Shoes For Back Pain
It’s estimated that 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at one point in their lives. If you are one of them, perhaps you should take it easy on your spine by wearing shoes for back pain.
There are many causes for back pain, but most of the cases are linked to improper posture and spinal misalignment. Shoes play an important role in hip and spine alignment because the feet support the whole body weight. For women, it can be very hard to give up stylish high heels. However, when comparing looks to spine health, the latter is so much more important. Wearing supportive shoes that are specifically adapted to your feet bio mechanics can alleviate and substantially reduce lower back pain, depending on its cause. It is therefore important to understand what is the driver of your back ache before you grab your credit card and go shopping.
What to Look For When Choosing Shoes For Back Pain
According to Dr. Kenneth S. Jung, foot and ankle surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, musculoskeletal disorders equally involve the feet, knees, ankles and back. All these elements are connected and, therefore, the force imparted on your feet is also transmitted to your back. If you suffer from more severe back pain, it is best to ask your doctor for advice on choosing the right shoes for back pain. To give you a hint, here are a few key features to look for when selecting footwear to help with your back pain.
First and foremost, you need to look at the arch. If a shoe suits you, the arch should perfectly curve along the arch of your foot. In general, there are three types of foot arch: pronation (low), neutral, and supination (high). Running shoes, for example, are specifically designed to address multiple issues. They provide pronation support through motion control, stability for neutral arch, and last but not least, the cushioned soles of sports shoes aid supination arches.
Specialists recommend “minimal” shoes for back pain relief. Designed to promote the foot hitting the ground with the front or middle of the sole rather than the heel, this type of shoes change the way in which the foot and the lower extremity interact with the ground, Dr. Jung says.
To help treat back pain, special inserts and insoles are specially designed for extra support. Depending on the how crucial your condition is, you may opt for specialized footwear. Available by prescription only (consult your physician), functional orthotics are a good solution to treat acute back pain. They are usually made of plastic or graphite and are used in the treatment of abnormal motion. Another type of orthotics known as accommodative orthotics, are softer and widely used for cushioning and support needed in painful foot conditions.
How to Identify the Cause of Your Back Pain
To be able to choose the right pair of shoes to treat your back pain, you primarily need to identify the cause.
Schedule an appointment with your family doctor if you experience persistent back pain that won’t go away after a few days. Most likely your physician will examine your spine and ask you questions about your family history, work (whether it involves sitting all day, for example), and lifestyle. Depending on the severity of your pain, x-rays may also be considered. Once the most serious causes like herniated disks, spinal infection, bone infection, arthritis or cancer are ruled out, the next factors to consider are posture, foot shape and shoe choices. If back pain is accompanied by more severe symptoms such as muscle weakness, sudden weight loss, loss of sensation in your limbs, incontinence and/or loss of bowel control, immediately seek specialized medical advice.
Check your arch shape. One of the most common driving factors of back pain are flat feet. The arches play an essential part in supporting your body weight as they act as shock absorbents thus preventing force from being transferred to other joints. To check whether you have flat feet, do the following test: wet the bottoms of your feet in water and walk across a large piece of cardboard or thick paper. Step properly to get prints of both feet and then examine them closely. If you’ve got healthy arches, the footprint will show the heel connected to the forefoot by a ½ wide strip, which is about the width of the foot on the outside of the sole. Whereas if you have flat feet, the print will show a continuous line between the heel and the forefoot. Usually, both feet leave similar prints, but in some cases slight differences appear due to previous ankle injuries or discrepancies in leg length.
A 2013 study suggests that American women with flat feet have a 50 percent higher chance to develop low back pain than those with normal or high arches.
Examine your posture. Another way to see if the shape or alignment of your feet, ankles and knees is a potential cause for your lower back pain is by looking closely at your posture in a full-length mirror. To get a complete image, wear shorts and stand straight. Scrutinize the angles of your feet, legs and ankles. If your feet point outwards, with your ankles rolled in (over-pronation) and your knees are very close together or touch (genu valgum), you are at higher risk for developing lower back pain because postures like these put more pressure on the hips and lower spine. Especially people who are overweight tend to exhibit all three postural issues, which explains why back pain is more common amongst obese individuals. In some cases, ankle over-pronation, flat feet and genu valgum are hereditary, but in the majority of the cases they are the effect of the body carrying too much weight.
For your reference, if your legs appear to be rather straight (leaving a distance of a few inches between them), your ankles are in neutral position without collapsing inwards and you can insert a few fingers under your feet while weight bearing, then probably other issues account for your back pain.
Observe any inequalities in leg length! Although it is quite common if not natural to have one leg slightly longer than the other (according to a study of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conducted on 600 military recruits, which found that 32 percent of the subjects exhibited a difference in the length of their legs of ⅕ inches to ⅗ inches), any inequality in your leg length above those values can seriously impact your spine health, the effect of which may be lower back pain. How to correct that? Easy, use a shoe insert. It is also cost-effective and you can easily stop wearing it provided that there are no noticeable changes. Before starting to use a shoe insert, you should probably consult a foot doctor trained in assessing these kind of problems.
Check your shoes. The next step in your quest to find clues about what causes your back pain is examining the soles of your shoes (pick the pair you use most often). If you have normal posture while walking, you will see that lateral edge of the shoe is most worn. This is due to a very simple reason - when you step, your heel strikes the ground slightly on the outside of the shoe. On the contrary, if your shoes seem to wear out in the middle of the heel area, this indicates that you pronate too much at the ankle when you walk.
To overcome any and all of the potential causes of back pain mentioned above, you need to:
Buy shoes that fit you;
Buy supportive shoes (shoes that have a solid arch support regardless of whether you have flat feet or not. Flip-flops and flat sandals may be comfortable, but due to their lacking solid arch support if worn for extended periods of time may cause back pain.);
If you’re off to buy new sneakers, first get an evaluation;
Wear orthotics (only custom made as recommended by your podiatrist).