Are Footwear and Back Pain Related?

By Dr Graeme Teague B.Sc, B.App.Sc(Chiropractic)

Are footwear and back pain an essential ingredient in your back pain relief? If you suffer with back pain, having decent footwear is more important than you think. This article will help to teach you why footwear is important and what the best way is for you to choose the best shoes for back pain relief.

Your feet are a complex mechanism. The foot has many bones and these are used to create a shock absorbing effect when you walk, run, jump and play. It is well known that your foot must function well or pain can occur elsewhere in your structural frame.

The Great Shock Absorber

footwear and back pain The foot mechanism is a great shock absorber, however your ankle, knee and hip aren't. If the foot starts to function poorly, then the muscles in the lower back and pelvis will start to tighten. A poor functioning foot can cause pain in your knee, hip or low back, and with time this pain can even spread throughout the spine.

For the foot to shock absorb it must move freely, which is why when you wear bare feet your foot is in the ideal position, as long as it is functioning well. If the bones in your feet are tight or the small muscles of the feet out of balance then the foot may start to fail to do its' job.

The arches in your feet are the mechanism that allows your foot to absorb any shock. There are two main arches the longitudinal arch that runs down the arch of the foot. There is also an arch running across the foot.

Combined these two arches allows your feet to splay outwards and the foot to flatten when you walk, jump or run. If these arches "collapse" then the shock absorbing effects change and can disappear somewhat.

This is why the foot is important, to firstly make sure it is moving well, that the muscles are balanced and that the connection to your brain (proprioception) is maintained.

Footwear and Back Pain

To help the foot function well. Good footwear is essential. It is not necessarily the brand of footwear you wear that is important. It is how it fits your foot that counts.

The shoe should fit you foot, NOT your foot fitting the shoe. There are a few helpful hints that you should be aware of to make sure you have good footwear.

  1. Buy shoes preferably in summer.
  2. In summer you tend to wear flip-flops (also called jandals or thongs) on the hotter days. You walk around in bare feet on sunny days and inside the house you take off your shoes more often. As you do this your foot will widen and splay out more as the shock absorbing mechanisms are used more.

    So your foot is larger than it is in winter. Which is why the shoes you buy in winter, can feel smaller when you wear them in summer. Buying shoes in summer when you foot is in its ideal functioning zone means you have shoes that if your feet, and not feet trying to fit shoes.

  3. Make Sure The Shoe Fits
  4. your footwear and back pain relief Don't buy into "the shoe will stretch" salesman talk. The shoe may stretch but for now it should fit your feet like a nice glove. They shouldn't feel tight, they shouldn't restrict your foot motion. Your foot still needs to splay out as you walk.

    So make sure the shoe is comfortable when you try it on. If not it is less likely to allow your foot to move well.

  5. Avoid High Heels
  6. For women high heels are great when going out on the town. But when going to work they place your foot in a position that is not ideal for your foot to absorb any shocks at all. They may look good, but they are not good for your feet.

    So slip another pair of comfortable shoes in your bag, or leave them at work and slip them on when you go to work so that as you move around the workplace you are wearing comfortable shoes.

Footwear and Back Pain Relief

Shoes will not necessarily give you back pain relief, but having good footwear will help with back pain. If your feet are not moving well, if the foot-brain balance is not correct and you have poor fitting shoes you are more likely to suffer with back pain.

Back pain relief is not just looking at your back; it is looking at all the structural areas that influence how your spine functions. Footwear is important, in fact essential if you have back pain and want to ease pain.

So make sure you follow these simple guidelines when you are looking for new shoes. But make sure your foot functions well, the muscles are balanced and the foot-brain balance (proprioception) is switched on, or back pain relief may be harder to obtain.


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