The 14 Best Shoes for Lower Back Pain in 2022
We tested over 35 pairs of shoes; the best shoes for lower back pain are the Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt 2 (men) and the Vionic Simmons (women).
We spoke to Dr. Katherine Enes, an orthopedist and practicing physical therapist. She ended up writing the buyer’s guide and a couple of shoe reviews. She explains the link between footwear and back pain later on in the article. She specifically recommends arch support, a flexible sole and upper and no heel drop for lower back pain.
We reached out to lower back pain sufferers via social media and email. We asked them to recommend shoe features and specific shoe models. The ones that came up most often, we went out and tested in stores.
For men, we chose the Crosscourt 2 because of its cushioning, arch support and versatility. The low-volume comfort footbed and EVA outsole keep the arch elevated. They improve foot posture. The shoe has a flat sole, which gives the body good, natural posture and walking gait. It’s also stylish and versatile enough for any occasion.
For women, we chose the Vionic Kiara because of its best-in-class ergonomics. Designed by podiatrists, it gives the foot excellent posture. This can correct excessive pronation and supination, give you better biomechanics and unload the back. Consumers and our testers both loved the orthotic insole.
Keep reading to learn more about our top picks and Dr. Enes’ insights.
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Table of Contents
Best Men's Shoe for Lower Back Pain
Why this product?
EVA foam midsole for arch support and comfort. Midsole with ‘Grand.OS’ technology provides lightweight cushioning with shock absorption. Reduces stress on the lower back. Stylish and durable with adjustable lace up system. Breathable.
The Crosscourt 2 by Cole Haan is our top men’s show for lower back pain. The EVA foam midsole gives comfortable arch support, encouraging your foot’s natural movements.
The midsole uses ‘Grand.OS’ technology. This is a highly comfortable, lightweight cushioning system. It helps distribute your body weight evenly across your feet and has good shock absorption. The arch support, cushioning and weight distribution reduce stress on your lower back.
The outsole is molded rubber, which is hardwearing, and protects your foot. The heel and forefoot areas have rubber pods, to provide increased traction and prevent slipping.
The shoe has a lightweight, all-leather upper. It’s stylish and durable. The low-top design allows your ankle to move without restriction. The upper features a padded collar and tongue with supple, textile lining for comfort. The adjustable lace up system uses flat laces, which sit snugly against your foot.
The breathable cushioned interior promotes air circulation to your feet. This help keeps them comfortable and fresh.
Our testers found the shoe highly comfortable, and say it fits true to size. Its stylish design and lightweight, supportive build make it a multi-purpose, versatile choice. It’s available in a wide range of colours.
- ‘Grand.OS’ technology distributes bodyweight evenly
- Rubber pods help prevent slipping
- Feet remain fresh
- Runs narrow
Best Women's Shoe for Lower Back Pain
Vionic Simmons Kiara
Why this product?
Light, flexible and supportive with podiatrist-designed technology for back pain. Removable EVA foam insole for stability and arch support. ‘Vio-Motion Support’ technology for improving leg and foot posture. Slip-resistant and superior stability.
This is a highly comfortable orthotic shoe. It’s lightweight, flexible and supportive. It uses podiatrist-designed technology to help alleviate your back pain.
The shoe’s EVA foam insole is designed to give a combination of comfort, stability, and arch support. The insole is removable, so you can replace it with custom orthotics if you prefer.
‘Vio-Motion Support’ technology improves foot and leg posture. This leads to better weight distribution. It gives support to your foot’s medial arch, limiting foot fatigue and preventing flat feet. The deep heel cup cushions your rear foot for extra comfort and support. All of this works to reduce pain in your back and joints.
Our testers liked the soft and lightweight mesh upper. It supports the foot, whilst the flexible mesh allows your foot’s natural movement. An adjustable lacing system gives a comfortable, custom fit.
The hardwearing rubber outsole protects your foot and limits stress to your back. It is slip resistant, for increased stability and to help protect you from injury. It has a slight heel drop, but the shoe compensates for that with a toe box. Functionally, this is a uniform-sole, flat shoe.
This is a highly supportive, flexible shoe, suitable for all day wear. It comes with a higher price tag, but for that you get superior stability and comfort. The shoe is available in a range of stylish colours with a choice of width fittings.
