Heels are getting higher and flip-flops are slapping sidewalks everywhere this summer, but are your shoes causing your back pain? What we wear on our feet has a huge influence on our posture and some of the worst shoes for your feet are also likely to cause spine degeneration and even precipitate the need for spine surgery. Find out which are the worst shoes for your feet and whether switching your shoes could make the difference between needing to call Laser Spine Institute tomorrow and putting the spring back in your step, free of back pain.
High-heels are the obvious culprit when it comes to poor shoe choices for the feet and back. Heels pose a risk of falls, ankle sprains, rapid degeneration of the joints in the feet, and problems with abnormal posture. High-heels can also exacerbate chronic systemic inflammation, making back pain worse. Switching to flatter or lower heeled shoes (less than two inches high) is the best option and men should realize that it is not just women at risk of back pain from heeled shoes. Cowboy boots and dress shoes also often have a slight heel that can cause the back to arch and the knees to be slightly bent triggering stress and shifts in muscle tone in the legs and add stress on the intervertebral discs and spinal ligaments.
Flats and flip-flops can be as bad as high-heels for back pain, however, with unsupportive ballet pumps providing no structure or cushioning for the foot. The gait can become dysfunctional with these kinds of shoes, leading to problems in the knees, hips, and the spine as well as plantar fasciitis. Supporting the natural arch of the foot with orthotic inserts can help restore functionality and stave off spine degeneration and other joint problems. Even better, opt for sneakers or shoes that offer good support for your arches and which absorb shocks to take some pressure off your spine
Perhaps the worst shoes for back pain are the so-called ‘toning’ shoes as these deliberately add instability into your gait and prevent your foot from flexing naturally. Strain in the leg muscles and more shocking impacts on the spine from each footfall, along with the constant need for minor muscle movements in the spine, all add up to early spinal degeneration as well as fatigue and back pain.
When choosing shoes for back pain it is important to ensure sufficient arch-support, a semi-rigid design (the shoe can bend at the toes but is not completely flexible), and heels no more than two inches high. Look for shoes with a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association – you may be surprised at how many stylish shoes are thus certified. Shoes can affect your gait, how you run, and how you stand and instability or lack of support provided by some of the worst shoes for the feet can create chronic back pain through muscle strain. Back pain that begins mysteriously can sometimes be traced back to the purchase of new shoes as the body makes a significant number of subtle movements to try to stabilize itself, with the result being muscle fatigue in the back muscles. It may be that pain medications for back pain and physical therapy become unnecessary once you swap troublesome footwear for good shoes and if you are scheduled for a minimally invasive procedure at Laser Spine Institute this summer, make sure to wear sensible shoes during your recovery.