When most people go shoe shopping, they tend to focus mostly on color, style, function, and comfort. While we definitely think about how comfortable our shoes feel on our feet, it’s not too often that we consider the impact our shoes have on our back and spine. However, it may surprise you to learn that poorly fitting footwear can actually contribute to back pain and affect our overall spinal health. This is because your feet and spine are connected by a system known as the lower limb kinetic chain.
The Lower Limb Kinetic Chain, Explained
The kinetic chain is a concept of movement that illustrates how the movement of one part of the body affects another part of the body. The lower limb kinetic chain involves the joints in your lower extremities, from your spine to your toes. Each of these joints provides mobility to otherwise fixed segments, and each is independently capable of multiple movements.
As your feet and ankles are located at the bottom of this chain, they have a major impact on the other joints’ position and stability. By wearing ill-fitting shoes, you’re forcing the joints to move in more forward or backward positions. This misalignment can lead to muscle tightness or imbalances, and eventually, joint and back pain.
What Should I Look For or Avoid When Buying Shoes?
When it comes to footwear, beyond style, you have to account for such factors as arch support, tightness, and cushioning. According to healthcare experts, here are the types of shoes shown to cause the most problems for your back and spine:
With high-heel shoes, the foot is placed at an angle, causing the joints and muscles to get out of alignment, which can lead to problems for the feet, lower back, shoulders, and neck. They also force you to walk on the balls of your feet, which shifts your center of gravity forward, causing you to arch your back when you stand, adding to your back pain. Here are some high-heel guidelines:
- The lower the shoe’s heel, the better.
- Consider the shoe’s slope for comfort. For example, a platform sole decreases the angle between the heel and the ball of the foot, distributing your weight more evenly.
- Avoid shoes with narrow, pointy-toe boxes.
- High heels should fit snugly and hold the foot firmly in place.
Flats With Poor Arch Support
Sandals are okay for a walk around the pool, but not a day of heavy walking. Not only do they offer little or no cushioning, but they lower your heel below your toes. When you wear these shoes, you’re rotating your pelvis in a way that can worsen back pain.
Old or Poorly Fitted Shoes
You need to regularly switch out your sneakers for a new pair. Health experts recommend replacing them every 300-500 miles, or 6-8 months, whichever comes first. Depending on your activity level, this may even be sooner.
Schedule a Pain Management Consultation for Back Pain
Whether your shoes are contributing to your back pain or something else, the interventional pain management doctors at The Spine & Sports Health Center can help. We invite you to schedule an appointment at one of our Hoboken, Jersey City, or Bayonne, NJ locations. During your consultation, we will discuss all of your concerns, evaluate all contributing factors, and design a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific back pain and pain relief goals.