- Lightweight orthotic shoe
- Reduces pain in back and joints
- Hardwearing rubber outsole protects feet
- High price tag
Best Athletic Shoes for Lower Back Pain (Men)
Inov-8 F-lite 245
Why this product?
Versatile shoe for workouts and different sports. Lightweight, flexible, and supportive for running and lifting. ‘Exteroflow’ technology in midsole provides moderate arch support. Shock absorption guaranteed. ‘RopeTec’ technology increases shoe durability.
A cushioned uniform midsole uses ‘Exteroflow’ technology to provide moderate arch support. This slim material provides high levels of comfort and shock absorption. It limits impact on your back when exerting. It promotes a close-to-the-ground feel and aids stability. It is flexible, letting your feet move in response to the surface you’re exercising on. This reduces the load and stress on your back.
The soft upper is lightweight, synthetic mesh. This supple and seamless textile hugs your foot, allowing flexibility and movement. It is breathable, keeping your feet cool and fresh during long workouts. The shoe’s generous width aids stability and balance. The roomy toe box lets your toes spread comfortably. All of this lets you move freely, reducing skeletal system impact.
A hardwearing rubber compound outsole gives good traction. Flex grooves under the forefoot allow your foot to bend and flex naturally. ‘RopeTec’ technology increases shoe durability, especially if you’re climbing or jumping rope.
Our testers liked this supportive, flexible athletic shoe, and say it fits true to size. The minimalist features and generous width let your foot move naturally and comfortably during short and long workouts. The F-lite 245 available in four colour options: black, khaki, white and grey.
- Promotes close-to-the-ground feel
- Hardwearing rubber compound outsole provides traction
- Available in four colors
- Not best choice for cross training
Best Athletic Shoes for Lower Back Pain (Women)
Inov-8 Women's F-lite 245
Why this product?
Ultra-light shoe for cross training. Cushioned, flexible, and will keep your feet dry. Slim ‘Exteroflow’ uniform midsole for stability and shock absorption. Roomy toe box lets feet spread comfortably. Excellent traction during exercise. Stylish.
This ultra-light cross training shoe is cushioned, breathable, and flexible. It’s perfect for running, cross training, and general fitness. The one thing it’s not the best at is lateral movement. Our testers don’t recommend it for squash, tennis, basketball, etc.
The ‘Exteroflow’ uniform midsole is slim, cushioned and highly comfortable. It offers great stability, and highly effective shock absorption. This limits stress on your lower back during workouts. It also provides moderate support for your medial arch. This encourages good posture and balance. The slim, flexible sole lets your foot move naturally in response to the ground. This alleviates impact on your back.
Our testers liked the lightweight, breathable mesh upper. It lets air circulate, keeping your feet cool during long runs or intense workouts. The soft mesh is snug but flexible, protecting your foot whilst allowing it to move naturally. The athletic shoe’s relaxed fit and roomy toe box let your feet spread comfortably.
The outsole is hardwearing rubber compound. It gives solid traction during exercise, keeping you balanced and stable. The sole has flex grooves on its underside. This lets your feet bend and flex. It’s reinforced in specific areas to improve shoe durability.
This is a comfortable, lightweight athletic shoe. It’s a versatile, stylish choice, and our testers says it fits true to size. It’s available in pink, white, grey or purple.
- Best choice for cross training
- Entirely breathable
- Provides moderate support for medial arch
- Not a good option for tennis or squash
Best Walking Shoes for Lower Back Pain (Men & Women)
Propét Stability Walker Sneaker
Why this product?
Thick, well-cushioned heel area for back pain. Elevated toe box for natural posture. Protects the skeletal system agains walking impact. Top-class sole tech for both men and women. Ergonomic insole keeps feet supported. Incredibly flexible.
The best walking shoe model for lower back pain is the Propet Stability Walker. Dr. Enes, who consulted us on this article, recommended it. She said that back pain during walking can be caused by strong heel strike impact. To fix this, the Propet has a thick, well-cushioned heel area.
At the same time, the shoe has an elevated toe box that gives you healthy, natural posture. This makes it a rare shoe that protects the skeletal system against walking impact without elevating the heel.
