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Aches and pains are more a part of life than many of us would prefer them to be. We exercise! We stretch! We spent a whole bunch of money on our mattresses, and still, our backs hurt every morning when we wake up. That back pain is one of the more day-ruining aches of them all. Footwear might not solve the root cause of the problem, but it shouldn’t make the problem worse, either.
What causes back pain
When shopping for shoes for back pain, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, and most importantly, is the type of back pain you’re experiencing. “I think people have to realize that with back pain, it really depends on the problem that you have,” says Mark Mendeszoon, a podiatrist and owner of Achilles Running Shop in Pennsylvania. “For example, my back hurts right now because I had a hard workout this morning and then stood in surgery all day. But if you’re severely arthritic and you have localized back pain, you’re going to need a lot more than shoes to help you.”
There are a whole host of issues that can contribute to back pain, however, that might be difficult to suss out yourself, like residual pain from plantar fasciitis, flat feet or muscle imbalances. So, it’s best to visit your doctor to determine the problem, especially if you experience chronic pain or have induced an acute injury.
What to Look for in the Best Shoes for Back Pain
If, like Mendeszoon, you get sore after tough workouts or stand on your feet all day (we’re looking at you, nurses), a shoe with shock absorption and strategic cushioning — possibly even labeled as orthopedic — is going to help relieve direct pressure to your pain points.
“Someone with back pain is going to want a shoe that has enough support but with proper cushioning, too,” Mendeszoon says. “You want a shoe that doesn’t have a significant heel drop [aka one with an even amount of cushioning from heel to toe] and fits well both in length and width, since achieving proper foot alignment helps prevent all kinds of aches and pains, including in your back.”
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that a heel drop (or the measurement of how high the heel of the shoe is compared to its toe) might feel good to one person but uncomfortable to another. Certain angles might help stretch your Achilles and feel generally safer on your body, Mendeszoon says, adding that you can play with heights to see what best suits you.
While some of the most comfortable sneakers and walking shoes on the market are great options, you’ll want to avoid flip-flops, slides, sky-high heels and anything that crushes your toes, Mendeszoon advises.
In general, Mendeszoon recommends a good running sneaker for back pain, which can also double as a super comfortable style for work — whether you go into an office or setting that requires slip-resistant footwear.
For shopping made easy, start here with the 15 best shoes for back pain.
Hoka One One Bondi 7 Sneakers
Hoka One One’s Bondi 7 sneaker is beloved by everyday customers and podiatrists alike. It has a thick band of cushioning that offers great support and simultaneously gives the shoe a trendy, chunky look. It’s going to feel super plush the first time you wear it for a walk or a run, but keep an open mind — these are as comfy as could be once you get used to the sensation.
Asics Gel-Kayano 25 Running Shoes
Best Running Shoes for Back Pain
To Mendeszoon’s point, running sneakers tend to get the most attention when it comes to top-of-the-line support and structure updates. Asics’ Gel-Kayano 25 is a favorite of long-distance runners, and if it can keep a marathoner feeling good, it’s a safe bet that the shoe’s supportive midsole and roomy toe box will be gentle on your back.
Vionic Rechelle Sneakers
Best Women’s Shoes for Back Pain
Like all Vionic shoes, the brand’s Rechelle sneakers emphasize podiatrist-approved foot support above all else. This lifestyle-y sneaker works well for more casual work environments and is a perfect complement to all your athleisure looks. It has built-in arch support for proper foot alignment, too.
Nike Air Max 90 Sneakers
Nike’s Air Max 90 is one of the best sneakers you can buy, as it offers the construction and support of a workout shoe but doesn’t skimp for a second on style. The bouncy midsole is comfortable and the higher platform might be a good fit for your foot flexion and extension.
Sketchers D’Lites Sneakers
Sketchers D’Lites are an affordable option that puts function first. They have a wide, supportive base to get your foot in the right position and a memory foam insole for ultimate underfoot comfort.
Cole Haan Original Grand Chukka Boots
Best Dress Shoes for Back Pain
Sneakers might be your best bet for back pain, but we know that you can’t always be in sneakers. Cole Haan’s Original Grand chukka boot is a good option for something that’s appropriate for the office and formal events, without skimping on support. For boots, Mendeszoon recommends options you can lace up for your best fit and that have a heel that’s part of the underside of the shoe, rather than added on (like in, say, a bootie or other dress shoes).
Adidas UltraBoost 21 Running Shoes
Best Shoes for Nurses With Back Pain
We’ve written a lot about how the Adidas UltraBoost 21 sneaker works well for people with all kinds of foot conditions, and they’re great for easing back pain, too. Even nurses who work on their feet all day have mentioned this in the shoe’s review section. On a personal note, I’ve recommended these to my dad, who is constantly suffering from back pain. They’re soft and comfortable and don’t feel bulky or goofy to wear daily.
Altra Solstice XT 2 Cross-Training Shoes
For shoes that have a minimal heel drop, Mendeszoon recommends Altras. The Altra Solstice XT 2 is pretty flat, which isn’t going to be right for every body or type of pain, but it will get your feet into a more natural position and comfortably stretch our your heel as needed.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11 Shoes
New Balance’s Fresh Foam 1080 V11 shoes have a lovely foam midsole that absorbs impact from walking, something that you might find affects your back pain. As far as running shoes go, these are pretty lightweight and make for a great day-to-day option.
Red Wing Six-Inch Moc Toe Boots
Red Wing’s six-Inch moc toe boot is another superb style that laces up and features a heel that doesn’t separate from the bottom of the shoe. Not only are these very good work boots but they look cool, too.
Blundstone Stout Chelsea Boots
Blundstone’s Stout chelsea boots are made for working and exploring, complete with a midsole that’s meant to be as supportive as possible. These are also water-resistant, so we like them for helping keep feet dry in a pinch.
Dr. Scholl’s Men’s Crux Chukka Boots
Best Orthopedic Shoes for Back Pain
This comfortable men’s shoe from Dr. Scholl’s is a bit of a sneaker, a bit of a boot and all about support. The flexible sole moves with you, and the built-in heel insert is optimally placed for a comfy fit all day long.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Running Shoes
Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus is a stellar running shoe that helps with back pain as well. The style comes in standard to extra-wide widths, making it a great option for people who have wider feet or are looking for a more stable base.
Adidas Adistar Sneakers
Best Walking Shoes for Lower Back Pain
Thick-soled, maximalist sneakers have a become a popular look, but they also serve a purpose: Their thick midsole “rocks” you forward gently, taking some of the pressure and impact off other parts of the body. Adidas’ Adistar sneakers achieve this functionality without looking goofy.