Footwear can have a much larger effect on back health than many people realize. This is particularly true for people who must stand for long periods of time on a regular basis (retail clerks, for example), but even a short amount of time in the wrong shoes can cause stress and pain to your vertebrae and the soft tissues that support them.
Why does footwear affect back pain?
While many of us don’t give much thought to the process of walking, the truth is that it can be a very delicate operation. Walking the wrong way can, over time, lead to conditions like sciatica, bulging discs, disc pain and other degenerative spine disorders.
Our shoes and how they support our feet can have a lot to do with developing a good gait or a bad one. The way your foot moves during a step affects how the rest of your body follows.
When you step correctly, your foot should come down on the ground heel first. Then, the arch rolls inward (called “pronation”), bringing first the ball of the foot and then the toe onto the ground to push off again.
“Underpronation” is what happens if your arches do not roll inward far enough, and it can result in inadequate shock absorption. When your feet don’t absorb shocks, your spine is jarred, leading to possible disc herniation and other spinal injuries. “Overpronation,” when your arches roll too far inward, can cause your entire lower body to rotate inward. The chain reaction of muscle and bone movement in overpronation causes increased strain on your lower back.
Selecting the right shoes for you
People who underpronate tend to have high arches that are rigid and don’t bend well. If this describes you, look for shoes with plenty of cushioning material to help absorb the shock that your feet do not.
If you overpronate, you probably have relatively flat feet. Make sure to look for shoes with excellent arch support. If the problem is severe enough, you may need orthopedic shoes to help stabilize your gait and avoid injury.
No matter what type of walk you have, try to select shoes that conform to the shape of your feet and fit your lifestyle. You may want to visit a footwear specialty store to have your gait analyzed and get specific recommendations from an expert. Finally, some types of shoes are bad for anyone: high heels and flip flops, for example, should be worn sparingly to avoid injury.
If your footwear and walking style have caused you to develop back pain, bone spurs or other spinal conditions, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from back pain.