Both male and female models have best-in-class sole tech. The midsole supports the arch and has a semi-rigid arch frame. The removable insole is ergonomic, with a deep heel cup and an elevated mid-foot area. This also keeps the foot supported.
Despite a relatively thick sole, the Propét walker is flexible. It has multiple flex grooves that make the sole bend easily. The rocker element carries the foot from heel strike to toe-off easily. All of this minimizes striking impact when you walk.
Unlike most other shoes, this model is good whether you have an excessively low or high arch. Its heel counter improves foot posture. Its extra wide base prevents excessive pronation and supination.
According to Dr. Enes, her colleagues often recommend it as a therapeutic shoe for people with a variety of foot issues. Our testers said they immediately felt less stress on their knees, hips and back with the Walker on.
The upper is surprisingly flexible on this model. It’s leather, but it consists of multiple overlays rather than one piece. This makes the shoe as mobile as a mesh walking shoe. Our tester’s favorite colorway was “Sports White”, which looks like a beige-y off white.
- Protects skeletal system against walking impact
- Best for people with excessively low or high arch
- Extra wide base prevents supination
- Some people don’t like the thick sole
Best Running Shoes for Lower Back Pain (Men & Women)
New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V3
Why this product?
Running shoe with low heel and elevated toe box for functionality and optimal biomechanics. Reduces lower back and hamstring tightness. Flexible sole with quality arch support. Breathable and lightweight mesh upper.
Our guy and girl testers both liked the Arishi running shoe. The model is unique because it’s a running model made for all-day wear. Unlike other running models, it doesn’t cushion or elevate the heel excessively.
This is exactly what we want for lower back pain. The low heel and elevated toe box give you a functionally flat shoe and optimal biomechanics. This reduces lower back tightness and pain; according to reviewers, it can do the same for hamstrings.
The foam is soft but not mushy. It’s good for long distances where you want more cushioning, and short distances where you need more energy return. Despite being thick, the sole is flexible. It has quality arch support in the mid-foot area, improving running biomechanics.
Under the midsole is a durable rubber outsole. It’s flexible, with over a dozen flex grooves going through it. According to reviewers, it lasts a while.
The mesh upper is flexible, breathable and lightweight. The toe box is roomy enough for casual wear but long enough for running. This running shoe is available in wide sizes if you need to accommodate a high-volume insert or a wide foot.
- Doesn’t elevate heel excessively
- Durable rubber outsole lasts long
- Roomy toe box
- Lacks added stability support
Best Smart Casual Shoe for Lower Back Pain (Men)
Dr. Martens 8053 Oxford
Why this product?
Great stability and support with leather upper. The midsole offers moderate arch support and cushioning for shock absorption. Flat, uniform sole for flexibility. Supportive and soft lightweight leather upper. Stylish shoe for work or everyday life.
This stylish but comfortable shoe was a huge hit with our testers. The 8053s deliver great support and stability with a comfortable leather upper. They’re also flexible. Originally designed to combat foot pain, these shoes can help with back pain caused by the same.
The midsole offers moderate, comfortable cushioning and moderate arch support. It helps to distribute your body weight evenly across your foot. The cushioning works as a shock absorber to limit impact on your spine and joints. The flat, uniform sole is flexible. It encourages a normal gait and your foot’s natural movement. This in turn reduces stress on your back.
The air cushioned outsole gives hardwearing foot protection. It is flexible, letting your feet bend and flex naturally. The tread pattern provides good traction on all surfaces, to prevent slipping and injury.
A lightweight leather upper is soft and supportive. The cushioned collar sits below the ankle, adding comfort whilst allowing the ankle freedom of movement.
This shoe offers excellent all round comfort, support, and stability. The comfortable design and classic appearance makes it a great choice for both work and leisure wear. It is available in black or brown.
- Midsole distributes body weight evenly
- Flexible uniform sole for natural gait
- Slip-proof tread pattern
- May need time to break in
Best Smart Casual Shoe for Lower Back Pain (Women)
Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt
Why this product?
EVA midsole provides stability and supports foot arch. Engineered, lightweight cushioning system is flexible and responsive. Improves stability and balance. Breathable and will keep feet cool. Hardwearing molded rubber sole protects feet. Slip-proof.
Our testers like this supportive shoe. Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt is lightweight and comfortable. The stylish, streamlined design makes it a versatile choice for both informal and smarter occasions.
