Back pain is one of the worst feelings in the world! It limits your day-to-day movement, and is constantly present at the back of your mind, keeping you aware that you are in pain. Sometimes the pain is so intense that you can’t even get proper sleep. While there are many reasons as to why people get back pain, one of the most common reasons behind it is the use of the wrong kind of shoes. A good pair of walking shoes can help you ease out your back pain by quite a bit.
Over the course of this article, we shall take a closer look at what walking shoes are, how getting a pair of good walking shoes can help you with your back pain, as well as how to choose the best walking shoes for all your needs.
Sometimes we just see shoes as just a covering for our feet and forget that they are also about comfort, posture, and help us walk better. However, while a good pair of shoes is great for you, a bad pair of shoes can cause quite a few problems, beginning with shoe bites and aching feet to back pain. Back pain, and particularly lower back pain is often caused by using the wrong pair of shoes.
Different kinds of shoes have different purposes. You can’t use a pair of sneakers to go running and you can’t use running shoes for walking. Each purpose demands its own special set of shoes which are designed to provide you the right kind of experience, correct your posture, and provide you the right kind of padding so that your back isn’t stressed out.
Over the course of this article, we shall also answer one of the most popular questions that we get: what is the difference between walking shoes and running shoes, and why you should wear different shoes for different kinds of movements.
However, the primary idea behind this article is to help you get the best walking shoes so that you never face back pain due to selecting the wrong kind of shoes again, so let us first address the basic question:
What is the Connection Between Shoes and Back Pain?
Investing in a good pair of shoes is investing in yourself. Not only do your shoes define your personality, but they can also help you walk better, ease your back pain and ensure that you can walk for longer without feeling tired. While a good pair of shoes can help you walk an optimum distance, it is actually a bad pair of shoes that can cause the main problem.
Given that your foot is home to 26 bones and 33 joints, along with hundreds of muscles, you really need to take good care of it. Many people don’t really realize it, but there’s a direct connection between your back and your feet.
There are two major ways in which your feet affect your back – pronation, and supination. Pronation basically refers to the posture in which your feet curve inwards and supination is the opposite of it where the foot is curled outwards. While some levels of pronation and supination are normal, and even desired to exercise your feet, it is only when they happen for a long amount of time and on a fairly regular basis that it causes back problems. Your shoes are to blame for all of this!
If your shoes are curling your feet in the wrong way, your balance goes off, and the weight distribution of the body changes in a way that your back will be stressed, particularly the lower back. This happens when the pelvis portion of your body moves forward but your hips are pushed backward. This is why walking shoes are designed in a way that can ensure that your feet are neither hyper-pronated nor hyper-supinated, but remain at a comfortable position.
Walking is great for your health. It can help uplift your mood, help improve the flow of blood, as well as help you improve your blood pressure levels and burn some calories. These are some of the top-of-the-mind benefits that you get when you walk. There are many other benefits associated with walking. However, when you are walking, you need to walk with the correct posture and using the correct gear. Shoes are the most important of the lot.
Getting a good pair of shoes can help you walk for longer distances because the overall endurance of your leg and feet improves due to better shoes. Wearing the wrong kind of shoes can be counterproductive because they can alter your posture and the angle of your legs while you walk. This results in weight being shifted to the wrong portions of your body, thereby causing back pain. Primarily, bad shoes lead to lower back pain. As we move further down the article, we shall discuss in detail which are the worst kind of footwear that you must avoid while you walk.
Let us now try and understand what exactly are ‘walking shoes’ and how are they different from regular shoes.
What are Walking Shoes?
Walking shoes are shoes that are specifically designed to help you walk better without stressing other parts of your body such as the lower back. These shoes provide enhanced arch support, as well as a number of other features that are beneficial for your posture. These are some of the best shoes for lower back pain.
If you are someone who tends to walk for long hours and suffers from frequent back pain, you might want to get yourself a pair of walking shoes, designed to help you walk better. These shoes also tend to have better cushioning, with the help of a good midsole and insole, which ensure that every time your foot hits the ground, the impact is not as intense as it would otherwise be.
Walking shoes are meant to be worn for long distances and hence they have a specially designed toe box, which ensures that your toes have enough space to move around and aren’t really trapped inside the shoe. A wide toe box is highly recommended in any good walking shoe, as we shall see in greater detail in our buyer’s guide.
Getting good walking shoes can not only help you with back pain and lower back pain but also with heel pain, ankle pain and a number of other pain points can be destressed by wearing the right kinds of shoes. One of the best examples of shoes for lower back pain is that of Brooks addiction walker, which provides you with the perfect combination of pain relief as well as comfort.
