How Your Shoe Choices Affect Your Back and Spine

Woman having back pain from high heels

Are Your Shoes Causing Back and Spine Problems?

Have you been wondering why you have back pain? Your shoes may be to blame. Unfortunately, the most stylish choices don't always offer the best support or comfort for your feet and spine.

What Happens When You Select the Wrong Type of Shoes

Your feet support the weight of your entire body, absorb the shock generated when you run and walk, and help keep your spine properly aligned. If you choose shoes that don't offer adequate support or place too much pressure on one part of your foot, the vertebrae in your spine may soon become misaligned.

Misalignments, called "subluxations" by chiropractors, cause back and neck pain, muscle tension, spasms, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Hands-on spinal manipulation can improve spinal alignment, but subluxations may continue to occur if you don't make a few footwear changes.

Some Shoes Are More Likely Than Others to Cause Problems

High heels are particularly troublesome because the shoes place extreme pressure on the front part of your foot. A one-inch heel increases pressure by 22 percent, while pressure rises by 76 percent with a three-inch heel, according to UPMC Pinnacle.

When you put on a pair of high heels, your posture changes completely. Due to the unnatural position of your feet, your lower back moves forward slightly, disrupting the natural curve of your spine. Wearing the shoes every day will increase wear on tear on the discs between the vertebrae that absorb shock and may strain the joints and ligaments in your back. Knee and muscle pain, tight calf muscles, and Achilles tendons are other consequences of wearing high heels.

Both high heels and flip flops can affect your gait, which is the way you normally walk. Gait changes may alter spinal alignment, cause balance problems, and trigger knee, hip, and back pain. Auburn University researchers reported that an altered gait due to flip flop wear makes walkers take shorter steps and affects the vertical force of the heels.

Lack of arch support is a common problem when you wear flip flops or flats. Arch support helps stabilize your feet, legs, and spine, and is essential to proper spinal alignment. Without proper support, your feet and your back may begin to ache by the end of the day.

How to Select Shoes That Protect Your Spine

Keeping these tips in your mind will help you select spine-friendly shoes:

  • Lower Your Heels. "The lower the better," is a good motto to follow when it comes to heels. If you're not ready to give up high heels entirely, give your feet a break by switching to lower heels after a few hours or wearing high heels every other day. Thick heels are a better choice than stilettos and offer more even weight distribution.
  • Rethink Your Flip Flop Obsession: Flip flops can be a good choice if you're spending the day at the beach or hanging around the house, but they shouldn't be your go-to shoes. You're more likely to develop back pain or injure yourself if you wear flip flops every day.
  • Choose Well-Cushioned Shoes. Shoes with plenty of cushioning help your feet absorb shock and, of course, are much more comfortable.
  • Replace Athletic Shoes Often. Your shoes may look like new, but that doesn't mean that they're still offering adequate support. Cushioning in running shoes may become compressed in as little as three months. Replacing your shoes often helps you avoid injuries and pain.
  • Try Orthotics. Orthotics are shoe inserts custom-designed by your chiropractor. The inserts provide arch support, keep your feet properly aligned, reduce foot movement, and provide extra cushioning.
  • Get Fitted. Ask the shoe salesperson to measure your feet the next time you go shopping. Wearing the wrong size shoes, whether they're too small or too big, may be a factor in gait issues.
  • Avoid Tight Shoes. Tight shoes also increase pressure on your feet and can affect alignment and gait. Make sure your shoes offer a little wiggle room in the toes.
  • Make Arch Support a Priority. Look for flats, flip flops, and other types of shoes that offer adequate support.

Are you suffering from back pain? We offer treatments that will realign your spine and relax your tight muscles. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

PubMed: Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association: Comparative Analysis of Human Gait While Wearing Thong-Style Flip-Flops Versus Sneakers, 7-8/10

American Osteopathic Association: The Real Harm in High Heels

UPMC Pinnacle: The High Price of Heels, 5/10/19

Spine Universe: High Heels and Flip-Flops Cause Back Pain, 8/1/18

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: That Pain in Your Back Could Be Linked to Your Feet

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Testimonials

"I struggled with back pain for 4 years prior to seeking help for my Scoliosis. I decided after visiting Dr. Breidenbach that it was worth the financial commitment and time dedication to go through the CLEAR scoliosis treatment. My pain throughout the 4 years was more of an extreme discomfort and occasional immobilization from immense pain spikes. My biggest problems occurred when I was on my feet for long periods of time, sitting for too long, and any type of consecutive lifting. It was emotionally draining because no matter what stretches, exercises or methods I tried, nothing seemed to work.
My pain level now, after completing the 4 month treatment program and continuing my at-home protocol, is extremely low and very manageable. The only time I experience discomfort is after very long days on my feet, which still only results in minor soreness. I am so much happier and less stressed about everyday activities, and can do so much more than before. My Cobb angle also improved from 13.8 degrees down to 4 degrees (71% improvement).
I would suggest the CLEAR scoliosis Center of La Crosse to anyone that experiences pain and dysfunction with scoliosis. The whole staff was extremely kind and supportive, while also maintaining a high level of professionalism. I am so happy to have a normal life without the constant annoyance and discomfort of pain from scoliosis.

Megan