An EVA midsole supports your foot’s arch and provides stability. The engineered, lightweight cushioning system is responsive, flexible and supportive. It promotes even weight distribution across your feet. This improves stability and balance, which in turn alleviates stress on your back. The cushioning provides a high level of comfort. It is breathable, to help keep your feet cool and comfortable.
The all-leather upper is stylish and durable. Its low top design lets your ankle move without restriction. The interior has a soft textile lining and light padding on the collar and tongue. This gives a highly comfortable fit.
The adjustable lacing system has flat laces, for a snug fit against your foot.
A molded rubber sole protects the foot and is extremely hardwearing. The forefoot and heel areas of the outsole have rubber pods. These prevent slipping and give reliable traction.
Our testers say the shoe fits true to size. This is a lightweight, supportive and comfortable women’s shoe. It comes with a reasonable price tag, in a variety of colours.
- Keeps feet dry and cool
- Adjustable lacing system for a snug fit against feet
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Tends to be too shallow
Best Athletic Shoes for Lower Back Pain - Strength Sports, Crossfit (Men)
Why this product?
Lightweight and flexible cross training shoe. Allows you to lift with natural posture. Molded insole for superb shock absorption. Thick and hardwearing rubber outsole with tread patterns for traction and support during workouts. Breathable and stylish.
Our testers like this multi-purpose cross training shoe. It is lightweight and flexible. The uniform sole gives your feet a flat base for strength sports. It lets you lift with natural posture – which is why many old-school lifters wore Converse.
A non-drop midsole absorbs impact, and provides a stable platform for your workout. The molded insole gives extra shock absorption. It cushions the underfoot and gives light arch support.
The rubber outsole is thick and hardwearing. Its tread pattern features lugs (indentations). These deliver traction, flexibility and support during your workouts. There are also lugs on the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) of the shoe. These give extra grip during rope climbs.
A breathable upper combines seamless mesh with a durable ‘SuperFabric’ textile. It protects your foot during workouts. It is flexible, to encourage your foot’s natural movement. This disperses impact when you work out, and relieves stress on your lower back.
The low top collar allows full ankle mobility. Light padding secures your heel in the shoe. Reinforced metal eyelets in the lace system help resist wear and tear. The decent toe box lets your toes splay, without hitting the front of the shoe.
This is a stylish, functional shoe. It is versatile for wear in and out of the gym. It is a higher budget option, available in a good choice of colours.
- Uniform sole gives feet a flat base
- Molded insole gives light arch support
- Lugs on inside and outside of shoe provide extra grip
- Might need to size up
Best Athletic Shoes for Lower Back Pain - Strength Sports, Crossfit (Women)
Why this product?
Strenght and cross training shoe for women. Flexible, lightweight, and ultra-comortable. Molded insole provides added shock absorption and light arch support. Lugs on the sole for traction during workouts. Reinforced added lugs on shoe’s sides to protect feet. Breathable upper.
This versatile training shoe is ideal for strength and cross training. It is flexible and lightweight. A molded insole provides underfoot cushioning, and extra shock absorption. It gives light arch support, and increased stability. The comfortable, roomy toe box lets your toes move freely.
The flexible midsole has light cushioning, to absorb impact. The uniform sole promotes stability and good posture. It helps protect your back from excess strain during workouts.
The flat rubber outsole is sturdy and hardwearing. There are lugs (indentations) on the sole. These provide excellent traction during your workout. Additional lugs on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe give added grip when climbing rope. These areas are reinforced, to protect the foot.
A supple, breathable upper combines mesh and a hardwearing protective ‘Superfabric’ textile. It protects your foot and allows it to bend and flex. The breathable fabric helps keep your feet cool. The low top allows unrestricted ankle movement. The padded collar secures your heel, increasing stability.
This stylish, versatile shoe is suitable for workouts and leisure wear. It’s highly comfortable and our testers say it fits true to size. It comes with a higher price tag, in a variety of colours.
- Provides increased stability
- Superfabric textile that protects feet
- Padded collar secures heels
- Might need extra upkeep
Best Boots for Lower Back Pain (Men)
Eastland Mens Lumber
Why this product?
