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January 7, 2008

Back Pain - Are Your Shoes To Blame?

By Ellen Shear

No definitive study has been conducted to prove that back pain results from bad shoes, but if you’ve been wearing high heels as long as I have, you wouldn’t need a study to tell you that back pain does occur as a result.

And back pain is not limited to wearing high heels on a daily basis; wearing bad shoes, whether they’re heels, flats or even running shoes, can cause severe back pain and problems that may result in something even worse.

The soles of the feet have pressure points that affect every part of the body, so if you spend over 10 hours a day wearing shoes that aren’t conducive to good posture and comfort, you can bet that problems throughout your entire body will result, especially back pain.

High heels & back pain

When you stand upright, it doesn’t take much effort for your back to maintain its posture because this is a natural stance that your body is accustomed to. You may even notice that you sway back and forth slightly when standing in one place for an extended period of time - this is normal.

The reason for this is because your plantar (calf) and dorsal (shin) muscles work together to ensure that you don’t fall forward or backward.

But when you wear high heels, your toes point forward and your heels are elevated, limiting your ability to call your plantar muscles into action. So to compensate, the muscles throughout your body, which are now completely thrown out of unison, have to work harder to help you maintain your balance, which, more often than not, results in back pain.

And when your back muscles and joints are thrown out of alignment, they, too, need to work overtime to keep you upright, resulting in tired muscles that are more susceptible to injury. All this leads to back pain; sometimes it’s so bad that you need to lie down, other times it presents itself as a small, annoying sensation.

Tight shoes & back pain

I know I’m not the only one who’s heard “I’m sorry, we don’t carry half sizes,” and then bought the shoes anyway because they were just so awesome. Well, tight shoes are just as bad as, if not worse than, high heels.

In order for your body to function properly, your feet need to be in perfect working condition whenever they touch the ground. When your feet aren’t working right, the rest of your muscles and joints will end up working harder to compensate (I must sound like a broken record by now).

While you might think that sore feet are all you have to contend with after spending a day in a pair of shoes that had your toes feeling cramped and crushed, in the long run, all the other muscles in your body that are forced to take over will begin to cause you misery as well.

To begin, your calves, thighs and back muscles will become fatigued, and tired muscles are prone to serious injury. Not to mention that your feet will hurt and become cramped, making the end result even more undesirable.

Running shoes & back pain

Not all athletic shoes are created equal. For example, there are plenty of stylish walking shoes that are not meant for any rigorous exercise and yet, day after day, I see people using them to jog or workout at the gym.

Take a look at your old running shoes - are they worn out in one specific area? For example, if the outside of your shoes’ soles are worn, it would reveal that you place the outside of your feet onto the ground first. Bringing your old shoes to the store with you may help the salesperson recommend a pair that’s adequate for your feet.

When you buy running shoes specifically designed for exercise, make sure you shop for them later in the afternoon. Your feet get bigger as the day wears on and will definitely do so when you exercise.

And don’t forget to wear the same type of socks you plan to wear them with in order to make sure that they feel right on your foot.

You should be able to move your toes around freely in your shoes and the sole should move around freely when you bend your foot.

Buying shoes that fit

Although you probably grew up believing that you had to break a pair of shoes in before they began to feel comfortable, that’s actually not true at all. Shoes - all shoes - should fit snug and comfortably from the moment you put them on.

If they don’t, they’re probably not good shoes. And if you don’t stop wearing them, you’ll probably end up with a couple of muscle and joint problems down the line. And back pain is nothing to sneeze at.


dwabiz1 said...


Just stumbled onto your blog and read your article about tight fitting shoes. Very interesting as i can vouch for this as the God's honest truth. I'm a complete mess when i have to wear dress shoes with my suit. They just never seem to contour properly to my feet.

Lucy said...

lovely shoes


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