Protect Your Back With the Right Footwear
Injury Care & Prevention Jul 10, 2015
Protect Your Back With the Right Footwear

Back pain can occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is based on a prior injury, but it can also be caused by improper lifting, movements, or posture. One common cause of back pain that is easily remedied and often overlooked is your feet.

How the foot works

Feet are complex structures. Their job is to act as shock absorbers, reducing stress and strain on the rest of the body. When your feet are mechanically sound, and you step correctly, several things happen in succession: Your heel makes contact with the ground, and your arch rolls inward until the ball of your foot makes contact with the ground. Next, your arch flexes, your foot arches, you roll off the ball of your foot and onto your toes, and your foot pushes off for the next step.

If your arch does not roll inward far enough, your foot only absorbs some of the shock of each step. The rest of the force travels upward. This jars your back and hips and can lead to stress, strain, and injury. When your arch rolls too far inward, which is common with flat feet, it causes your entire lower body to rotate inward and strains your lower back.

Firm foundations are important

Wearing the wrong type of shoes, or shoes which do not fit properly, can put undue stress on your back and lead to chronic pain or even injury. Conversely, the correct shoe supports your foot, relieves back strain, and can help minimize mechanical problems.

• If you have high arches, your feet are probably not terribly flexible. Choose shoes with lots of cushioning to help absorb shock.
• If you have flat feet, choose a shoe with plenty of arch support; this will reduce strain on your foot and your back.
• Avoid heels of two inches or more. High heels force your pelvis to tilt forward while your upper body leans back, creating an unnatural curve in your lower back and straining back muscles. In addition, they keep your foot from bending and flexing naturally, reducing shock absorption and putting undue stress on your forefoot.
• Avoid flip-flops. They give your foot no support at all, and they throw off your natural gait. They also keep your foot from bending and flexing naturally because your toes must constantly grip the shoe to keep it from slipping.
• Choose shoes that are flexible, not rigid. For your foot to work properly, it must be able to flex.

You may not consider your feet as potential causes of back pain. In reality, your feet are the foundation upon which the whole of your body rests. Proper foot mechanics and support can either relieve or create strain on the rest of your body, from your knees to your neck. Talk to your care providers for additional advice on keeping your back healthy.