There are some enhancements that walking shoes have over regular shoes which make them a great option for walking long distances. Let us take a detailed look at this buyer’s guide up next, which will help you know about all these features in great detail:
Best Walking Shoes for Back Pain in 2021
Ultimate Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Walking Shoes?
While buying a regular pair of shoes, you consider the appearance, comfort and fit as the three main characteristics, but when it comes to getting a pair of walking shoes, you need to give it a much more detailed view. These are feature-rich shoes that provide you the ultimate level of comfort. Let us take a closer look at some of their features and see what actually makes for a good pair of walking shoes:
Traction basically refers to the kind of grip you get on the surface. Traction is particularly important in your shoes when you are walking on surfaces that are slippery or wet. Shoes with bad traction can cause you to slip often and fall, which isn’t suitable for those people who like to walk long distances. When you take a long walk, you are likely to cross various surfaces, and the better the traction on your rubber outsole, the better grip you will have and the lesser will be the chances of you falling and hurting yourself.
Also the better the traction and grip of your shoes, the lesser will be the pressure on your back too. When it comes to balancing, a great deal of it happens with the help of your lower back and your hips. If your shoes hold on well to the ground and have good traction and grip, you will no longer need to exert that pressure on your back.
One might get confused when they see the word ‘shoe stability’. To make things clear, shoe stability basically refers to how much over-pronating or over-supination happens to your feet when you are wearing a shoe. The more ‘stable’ a shoe is, the lesser hyper pronation or hyper supination is likely to happen. This has a direct impact on your back and will make sure that you do not face frequent back pain while walking. When it comes to shoes that provide you stability, you might want to check out Adidas Originals Men’s Ultraboost, which offers great stability.
Sometimes shoemakers do not care too much about the way your foot would be once it is inside the foot and it is this negligence that leads to back pain over the long term. A good shoe isn’t only a good-looking and long-lasting shoe, but it is also a well-designed product – one that takes care of your foot and your back.
This is one of the most obvious things. When you are looking for the best walking shoes, you would like to make sure that they are durable enough to last you for a long time. A decent pair of walking shoes must last you a minimum of 300 to 400 miles. The tougher a shoe is, the better it is for you.
People who buy walking shoes are generally ones who like to go on long walks and record about 150-200 miles a month. Hence, you need something that would last you for a minimum of two to three months before you need to change some of its components such as the insoles. When testing the durability of a shoe, also make sure to check the durability of the insole, outsole, and midsole.
4. Arch Support
Unless you have a flat foot, which is a whole different story, you are likely to have an arch in your sole. Arch support is very important and almost all good walking shoes provide you with that. The arch of your foot needs a raised bump for additional support so that you can walk better, and for longer distances without any pain in the arch. This is why people prefer walking in specialized walking shoes rather than walking in flip flops which are generally way flatter.
Arch supports are also great because they help you balance your body better as the weight is constantly divided between your toes and your heel and you don’t stress out either of them suddenly. Arch support also helps people who have chronic foot and joint-related pain.
Sometimes, you will also come across high arch and low arch support shoes. High arch shoes are meant for running. They can help you run better but their shock absorption isn’t that good. Low arch shoes aren’t really running shoes but they are great shock absorbers. Hence, people use them as walking shoes. Make sure you check the arch support on your walking shoes before you buy them.
Insoles are basically bedding for your feet, which provide you with an extra layer of comfort that you need when you are walking for longer distances. Insoles are generally present in walking shoes but are missing from sneakers (unless you prefer to add them yourself). This is because walking shoes can be thicker compared to sneakers which are almost always slimmer and lighter in comparison. Insoles are usually made out of foam, memory foam, gel, or air cushioning. ASICS Mens Gel Nimbus 20 provides some of the best insoles we’ve seen on shoes.
Insoles are a must-have for walking shoes because they help you prevent one of the biggest problems that you are likely to face: blisters. When walking for long distances, blisters are a very common problem, especially if you aren’t used to walking regularly. Having insoles in your walking shoes will not only help you absorb shock and ease out back pain, but it will also help you in avoiding blisters because there’s an extra layer of padding present between your feet and the ground.
Sometimes, there are specialized insoles that are created to correct one’s posture. These are called orthotic insoles and are used in special cases, especially when it has been diagnosed that your posture is causing your back pain. When looking for the best shoes for lower back pain, make sure that you are getting a pair that has good, thick, and comfortable insoles. Lastly, insoles also help you provide a snuggly and comfortable fit.
