Almost none of us have never experienced back pain. For example, the writer of this article has a problem with the joint between his shoulders from sitting at a keyboard all day. (A little pilates and eating dinner while reclined could fix that up.) As a matter of fact, about as many as eighty percent of all people have experienced back pain at some point in their lifetime.
Plus, half of all workers may experience some symptoms of back pain every year according to the American Chiropractic Association. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, back problems rank the third most common reason people go to the doctor, headed by disorders of the joints and skin.
Sometimes the reason for back pain is obvious. Maybe you threw out something playing racquetball, pick-up basketball or salsa dancing. Lifting incorrectly can cause back pain as can bending the wrong way. However, there are times when the reason might be shocking.
For instance, the culprit could very well turn out to be your feet and incorrect footwear. But finding the proper shoes (there are a plethora of choices) may aid you in finding the relief you need.
What is the Best Kind of Footwear for Back Pain?
There is a myriad of excellent choices when it comes to shoes built to ease or reduce symptoms resulting from musculoskeletal complaints that involve the foot, knee, hip, and back pain. All such complaints are interlinked.
In the end, the force placed on the foot is eventually imparted on the back. The number one thing you should put your focus on is seeing to it that you opt for the correct shoe for your specific foot type and problem.
To start with, one of the most vital features to look for is the arch. It should be fashioned to work with your foot’s natural arch. For the most part, there are three arch shapes. These would be over-pronation (low), neutral, and excessive supination (high). Determine which one you have.
Here are the five boot models that have proven the most helpful for people with back trouble. Compare, contrast and see what’s right for you!
1. Dr. Martens Men’s Ironbridge Wide ST Work Boot
“I’ll kiss your Doc Martens, let me kiss your Doc Martens!” Maureen sang in the Broadway hit Rent. You’ll want to kiss these Doc Martens too! Dr. Martens has an interesting history. It all started near post-war Munich, Germany when Dr. Klaus Maertens hurt his foot in a skiing accident.
To make walking easier while healing, he created a shoe with an air-cushioned sole. Using old rubber tires, he made soles that had air trapped inside closed compartments. He showed this prototype to Dr. Herbert Funck, and they teamed up to develop and produce the shoes.
On the first of April 1960, the first cerise eight-eyelet work boot was produced and christened 1460. To market the brand better in England, the name was anglicized to Dr. Martens and the rest is history.
Features and Benefits
The steel cap toe will keep your toes safe from impact. For maximum foot comfort, there is extra padding on all the areas where feet apply pressure. The contrast stitching makes for a waterproof boot along with the oiled finish and water-resistant uppers. The smooth Cambrelle lining is gentle on the feet.
- They fit well and are very comfortable.
- They are waterproof.
- The sole is air-cushioned.
- They are electrical hazard resistant.
- The lining wicks away moisture.
- The ankle collar and tongue are all padded.
- Made in China.
- They’re a little heavy, but sometimes you need that.
- They’re only average in the durability department.
2. Wolverine Raider 6″ Work Boot
“I’m the best I am at what I do,” says Marvel comic’s X-Man character Wolverine. “And what I do ain’t pretty!” These eponymous Wolverine boots aren’t too shabby at what they do either. But unlike a certain Canadian superhero, they are pretty while doing it!
Established in 1883 in Rockford, Michigan, Wolverine is a well known American brand that blends superior materials with classic craftsmanship. Wolverine boots are made to stand up to the toughest of environments and still give you all-day comfort.
These days, Wolverine stands out in front of the industry with an unending commitment to innovation and one of a kind technologies such as Wolverine Contour Welt, Wolverine MultiShox, Wolverine Durashocks, Wolverine DuraShocks SR and Wolverine Fusion.
Features and Benefits
The removable footbed is just what you need to maximize comfort and lessen back pain. The rubber outsole makes for superior traction. The high arch and weatherproof leather make this boot ideal for use in damp conditions. Slip-resistant shoes will protect you from being injured by falls.
- It’s constructed from full-grain waterproof leather.
- The outsole is rubber.
- It is slip-resistant.
- The fully cushioned footbed is removable.
- It only takes about a day to break them in.
- It’s a little heavier in comparison to other work boots.
