If you suffer from back pain you are not alone. Based on a study done by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, 65 million Americans have reported that they suffer from back pain. Most people assume that when they develop back pain, it signifies that there is a direct issue with their spine, but did you know that it could very well stem from your feet? Our feet build a very strong foundation for the rest of our body to be able to stand upright and maintain balance. When there is an issue with our feet, it could develop into areas such as your Achilles tendons, knees, hips, and even your back. Believe it or not, our shoes play a significant role in our ability to perform our daily tasks and are a huge culprit to back pain.
It is no surprise that high heels are known to be a major culprit of back pain. According to the American Osteopathic Association wearing high heels can “force your center of gravity forward, which will cause you to involuntarily arch your back when you stand. Wearing them also makes your spine sway unnaturally from side to side as you shift your weight while walking”. (1) In addition, wearing high heels can cause back pain because it increases the wear and tear on your discs between the vertebrae. These are what absorb the shock as you walk, run, or make any other movements. If the vertebrae are damaged in some way, it can affect joints and ligaments, leading to back pain.
In addition to high heels, flip flops can be a cause of back pain too. Both of these types of shoes can cause changes to your gait that may cause misalignment in the spine, disrupt spinal curvature, and cause issues with not only back pain but the knees, joints, hips, and more. Wearing flip flops may also tire you out quicker due to the fact that your toes have to grip the shoes with every step. This scrunching of the toes may put additional pressure on your back which at first may not be noticeable but over time it may cause chronic back pain. In addition, flip flops generally do not offer any support for the arches of your feet. So if you’re a bit heavy-footed when you walk, wearing flip flops all the time can lead to back pain.
One may think that flat shoes are the answer to their back pain problems. However, this is also often a misconception. Similar to flip flops, flats may not offer the arch support that your feet and back need. As stated by Healthwise Chiropractics, “arch support helps stabilize your feet, legs, and spine, and is essential to proper spinal alignment. Without proper support, your feet and your back may begin to ache by the end of the day”. (3)
Tips To Avoid Back Pain
- Don’t wear heels for an extended period of time. And if you do wear heels, try not to have them be over 2 inches tall.4
- Choose shoes that have some inbuilt cushioning which reduces shock and impact to your feet.2
- If you are buying flats, check and make sure there is enough arch support. (2)
- Replace athletic shoes as often as necessary. They may still look new, but if you wear them often there has been a lot of wear and tear on them. The cushion in these shoes can diminish quickly and they stop offering the support you need. (2)
- Try shoe inserts. You can either buy them at the store or visit your doctor to get them custom fitted. They will be able to go into your shoes and offer you arch support which will help with alignment, comfort, and help with back pain. (3)
- Avoid tight shoes. Shoes that fit your feet too snug can affect your gait and alignment. If shoes are too tight they will put pressure on your feet, so make sure there is some wiggle room.
If you are currently suffering from back pain, please visit your primary care doctor to have them help you. They may evaluate your feet and determine if you need to switch out your shoes or if there are other factors that need to be looked at.
If you are struggling, your shoes may be causing your back pain. Investing in good quality, arch supporting, comfortable shoes may help you relieve some of that pain or prevent you from developing it in the first place. Look into getting tennis shoes or sneakers that will check all of these boxes and if you have to wear high heels, “experts at Mount Elizabeth hospital suggest that you choose a shoe with a 1- to 2-inch heel at most. And Everyday Health recommends that you look for a shoe with a lightweight heel made from cork or rubber”. (1) Regardless of which shoes you decide to purchase, make sure to always try them. Allow yourself to sink into the comfort of good quality shoes that will serve you and to avoid those three types of shoes that may be the culprit to your back pain.