The Best Running Shoes for Back Pain | Total Performance Physical Therapy

The Best Running Shoes for Back Pain

March 11, 2021

Having proper running shoes that support your type of foot is very important to maintain a healthy body.  Having a proper running shoe can limit the stress on the back, knee, and foot.  However, many people already are running with pain and continuing to run with pain, so it is even more important to run with correct shoes.

It needs to be stated before continuing that if you are running with pain that it is important that you get the pain evaluated.  If you are running with back pain and continue not to address it, it can lead to a herniated or slipped disc, weakness and even more serious foot drop and general leg weakness.  Changing your shoes without getting the pain treated will not solve the problem.  It is also important to state that shoes alone can not solve problems.  In addition to running foam rolling, stretching, and strengthening are important things that need to be done on a regular basis to either become pain free or maintain your healthy body.

Before we talk about shoes, it is important to discuss the biomechanics of the foot.  Now this is going to be a very broad overview.  The foot is designed to do 2 things, absorb shock, and provide stability.  The foot that has a high arch has difficulty absorbing shock meaning that your joints will absorb this shock.  This shock absorption by the joints is where ‘wearing down the joints’ happens.  The more shock that the joints and muscles must absorb the higher the rate of injury.

Your foot is also designed to provide stability, a rigid lever that makes it able to push off the ground.  When you have a flatter food you usually have more cushion and less stability.  The shoe can help provide the push off that your foot lacks, without having your body contort in different directions to be able to push off properly.  These different foot types lead to the 3 broad categories of running shoe listed below.

There are 3 types of running shoes (loosely speaking):

  1.  Shock absorbing shoe
  2. Neutral shoe
  3. Stability shoe

These 3 different types of shoes are designed to support a specific type of foot.  It important that you have your foot evaluated while standing in a stationary position and in a walking or running evaluation.  A reputable running store, such as North Wales Running Company, can help you select the correct shoe for your foot type.  I know everyone would like to go to Kohl’s and buy the $30 pair of shoes and be done with it but to maintain your body’s health it is important to wear the correct type of shoe for your foot.

If you have a flat foot, most likely you will need stability shoe.  When your foot is flat and you run, there is no arch so your foot will go flat, and your knee will drop inward, and your hip will drop down and your back will drop.  Watch the video below to see an example of what exactly happens.

When all your structures, your foot, your knee, your hip and your back all collapse inwards that puts undo stress on the joints, the foot, knee, hip, and low back causing pain.  If you purchase a shoe that helps your foot become more stable and have more of an arch, you will be able to maintain the integrity of the leg and have it not collapsed causing pain.

If your foot has a high arch, then you need more of a shoe that provides cushion.  When you have a higher arch, there is minimal cushion in your foot and therefore the shoe you wear must provide the cushion that your foot is inherently lacking.  If you run without proper shock absorption you are putting hundreds of times the amount of stress on the joints that instead of being absorbed by the shoes, it must be absorbed by your foot, your knee, your hip, and your back.

If you have more of a neutral foot, meaning that you do not have a particularly high arch nor a particularly flat foot you have a neutral foot.  You still need to have support and cushion.  This support and cushion will allow your joints to maintain proper alignment and have appropriate shock absorption to maintain a healthy running form and healthy joints.

There are specific brands of shoes that make very good shoes for maintaining good biomechanics, New Balance, Brooks, Asics and Saucony make very good shoes but it is important that you be fitted so that you get the correct shoe.  Many of the shoes come in wider widths which most people need, and these are hard to find if you do not go to a specialty shoe store.

Regardless of what shoe you wear, you need to make sure that you are logging the miles.  Shoes are good for about 300 miles.  You also must realize that shoes will break down on the inside before they ever show wear on the outside.  Your shoe may look like new on the outside, but it could be worn down on the inside and not able to support your foot properly.

If you or someone you know Is experiencing pain and lives in Montgomery or Bucks County PA and wants a FREE consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, click here or call the office at 215-997-989