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The Link Between Footwear and Back Pain

The Link Between Footwear and Back Pain

If you experience back pain regularly, you’re not alone. Over 72 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain. Causes of back pain vary and may result from sitting or laying down too long, overexerting yourself, or an underlying disease. But did you know your footwear could cause back pain?

Are your shoes contributing to your back pain? The experienced team of experts at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine explores the link between footwear and back pain to help you determine if you should change your shoes.

Understanding the kinetic chain

The joints and muscles of our bodies work together to perform movement. The upper body kinetic chain starts at the spinal column and includes our shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, and fingers. The lower-body kinetic chain starts at the spinal column and travels down to the pelvis, hips, thighs, legs, knees, ankles, feet, and toes.

Any misalignment or dysfunction in an area of the kinetic chain can affect other body parts, like a chain reaction.

Footwear and spinal alignment

Our feet act as shock absorbers when we run, walk, or jump. Wearing shoes with inadequate support and a lack of proper cushioning throws our kinetic chain off balance, resulting in unnatural movements and increased stress on our joints and muscles, including those in the back.

Footwear with inadequate arch support

The foot arches help absorb shock and give our body balance and alignment. Wearing shoes with insufficient arch support can cause overpronation (inward rolling of the foot) or supination (when the foot rolls outward). Either of these conditions can cause a domino effect that results in a misaligned spine.

Choosing shoes with adequate arch support helps prevent these issues and reduces the risk of back pain. Some people benefit from customized orthotics to improve arch support.

How to choose the right footwear

When selecting footwear, it's important to consider the specific needs of your feet and body. Different sports and activities require different shoes, so choosing footwear that matches your activity level is crucial. Running shoes, for instance, should offer ample cushioning, support, and shock absorption to minimize the impact on the feet and the spine. Cross-training shoes, on the other hand, provide versatility for various exercises while maintaining stability.

Consider the following factors when looking for shoes:


Your shoes should not pinch or squeeze your toes or feet. Put the shoes on and walk around the store before buying to ensure they are comfortable when moving and that no areas of your feet are irritated.

Choose low or no heels

Footwear with no heels or a low heel is best, as long-term use of high heels can cause an increase in the lumbar spine’s curve, resulting in back pain. Keep your heels under two inches.

Check your posture

Shoes that change your posture can affect your spine and contribute to back pain. Choose footwear that maintains good posture when walking and moving.

Reduce back pain with proper footwear


The relationship between footwear and back pain is undeniable, and the impact goes beyond just the feet. At Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine, our experienced professionals are dedicated to guiding you toward the right footwear choices. 

We understand the unique biomechanics of each individual and can recommend shoes that offer the necessary support for your specific needs. Our experts also conduct gait analysis to assess your walking or running patterns, identifying any irregularities that could contribute to back pain. 

Book an appointment online or over the phone with Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine to learn more today.


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