Lower back pain is a common complaint throughout most of society these days – more prevalent in the developed and western world. This is typically down to the amount of sitting we do in our work and our sedentary lifestyles. The statistic which is widely regarded throughout the world is that 80% of the adult population will develop mechanical lower back at a point in their lives.
The lumbar spine is the section at the bottom of the back consisting of the 5 lumbar vertebrae and discs with a multitude of muscles, tendons and ligaments which sit around it. Typical causes of back pain can be injury from heavy lifting, brisk movement your body isn’t used or as mentioned before, a poor lifestyle and posture which leads to a development of pain in the lower back.
Another cause which wouldn’t immediately spring to most people’s minds is the type of footwear you use and how that supports the way you walk and ultimately your lower back. When you walk and transfer your full body weight from one foot to the other you are repeatedly loading up to 5 x your body weight though a single foot. This is why it is so important for the feet to be well supported so they can manage the force being placed through them and be able absorb shock appropriately.
If you do not have the correct footwear to match your feet then this could be a reason your lower back is not properly supported and is developing pain. Some examples of different types of foot structure include:
Flat feet – as the term suggests, the feet remain quite flat in nature with little arch structure in the mid foot area.
High arch feet – feet with a larger than average arch structure.
Now both of these foot types are normal but it’s important to understand why they can affect the back. When we walk, typically we are looking for a neutral posture of the foot with a bit of mild pronation and supination which refers to the inward rolling of the foot and outward rolling of the foot which everyone does.
Problems occur when there is too much of these movements – hyper pronation and hyper supination. This causes the feet to roll in or roll outwards too much placing excessive strain on the knees, thighs, hips then eventually effecting the lower back and can be a reason there is pain being developed. To minimise the risk caused by these gaits it is important to try and control the foot to remain as neutral as possible when the foot strikes the floor and is flat – typically called the mid stance position. If the foot is contacting the ground neutrally, this means it is helping and giving the knee and hip the best chance to remain in a neutral alignment and working in its most efficient way. This then gives the back its best chance to remain healthy and avid pain developing
What are the important features for shoes that help to prevent back pain? Think about your foot specifically and what you need from a shoe. Important factors are the type of shoe and its purpose, your foot structure and what your foot is doing while walking, running, moving!
- Insoles – do you need orthotics included in the shoe to give you an arch? Or do you need support for a very high arch in order to neutralise your gait pattern (the way you walk)
- High elevated shoes – be aware of how high your shoes elevate and raise at the back because this can put a lot of pressure on the back – the most extreme example would be a high heel which are not great for weight distribution.
- Shock absorbing, cushioned soles – this really does help to lower the impact on the back when you run and walk, versus a thin soled, poorly structured shoe.
- Some flat shoes may be good for some people’s feet but really thin soles with little flexibility and support can place a lot of stress on an arch or give little support to the arch and this can then transfer to the lower back.
- It sounds silly but make sure your shoes fit – more and more people shop online these days and they haven’t got the chance to try their shoes on, sometimes difficulty in sending items back can make this a bit of a chore so people settle for poor shoes. Read your online guide to sizing (most are very good these days) or even try them on in a shop before you buy online. If you repeatedly buy the same brand, this can help as you are familiar with the fit.
- Your shoes should be replaced regularly to ensure that they remain supportive and do their job. If you wear your shoes in to the ground then this can cause the structure of the shoe to break down and for them to have a poor effectiveness.
Best Shoes Available Online For Back Pain
Skechers Men’s Afterburn Memory-Foam Lace-up Sneaker
These shoes have been designed for those who love hiking and their design is there to support your back on those long walks and climbs. Skechers for a long time have had a reputation as being a shoe known for its comfort and supportiveness. These particular shoes are made with a memory foam inner sole for extra support. Memory foam is firm and soft at the same time and helps to take the shape of your foot. This will provide the support that your foot needs and may be beneficial as it could help to cushion in to the arch and absorb shock. A hiking shoe is vital for controlling LBP, as the force and angles which are exerted on the back from long periods of walking can put your back at risk of developing pain. Especially the gradients involved in hiking and the effort exerted for long periods – shoes are key for safety and support of the lower back.