- The sizing can be a little tricky.
3. KEEN Utility Men’s Pittsburgh Steel Toe Work Boot
For something peach-a-rooney keen, go with KEEN! The Keen lives up to its name and then some. What could describe the city of Pittsburgh is also apt for the work boot with the eponymous name from Keen.
They’re as strong as steel, tough as nails and a willing and able to take on a hard day’s work. More than simply footwear, this is a very necessary tool you need to get the job done right.
These boots come with a long list of technology and feature all the better to fight fatigue and save your energy so you can keep partying even after putting in a day of work. Keen is built to last and to help you last.
Features and Benefits
The internal support mechanism is anatomically designed to give you much-needed arch support and cradle the natural contours of your foot. The more true to life, snug fit in the heel and a roomier, intuitive toe-box creates a unique work shoe. A waterproof, breathable membrane allows vapor to get out without letting water in.
- The comfort level is comparable to a tennis shoe.
- They are durable enough to withstand just about any working environment.
- They are oil and slip-resistant plus offer protection against electrical hazards.
- They are waterproof, yet breathable.
- The locking lace hooks become an issue if the laces are too tight.
- The breathable membrane has its limits.
4. Georgia Men’s 6” Wedge Work Boot
“Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.” goes the bluesy ballad that has since become the State Song of Georgia. But these boots won’t have you singing the blues! Everything right down to the last dependable detail can be traced back to 1937 when the Georgia Boot’s passion for footwear started.
It all began with a durable farm boot and simple credence that boots should work every day but as hard as the people who wear them. Thousands of different styles and refinements later, Georgia Boot keeps on doing whatever it takes to provide farmers, workers, and hunters just what their feet are asking for.
For all the severe conditions on the job or out in the field, there’s a product from Georgia Boot to give the wearer the utmost in comfort and protection. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or where you need to go. Look for what you need from Georgia Boot.
Features and Benefits
The patented SPR leather is tough and strong enough to handle anything thrown at it. The Goodyear welt construction is among the strongest and most valued of bonds in footwear manufacturing for a reason.
The upper and the sole are sewn together via a strong yet flexible stitch making greater durability. This method allows for resoling but doesn’t compromise the structure of the upper.
- It comes with a decent and striking laced-up design.
- The tanned leather is three times as durable as conventional boots.
- The fit is supportive and stable.
- The construction is of Goodyear welt type.
- The insole is shock absorbent.
- It is lightweight.
- The boot is resistant to oil, slips, water, and abrasions.
- There aren’t a lot of safety features here.
- There’s no odor control either.
5. Bates Men’s Ultra-Lites 8 Inches Tactical Sport Side-Zip Boot
Here’s something for people who want their feet protected but don’t want to set off metal detectors. Bates boots are designed to meet the strict LE code and are completely non-metallic. Since 1885 Bates has provided boots the soldiers in the U.S. Military and workers in both the Postal Service and civil service.
These Tactical Combat Boots are made to perform with responsiveness and flexibility. These boots are tough and lightweight yet comfortable. They have been worn with pride by police officers, M.P.s and security personnel.
What’s good enough for them is good enough for all us regular folks. All of the construction materials are composites that do not contain any metal. The full-grain leather and hardy ballistic nylon uppers are what make these combat boots hardcore.
Features and Benefits
The cushioned insole is removable and easily replaced. The side zipper makes these boots easy to take on and off while still conforming to the shape of your foot. The cement construction is tough enough to protect your feet yet light enough to be comfortable. The safety toe further protects your foot. The durable outsole is slip-resistant, making it less likely for you to fall while wearing them.
- They are slip-resistant.
- There’s almost no break-in period.
- They are extremely durable.
- The sizing is a bit on the long side.
- The laces are fragile but easy to replace.
Do You Even Lift?
Personal story time again! Some years ago, yours truly was working in a bookstore when he had to take time off to have abdominal surgery done. When I was cleared by my doctor to work again, it was with a weight lifting restriction. I forget the exact number, but I estimated it to be equal to the weight of two unabridged hardcover dictionaries.