When it comes to shoes, there are multiple soles. First off, there’s the upper sole which is the top portion of the shoe. Then comes the insole, which is what you put your foot on. The part that makes contact with the ground is the rubber outsole. However, between the insole and the outsole, there’s a midsole. This is usually made of plastic, Polyurethane, EVA or other similar material and helps provide one last level of padding between your foot and the ground before the outsole.
The most important function that a midsole plays is that it helps provide cushioning and gives you a strong rebound, making sure that you do not feel the rough surface beneath your feet and any bumps that you come across while walking. The thinner the midsole, the bumpier your feet are going to feel when walking on an uneven surface. When looking for shoes for back pain, make sure you get a pair with a thick midsole. In our opinion, the ASICS Gel-Kayano 24 Running Shoes offer a very sturdy midsole.
7. Cushioning and Padding
Cushioning and padding is critical – most importantly at the soles, but at all levels. Having now read about the function of the insole and the midsole, you now know that a bulk of the cushioning and padding lies there. This is extremely important because the harsher and harder the surface is, the worse your back pain is likely to become. The best shoes for lower back pain generally feature a lot of padding.
However, the padding needs to be just the right amount. Excess padding and cushioning can make you wobbly and can potentially make you lose balance. Hence, it is always important to wear your shoes and check them once before you decide to purchase them or keep them (if you order online). The lesser the cushioning is, the more pain you are likely to feel while walking. Hence, you must make sure that there’s an ample amount of cushion and padding support in your shoes.
8. Toe Box
Badly designed shoes can cause quite a bit of pain in the forefoot region. You need to take good care of your forefoot, and particularly the toe area. This is why a toe box is important in any shoe. Having a toe box that is not too cramped can help you walk better and provide additional comfort to your toes. It can also help prevent problems such as bunions and hammertoes from happening. Having a good toebox is also beneficial because it ensures your forefoot is not overpronated.
Another major benefit of having a well-designed and wide toe box is that it improves your balance as well as speed while walking. Besides that, it helps align your forefoot in a better manner which is quite beneficial during exercises, and it helps ensure you do not face any injury. A well-designed toebox can also work towards improving the circulation of blood in the toes. Lastly, it can also help reduce foot soreness after exercise when compared to a shoe with no toebox or a tight toe box.
9. Size and Fit
Now, these are the two most basic things. You should never buy a shoe that is smaller than your size, and you should also avoid buying shoes that are larger than your size, especially if you are looking forward to buying shoes for walking. Size and fit matter the most while buying any footwear – anything from flip-flops to running shoes, to shoes for walking. Make sure that the fit is not too tight either.
As a rule, try sticking a finger at the sides or the back of the shoe. If it slides in without hurting too much, it is the right size. If the finger can slide in or out of the shoe without any pressure or resistance, the shoe is a little larger than what you’d otherwise want it to be – and if it hurts too much or won’t slide in, then the shoe is of a tight fit. Sometimes fit and size can also be gender-specific. Brooks Ariel 18 is one of the best options for those looking for a good pair of walking shoes for women.
Besides the comfort and the features of the shoe, there’s one more thing that some people tend to give quite a bit of importance to – the design of the shoe. More like the design ON the shoe. Some people prefer to wear shoes that are of a single, solid color and do not feature any designs or patterns on them. Others, on the other hand, prefer wearing flashier shoes that express their personality. While it does not serve any function of comfort or help you walk better, design continues to be an important aspect for most buyers. Do check out all the design options before you finalize on your next pair.
Last but certainly not least, the cost factor plays a major, major role when it comes to buying shoes. These can be any kind of shoes – walking, running, sneakers, formals, etc, but the cost limitation always puts things into perspective. Shoes can be quite an expensive purchase at times so make sure you are going in to buy them with a set budget in mind and are following that budget, else you might end up paying way more for shoes than you otherwise had budgeted to. This is why people prefer to buy shoes online because they get a much larger price range over there.
Things to Keep in Mind While Trying New Shoes
Besides the aforementioned factors above in the buyer’s guide, you also need to keep some things in mind when you are actually, physically, trying out the shoes that you are going to buy:
Try New Shoes After 3 PM
It is best advised to go shoe-shopping after about half the day is over. This is because when you walk around a little, your feet begin to swell. By afternoon, they are at about the position they would remain for the rest of the day. Going in with these feet is always better because otherwise, you might end up with tight shoes when your feet swell later in the day. Tightly fitting shoes are a common reason for back pain.
