The shoes you wear impact your back health. Certain soles help support posture, while other shoes help make walking a breeze. However, with all the shoe options we have available, it isn’t easy to figure out which shoe is the best for you. This article discusses the types of footwear you need to avoid (especially if you’re using a prosthetic limb) and the shoes you need to wear more to mitigate back pain.
Don’t wear: Flip-flops
Although flip-flops are comfortable and great for hot and humid weather, they don’t support your sound side foot. When wearing flip-flops, your toes tend to bunch up to keep the flip-flops on your foot while you walk, thus reducing your ability to use the front of your foot to move forward. This is terrible news for your hips, which need to work overtime to keep you walking.
Although wearing flip-flops is certainly fine at the beach or pool, we encourage you to avoid wearing them when walking long distances. Wearing flip-flops often results in a tender lower back, lower body fatigue, and muscle imbalance along the back of your legs. However, if you need to wear flip-flops, avoid the cheap and thin ones, which offer no support for your toes or cushion for your heel.
Don’t wear: Flats
Contrary to popular belief, flat shoes can be highly problematic and we're not just referring to prosthetic alignment issues. This is because most flat shoes don’t support your foot as you walk. Researchers have found that wearing flats leads to 25% more pressure on your foot with every step compared to high heels. This pressure builds over time, making your lower back and hips take most of the burden.
Furthermore, as most flat shoes lack arch support and padding, wearing them will also lead to overstretching of the tendons and ligaments in your foot. All this accumulates, leading to more back problems and overall body pain.
Do wear: Running shoes
Running shoes are some of the best shoes for back pain because they are usually designed to address different issues. Depending on your walking style, you can choose a shoe that meets your needs. You will surely find a shoe that works best for you, whether you have a high, low, or natural arch. If you’re not sure about what you need, go to a specialized shoe store. They are great at identifying your unique walking and running style, so they will be able to help you choose a running shoe that fits well.
Do wear: Shoes with toe room and support
Your back is happiest when your grip and toes flex naturally as you walk. So look for shoes that allow toe movement, but watch out for anything that’s overly flimsy or stiff. Your foot will also be healthier if you get shoes with a contoured insole to support your arch.
In a nutshell, the best choices are shoes with at least half an inch of wiggle room and those that feel comfortable in the store without binding or pinching your foot.
Do wear: Prescription orthotics or special insoles
Be on the lookout for shoes that carry a seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association. You can rest assured that these shoes are great for your back.
Your back will also thank you if you can get prescription orthotics, which are specially made insoles for your footwear that support the actual shape of your foot. You can consult a podiatrist or orthotist to help you get prescription orthotics.
The bottom line
When it comes to back pain, your shoes have a significant impact. Choosing supportive and comfortable footwear can help reduce the amount of pain you feel in your everyday life. In particular, the two features you need to look for when buying footwear are support and a contoured insole.