Durable boot for everyday wear. Fully lined cushioned insole for comfort and medial arch support. Reduces foot and leg fatigue. Mini-groove tread pattern on synthetic outsole for preventing slipping. Hardwearing and light sole for flexibility.
This is a sturdy, comfortable boot, great for all-day wear. A fully lined cushioned insole provides comfort and supports the medial arch of your foot. This helps reduce foot and leg fatigue by encouraging good foot posture. It encourages even weight distribution through your feet, which helps alleviate stress on your back and joints.
The synthetic outsole has a mini-groove tread pattern which gives good traction and prevents slipping. The outsole is a combination of rubber and EVA foam. A tester with knee pain said they felt immediate light relief when stepping in the boot.
The sole is both hardwearing and lightweight. It is highly flexible, which encourages your foot’s natural movement. This allows your feet to absorb impact and puts less pressure on your back.
The supple leather upper is flexible and protective. The moc toe design has reinforced stitching for increased durability. The construction includes a storm welt, which is a leather seal between the upper and midsole. This gives added durability and increased protection against moisture. Eyelets up to the mid-calf are threaded with hardwearing Taslan laces for an adjustable, supportive fit.
This comfortable and supportive boot is available in two width fittings. It comes in a large range of colours.
Overall, these boots will provide you with the right support and stiffness for day-long hikes. Based on countless reviews, they won’t make your feet ache even after hours of walking.
- Encourages even weight distribution
- Rubber and EVA foam outsole combo for knee pain
- Boosted protection against moisture
- Needs time to break in
Best Boots for Lower Back Pain (Women)
Eastland Womens Lumber
Why this product?
Stylish boot with a flexible construction to encourage foot’s natural movement. Active memory foam in fully lined cushioned insole provides support. Boincy outsole thanks to rubber and EVA foam combo. Mini-groove tread pattern prevents slipping. Minimalistic design.
This is a stylish and comfortable fashion boot. The supportive, flexible construction encourages your foot’s natural foot movement, reducing stress on your back.
A fully lined cushioned insole uses active memory foam. This molds to the shape of your foot, providing comfort and support. A supportive shank sits beneath the arch of your foot. It promotes correct foot posture, reducing leg and foot fatigue. This encourages a natural gait when you walk. This can help reduce impact on your back and joints during movement.
Our testers liked the comfy, bouncy outsole. It uses a combination of rubber and EVA foam, and is extremely lightweight. It is also flexible, allowing your feet to move naturally. It lets your feet absorb impact, which again results in less stress on your back. The mini-groove tread pattern on the outsole gives good traction, to prevent slipping and increase stability.
The boot has a highly hardwearing, flexible leather upper. The moccasin toe design has reinforced hand stitching, for increased durability. There are lace-up eyelets to the mid-calf, giving light stability to your ankle. The laces are Taslan, a sturdy engineered textile which is extra strong and non-pilling.
This minimalist, lightweight shoe is available in four colours: brown, peanut, navy and oxblood. Some testers found the fit is slightly large, so we recommend you try a pair before buying.
- Active memory foam fully lined cushioned insole for support
- Hhighly hardwearing leather upper
- Taslan laces are non-pilling
- The fit might be slightly large
Best Minimalist Shoe for Lower Back Pain (Men)
Why this product?
Great high-top shoe for building foot strength. Supports ankles better than other shoes. Recommended by experts for flat foot correction. Non-elevated heel encourages feet to respond to the surface you’re moving on. Lightweight rubber outsole for foot protection.
This “boot” is really more of a high-top shoe. If you have lower back pain and tightness because of weak arches, it can help build foot strength. Be careful, though; minimalist shoes have no cushioning and low arch support, so you have to get used to wearing them. Tread carefully.
The specific reason we chose high-top shoes is that they support the ankle better. Our editor’s osteopath recommended the Denver for flat foot correction, which is how we got our hands on the model.
The Denver has a low to the ground design and a non-elevated heel. It encourages your feet to respond to the surface you are moving on. This leads to better balance and improved posture, which helps reduce stress on your back.
A heat reflective insole provides warmth and comfort in cold weather. It is removable, so you can replace it with custom orthotics if you prefer. You can also do this to get even more of a barefoot feel.
The rubber outsole is lightweight and flexible. It protects your feet and lets them bend and move naturally. A hardwearing dual chevron tread pattern gives superior grip.