Try Out Both Shoes
This is a very common mistake that a lot of people tend to make. People try out only one shoe and get it packed if it fits. It is always recommended to try out both the shoes and walk about 20-30 steps to determine if the shoes are really what you think they are. Also sometimes one foot can be a little larger or broader than the other – so it is best suggested to test out your footwear on both your feet while buying them.
Don’t Ignore Pain
One of the simplest and the most basic rules of buying a shoe is – never buy a shoe that is causing you the slightest bit of pain. Sometimes people ignore it saying that the shoe will adjust to their foot over the next few days. That is such a myth. The shoe isn’t adjusting to the foot, you normalize that uncomfortable fit over the next few days. Always get a shoe with a comfortable fit and one which does not cause any pain in any part of your foot. This is the golden rule of buying shoes that you must not ignore.
The idea of wearing good shoes is to avoid lower back pain and pain in other parts of your body. Shoes such as Orthofeet Proven Plantar Fasciitis Pain relief shoes help you deal with various kinds of pain associated with feet.
What Kind of Footwear to Avoid While Walking?
Now that you know which kind of shoes you should wear for walking, it is also important to know what to avoid. In fact, it is more important to know what to avoid than what to wear. If you are not wearing the correct footwear, at worse you are not comfortable enough and there’s some pressure on your back. However, there are some types of footwear that are actually detrimental to your back and cause lower back pain if worn for longer walks.
Sneakers aren’t really good for walking and can cause lower back pain because they have a very flat outsole. Another major disadvantage of walking in sneakers is that it can lead you to slip often because they aren’t really designed for rough surfaces and the grip is quite weak. Besides back pain, they can cause various other types of aches and pains too.
These are absolutely the worst things to wear while walking. While flip flops make for great bathroom slippers or for a casual home-based setting, they aren’t really something you should even think of when it comes to long walks. Given their terrible arch support and lack of insole or midsole, you are going to get the worst walking experience and are certain to get lower back pain if you wear them for long walks.
We’d like to backtrack on our previous statement. Heels are actually the ones that are the WORST for walking. While they make for an attractive look, they were never designed for walking – or even climbing stairs. Wearing heels is going to hyper pronate your feet like no other footwear. It causes pain on all the wrong angles and is just the worst thing to wear while on a walk. Wearing heels for a long period of time is one of the biggest reasons for back pain that people face.
Walking Shoes vs Running Shoes vs Trainers: What is the Difference?
Walking shoes, running shoes, and trainers. These are three different kinds of shoes that people often tend to get confused between and sometimes use one for the other. Which is the right pair for you? let us take a closer look and try to understand the difference between these three:
Running shoes are shoes that are specifically designed to suit the needs of runners, who generally tend to have very different needs than that of walkers. Running shoes can be different based on how you run. They are different for toe-strikers, midfoot-strikers, and heel-strikers. You need comfortable shoes like the Saucony Men’s Redeemer ISO Road Running Shoe to ensure you are not getting pain after running.
These shoes are built in a way that they are lighter in weight but also provide more cushioning than regular walking shoes. Running shoes also need to provide much better traction and stability because the chances of falling or slipping while running are much higher compared to walking. These shoes are designed with a technology-focused approach and are meant to improve your technique. One of the best examples of these kinds of shoes is the Brooks Men’s Adrenaline GTS 18 Running Shoe.
These shoes, on the other hand, are the best shoes for walking, but not so great when it comes to running. Unlike running shoes, which are designed with improving the athlete’s technique in mind, these shoes are designed with comfort in mind and will give you the best possible walking experience. Those using these shoes are bound to get the most comfortable walking experience.
Here, the shoes can be heavier and wider, so that you can walk without having to worry about uneven surfaces or losing your grip on the ground. These shoes are also designed to correct your posture while you walk so that you do not end up putting unnecessary stress that causes lower back pain. If you are considering buying walking shoes for women, you might want to take a closer look at the Vionic Walker, which is a great set of shoes.
‘Trainers’ is basically what we call gym training shoes and are meant to be worn by people who frequent the gym. The focus of trainers is to provide you with safety and stability while working out and they focus more on the ankle area. Trainers provide additional support to your ankle region so that your movement is not restricted while you are also safe while working out.
These shoes also suit the need for cardio training quite well and can be worn in exercises such as treadmills and cross trainers, as well as can be worn during lifting weights. These shoes are also good for short distance runners, but not suited for long-distance runners, who will need to buy separate running shoes. Trainers, however, don’t do much for back pain and gymgoers often complain of lower back pain because of the wrong shoes/posture.
