselves further out of alignment, causing tension, stress, and pain that can travel throughout the body.

It may seem counterintuitive to change your shoes in order to address back pain, and yet it’s very often the best solution for the problem. Wearing the right shoes promotes healthy alignment and actually supports our skeleton as we move, keeping our joints functioning optimally and preventing pain.

Choosing shoes that will protect and support your feet can reduce or eliminate lower back pain. The correct footwear promotes healthy posture and alignment and supports the health of your whole body.

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