The comfortable upper is water repellent canvas with a comfy flannel lining. A wide toe box allows your toes to spread naturally as you move. A unique strapping system wraps around the heel of the boot. This lets you tighten or loosen for a comfortable, supportive fit.
Our testers loved this comfy, lightweight shoe. It is suitable for all but the most arduous terrain. It is available at a competitive price tag, in a choice of brown or black.
- Strengthens feet, especially weak arches
- Heat reflective insole provides warmth in cool weather
- Water repellant canvas upper
- Lack of cushioning
Best Minimalist Shoe for Lower Back Pain (Women)
Xero Xcursion Shoes
Why this product?
Minimalist lightweight and flexible shoe for hiking. Helps build foot strength in people with fallen arches or weak feet. Slim and flexible outsole encourages natural movement. Excellent shock absorption. Light upper made from waterproof membrane.
We like this supportive, lightweight and flexible hiking shoe. The minimalist design promotes good posture and natural foot movement, which helps to alleviate back pain.
If you have lower back pain because of weak feet and fallen arches, it can help build foot strength. Be careful, though; the Xero has little cushioning and no support. We recommend talking to a GP before wearing any minimalist shoe. If you’re not careful, it can cause heel pain, plantar fasciitis, and other problems.
Our testers liked the slim and flexible outsole. It lets your feet bend and move naturally, so they absorb shock when you move. This leads to less stress on your back and joints. The tough and hardwearing Vibram rubber sole protects your foot. A rugged dual chevron tread pattern gives great traction on all types of terrain.
The shoe has a non-elevated, ‘zero drop’ heel. This promotes correct posture, and the low to the ground design improves your balance and agility. A removable insole offers comfy cushioning and light arch support. You can replace this with custom orthotics if you prefer.
The lightweight upper is made from a waterproof membrane, topped with mesh for a snug and flexible fit. A wide toe box lets your toes splay naturally, and the durable toe cap protects your foot. Adjustable straps around the heel and midfoot give extra support.
This boot has a slightly more robust design than some minimalist footwear, but it delivers extra grip, support and foot protection. The lightweight construction was a hit with our testers. It’s available in black, green and grey.
- Hardwearing Vibram rubber sole protects feet
- Zero drop heel promotes correct posture
- Adjustable straps for extra support
- No support
Buyer's Guide: Best Shoes for Lower Back Pain
This section (and the next few sections) were written by Dr. Enes: one of our team doctors. She’s an osteopath, sports doctor and practicing physical therapist.
Dr. Enes says back pain is one of the main reasons people come to see her. This includes regular folks, athletes and children. Here are her top features for a lower back pain shoe.
Collapsed or elevated arches are a common reason for back pain. Here’s why.
Healthy feet naturally cushion the body against impact. They’re also the foundation for good posture and biomechanics. If the feet aren’t working properly, other joints become less mobile – and the body starts moving differently .
This can make the body lose some of its natural shock absorption. It can overload the back. Eventually, it can cause discomfort and pain.
If this is your situation – you have a foot problem and back pain – you may benefit from a supportive shoe model. For most people, regular shoes with moderate support are enough. Other people need a therapeutic shoe model that can offer more serious support.
Arch support is incredibly important for people who are on their feet the whole day, for instance cashiers or warehouse workers. If you’re a cashier, make sure to look for a shoe with great arch support and cushioning.
Cushioning is another way to reduce lower back pain. Thick foam soles, cushioned footbeds and separate heel pads all reduce striking impact. This saves your spine and vertebrae from having to absorb shock.
Cushioning can make a best difference when you’re running, jumping and landing. It’s most helpful on hard surfaces like concrete.
Don’t get a sole that’s so cushioned it’s thick and rigid. This will reduce foot mobility and stop your feet from working properly. It can also make you land with too much impact, leading to problems like leg stiffness and skeletal stress .
A Flexible Sole
A rigid sole stops your toes, foot and ankle from moving freely. It can also stop your foot from rolling through when you’re walking, running or jumping. All of this can send more striking into your skeletal system and back.
We want a natural gait so our feet can absorb impact. We especially want flex around the mid-foot and toe. Look for shoes that have a flexible sole which is thin rather than thick.