What are Motion Control Shoes?
When you are running or walking, your foot is constantly in motion. This leads to the overpronation of your foot from time to time, and when it happens a little too much, you begin to experience pain in your feet, as well as lower back pain. This is something that is otherwise totally avoidable if you choose the right kind of footwear.
Motion-control shoes basically perform the task of reducing the amount of motion that your foot goes through. The more stable your feet remain while you walk, the better you can run without the risk of losing your balance. While these shoes are also good for walking and for reducing lower back pain, they are primarily meant for runners who wish to run long distances without losing stability. These shoes also provide decent arch support as well as good comfort. Brooks Men’s Beast 20 is one of the best motion-control shoes that we have come across in recent times.
What Are Some Other Reasons for Back Ache?
While wearing the wrong pair of shoes can be a major reason for lower back pain, they aren’t the only reason why people get backaches. Here’s a look at some other reasons that cause back pain:
Standing, sleeping, sitting, or walking in an incorrect posture can cause a lot of damage to your back. You must make sure that the alignment of your back is perfect in order to remain pain-free.
Standing for Long Hours
Standing for long hours is another major reason why you might get lower back pain because once your legs and hips tire out, some amount of stress goes to your lower back too. This causes backaches.
Being obese or overweight is another significant reason why you are getting back pain. As the weight of your body increases, so does the stress on your back to keep you standing straight. Hence, that increased pressure on your back can cause quite a bit of back pain, particularly lower back pain.
No surprises here. As you age, the bones become weaker, and sometimes some ailments that target the muscles and the bones can also result in backaches. Aging causes severe lower back pain as that is where the maximum amount of stress goes when it comes to walking or even just standing straight.
Lifting Heavy Stuff
Lastly, this is something that is extremely common. If you are lifting a heavy object, you need to do it with extreme caution. Your posture needs to be right and you need to do it slowly and gently. Most people who suffer from lower back pain and back sprains get it from incorrectly lifting heavy objects. This is one of the most common kinds of gym injuries as well so watch out for that while working out!
Frequently Asked Questions About Shoes for Back Pain
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about shoes for lower back pain:
Can I wear Flip Flops for Walking?
Flip flops are a decent set of footwear for short walks, or for wearing inside a home environment. However, when it comes to long walks, you should never wear flip flops because they provide a hard surface with no padding and cushioning, as well as no arch support. These are actually detrimental to the health of your foot and your back if you wear them for long walks.
Can Old Shoes Cause Back Ache?
Old shoes, that have worn out outsoles and insoles, or have suffered a change in shape due to the wear and tear that they have gone through are not considered fit for walking. It is strongly recommended to discard them and not use them for long walks. These shoes are one of the most common reasons for lower back pain.
Can Running Shoes be Used for Walking?
While the answer technically is yes, the bigger question is – should you? Running shoes are lighter in weight and focus more on keeping your legs stable and reducing your motion while improving your running technique. Walking shoes help you improve your posture and are focused more on providing you with the right level of comfort you need while you walk. When it comes to getting shoes for back pain, running shoes don’t make the cut while walking shoes are a really good fit.
Are there Specific Shoes for Lower Back Pain?
There are no specific shoes for lower back pain, but any shoe that is well designed enough will help you relieve the pain on your back. Basically, you need a combination that features a good fit and the right size, a wide toebox, proper arch support, and a good insole and outsole. Once you check all these boxes, you have the best shoes for back support in your hand (or on your feet).
Are Sneakers a Good Option for Long Walks?
Sneakers are generally shoes that you wear for short-term events such as going to a workplace or for a party. Sneakers aren’t really something that you would want to wear for long walks, particularly if you are doing it on a frequent basis. Sure, a sneaker with good padding and a soft insole can be a good tool for walking, but they generally have a very flat sole without much traction so we’d generally prefer avoiding them for long walks.
Given that how many people in the world suffer from back pain because of wearing the wrong shoes, we thought that this is an article we must write about. We hope that by the time you have reached this point in the article, you know which are the best shoes for back pain relief. A poorly fitting shoe can cause a lot of problems and is one of the leading reasons for lower back pain. We have tried and provided you with links to some of the best shoes for back support which will ensure that you do not face any pain while walking. If you still have any questions, doubts, or recommendations, feel free to send them to us over the mail or in the comments below and we shall get back to you as soon as we can!