Ryka Women’s Devotion Plus 2 Walking Shoe
This shoe is typically a more active, exercise based shoe for women. Its bright design fits in well with most modern active wear clothing and wouldn’t be out of place in any gym or outdoor setting.
The features that make this shoe so important for lower back pain include responsive cushioning for impact protection and shock absorption along with multilayer construction for comfort and support. This shoe is claimed to engineered specifically for a woman’s foot which obviously differs from a man’s in shape and size.
If you want a good active shoe for the gym and exercise and you are a female then this is the shoe that can support your back the best.
New Balance Women’s WW496V3 Walking Shoe-W CUSH + Walking Shoe
This shoe from new balance is for the walker and it has a feature which sets it aside from other shoes in that it is available in different widths. Now for someone that has a wider or narrower foot this will be key. When walking for extended periods of time much more force is absorbed and exerted through the feet so this means it can be harder to control the foot when tired or your foot may move around a lot more.
The design of these shoes is a combination of leather and mesh which allows for a sturdy yet flexible shoe which can provide good support and control for your feet when walking and running. There is a rubber sole which provides good shock absorption but there are 2 key features which make this shoe special in caring for your lower back. New balance have included a CUSH+ midsole for extra cushioning for your feet and walking strike path technology – this helps to keep your foot on the midline and avoid any excessive movement in to pronation or supination. Features like this if you have a gait pattern or feet which mean you hyper pronate or supinate are an excellent choice, especially if you are doing lots of walking and running.
ASICS Men’s Gel-Venture 6 Running Shoe
Asics have always been a staple in the running world for producing very good quality shoes which are reliable and they have built a good reputation as a top running shoe manufacturer. Shock absorption during running is a key factor to help reduce excess movement of the lower limbs to provide control and support the back – and these shoes have a built in rear foot gel cushion system which does the job perfectly. The rear foot gel pad attenuates shock during impact phase and allows for a smooth transition to mid-stance which is a part of your walking pattern when the foot is in its neutral position. Asics have this technology built in to a lot of their shoes combined with a high standard rubber sole which helps them to remain durable and capable of the demands of running.
Vionic Women’s Sky Yvonne Slip-on – Ladies Walking Shoes with Concealed Orthotic Arch Support
These shoes are more of an everyday shoe which are a slip on design. The main feature of these shoes is a built in orthotic arch support which is concealed and built in to the insole. The shoes are designed by a podiatrist which means they should expertly support your foot as they are aware of what different needs your foot requires in a shoe. These shoes are designed for people requiring support on the inside or medial aspect of their foot. Typically, people who over pronate with excessive inward rolling of the foot can develop pain in the arch of the foot but then this has a much larger impact on the lower back. If our foot and ankle rolls in, the knee follows suit then this causes extra stress on the hips and glutes as they work hard to control the full lower limb. If the hips are repeatedly being stressed in to positions they normally don’t move then this pulls on the back and causes back pain.
If you have a flatter arch and/or you over pronate your feet when you walk and run then this is a perfect foot for yourself. Orthotic insoles can be an expensive addition so a combined orthotic which is concealed in the shoe is a handy feature without having to replace current insoles and add another in. These shoes also have a memory foam insole built in for added comfort to allow them to mould to the shape of your foot. The tough rubber exterior sole makes these shoes durable and flexible mesh allows for breathability and also freedom for your toes and feet to move.
In summary, lower back pain prevention starts from the ground up. If your back pain has seemingly started without a cause then you need to assess and think about all of the factors in your current routine. If there hasn’t been an injury or an obvious cause and you remain relatively fit and active – have a think about your foot wear.
What may be useful is a visit to a podiatrist to have your feet assessed, walking analysed and find out what happens with your feet when you walk or run. If you have flat feet you may benefit from a shoe with arch support, if you have a high arch and hyper supinate you may need a shoe which stabilises your foot during walking and running.
These simple, proactive measures may help to reduce any future potential back pain episodes, especially if you are a keen walker, runner or gym goer.