A Soft, Lightweight Upper
The easier it is for your foot to move, the better it can cushion your body during sports. That’s why we want a soft, lightweight upper. The right shoe will use stretchy and breathable mesh, have stretch overlays, etc.
A Neutral, Uniform Sole
Heel-elevated soles are modern with runners, weight lifters and other athletes. They can increase performance, but they also reduce your mobility; same as high heeled shoes.
Over time, this can shorten the calf muscle and achilles tendon. The calf muscle plays a key role in our body’s cushioning system . If this happens, more impact will be absorbed by the back – which can cause pain.
To avoid all of this, we want a flat, uniform sole. This will maximize our foot’s ability to cushion the body and back against impact. It will also give us better biomechanics, reducing back stress.
How Can Shoes Make Your Back Hurt?
Hi! Dr. Enes here. To understand how a shoe can cause back pain, you need to understand why back pain usually happens.
When we stand, walk or move, our body carries its own weight. It bears a bigger load (i.e. impact) when we land during sports or running. It bears a smaller load when we stand in place.
Most of this load is carried and absorbed by the joints in our toes, feet, ankles, knees and hips. Some of it is also absorbed by the spine using intervertebral cartilage, ligaments and muscle.
Now let’s say you’re wearing shoes that constrict and limit the joints. Let’s say you’re wearing high heeled shoes, or a pair that’s so tight your feet can’t move properly. Can you guess what happens?
Your feet can no longer bear their load, sending more of it upwards into the skeletal system. This stresses the knees, hips and back. It can cause tightness, bad posture and – ultimately – pain.
Now, please bear in mind that nothing on this page is medical advice. But this is an illustration of how the wrong shoe can lead to back pain. I hope that explains it.
Which Shoes Should I Avoid for Lower Back Pain?
1. Old shoes with worn outsoles
A worn outsole can no longer absorb impact, especially on surfaces like concrete. It doesn’t have the necessary thickness; it could also be missing important cushioning tech. When this happens, your back has to absorb the extra impact instead.
A worn-out insole or footbed can almost always be replaced… But if the outsole is done, get new shoes.
2. Heel-elevated shoes
Doing sports in shoes with a high heel drop is like doing sports in high heels. It shifts your center of mass, it destabilizes you, and it removes your foot’s ability to absorb impact. All of this stresses your back, causing pain and discomfort.
A drop of up to 5mm is okay. A drop that’s offset by a high toe box is also fine. Anything else is off limits.
3. Excessively cushioned shoes
Studies shoe that maximalist soles with thick, soft cushioning can make us land on the ground harder. This can actually send more impact into our skeletal system and cause more back pain.
Can Barefoot Walking Help With My Back Pain?
Barefoot walking can help with back pain for two reasons.
First, walking barefoot discourages you from landing with too much force. It develops good, light biomechanics.
Second, walking barefoot makes the feet stronger. This can correct a low arch and excessive pronation or supination. Walking barefoot can improve posture, restore foot function, and ultimately reduce or eliminate back pain.
At the same time, it’s important to be realistic. Some problems can’t be fixed by barefoot walking. Rigid flat feet can’t be fixed this way. And if you have other foot issues like overpronation or excessive supination, I don’t recommend barefoot walking either.
Again, this is a pretty sensitive topic. Everything I’m saying is for informational purposes only. If you’re considering barefoot walking with lower back pain, talk to your GP first.
Can Foot Cushioning Cause Back Pain?
Yes; foot cushioning can cause back pain. This happens for two reasons. First, a thick, cushioned sole can stop your foot from moving freely. In doing this, it removes your natural ability to absorb landing impact.
Second, cushioning reduces sensory impact and stops you from gauging how much force you’re using. Case in point: runners in highly cushioned shoes strike the ground with 10-12% more impact.
In other words, extra cushioning feels soft… But really stresses your body. It makes you land harder while reducing your ability to do so softly.
Our top choice for men is the Crosscourt 2 by Cole Haan. It has a thin, uniform sole. Both the sole and upper are flexible. By letting your feet move naturally, the Cole Haans work to reduce lower back pain and tightness.
For women, we like the Vionic Simmons. It’s breathable and light, with good orthotic arch support. The heel drop cushions the foot when you’re walking and is offset by the elevated toe box. The black version is our favorite.
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