When you think of the causes of back pain, things like sports injuries and heavy lifting probably quickly pop into your head. What you may not know, however, is that there is a less obvious, everyday culprit that can cause that pain: footwear. Your feet are the foundation for all of your movement, and any disruption at that source can put a lot of stress on the rest of your body. Because of this, making healthy decisions about your footwear can greatly reduce your risk for back pain.

The worst shoes for back pain:

Worn shoes
When you think of your feet as the foundation for all body movement, it’s easy to understand why worn shoes are a bad idea. They simply don’t offer the support that you need to make sure that your body is moving efficiently and comfortably. Over time, worn shoes offer less shock absorption and arch support, and this can result in back pain as well as a permanent alteration to your gait. Because of this, it’s important to replace your shoes when you notice that they are starting to show wear.

Flat shoes
This category includes shoes like ballet flats, flip-flops, and many other sandals. Much like the worn shoes mentioned above, flat shoes offer little-to-no arch support, and this can permanently alter the way you move and also put a lot of extra stress on your joints. This extra stress may lead to muscle pain, especially in your back. While it’s not necessary to completely avoid flat shoes, they aren’t a good option if you’ll be standing for long periods of time.

High heels
High heels place all of the weight and stress of your step on the ball of your foot, and that can cause major problems for your entire body, like misalignment and even an altered center of gravity. This disruption to your normal movement can result in back pain, since your spine will likely have to compensate for the change. It’s not necessary to give up high heels forever, but it is a good idea to avoid wearing them for long periods of time, or on days when you know you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet or walking.

The best shoes for back pain:

Orthotics
This is a specialized shoe that offers a softer step and more support than most other footwear. Orthotics can even be specially made to offer support for specific foot or gait problems. If you suffer from back pain because of your footwear, visiting a doctor to talk about orthotics options might be a good idea.

Inserts/insoles
Another option is specially designed inserts/insoles. They are usually less expensive than orthotics, since they are just inserts and not the entire shoe, and they can offer the specific support that you may need.

Running/athletic shoes
Athletic shoes offer a plethora of choices for different foot types, and this makes them a valuable option for people suffering from pain because of their footwear. Athletic shoes also have quality cushioning and shock absorption since they are designed for physical activity. Because of this, they are some of the most comfortable, back-friendly footwear options.