My boss put me on stuffed toy duty for a while since I could lift a box containing a hundred of them and still be well in the weight limit. (There was still organizing to do. Elephants with elephants, bears with bears, monkeys with monkeys, etc.) After a while, I got back to my previous hefting ability but my doctor reminded me to use safe lifting techniques.
Here’s a fun fact! While women on average don’t have the upper body strength of the average man, women on average do have better lower body strength. Because safety lifting calls for putting the weight on your legs instead of your back and arms, a woman can lift as much if not more than a man if using the proper safety technique.
- First, assess what you’re lifting. Don’t be fooled by the size. A big box can be full of pillows and a little box can be full of dumbbells. If you need a dolly or assistance, go get it.
- Next, plan your pathway for when you are carrying the object. You don’t want any obstacles or tripping hazards.
- Get very close to the object. This will create more leverage and less strain.
- Use your legs and hips to lower yourself while keeping your back straight. (In ballet, this is called a plié.) Do not bend at the waist.
- Get a good grip with both hands and hold the object close to your body.
- Once you got that grip, tighten your core and with your back straight lift up with the legs and hips. Keep looking forward and hold the object close. Do not hold your breath while doing this.
Remember not to stack boxes too high, even if they’re light. You need to be able to see and stacked boxes tend to tumble when moved. (Newton’s Law states that objects will keep doing whatever it is they’re doing at that moment until stopped by an equal or greater force.)
Keep the object between your mid-thigh and mid-chest. If you need to turn, do it slowly and use your feet. And of course, make sure you’re wearing the proper shoes!
What is the Connection Between Back Pain and Footwear?
More than you would think! Though your feet and what you wear on them might seem far removed from your back, they are in fact related and may well contribute to your pain as well as stress and fatigue. This is what’s called a kinetic chain, the concept that the way you move one part of your body affects other areas.
Think of it as the Butterfly Affect only located entirely within your body. When you have incorrect arch support and your gait pattern is all wrong then that can all make its way into your back through the nervous system and can cause stress upon your back.
What connects back pain and footwear is bad choices as a consumer. Uneven heels, for instance (common in old, worn down boots) make for a clumsy, unbalanced gait and that can make your back hurt.
Heels that are too high can throw off your alignment and cause stress and strain on your back. The other extreme, no heel at all, brings about a deficiency of support which can lead to pain in the arches, heels, ankles, or knees.
When Should You See a Podiatrist?
There are various reasons why you might have back pain. However, if your primary health care provider can’t diagnose the specific reason for your pain, then it’s a good idea to seriously consider seeing a podiatrist to examine your feet, gait, and alignment.
To get ready for the appointment, compose a list of questions and symptoms plus your medical history. Don’t forget to include medications you may have taken and any lab tests and other tests you’ve had.
This would include X-rays and MRIs. Also, if your pain worsens when you walk or exercise, make sure to bring with you the shoes you wear when performing these activities.
How to Relieve Back Pain Caused by Shoes
Until your new boots come in, there are some ways you can alleviate your back pain. Different strokes for different folks, so see which of these works best for you. Before taking on a new health or exercise program, remember to discuss it with your primary health care provider.
True, a lot of it can come off as a bunch of “woo”, but many of the stretching exercises can work muscles just enough to ease out the pain. Gentle stretches or doing a few yoga poses targeted towards easing your back pain can aid in counteracting the pain caused by wearing the wrong shoes. Find a reputable instructor who will show you how to get into the positions safely without hurting yourself further.
Pilates is much like yoga with a concentration on working the core. It will strengthen your flexibility and sense of balance, which can all ease back pain. It’s also a little more grounded in the real world than many yoga practices.
Anything that forces you to concentrate on alignment will help your back. Pelvic tilts and supine spinal twists can get your lower back working. If you take a class, remember to tell the instructor if you have back problems as you should with yoga.
• Herbal remedies
Before you go running to the doctor to be shot up with steroids or dosed on opioids, try something a little easier to process and non-addictive (not to mention cheaper) first.
It can be hard to get relief from back pain because we use our back in many more activities in more various ways than we realize natural herbal remedies such as ginger, turmeric and devil’s claw can definitely help with very few side effects.
That is not to say there are no side effects, so do your homework first! Also, tell your doctor what herbal supplements you have been using.
Something as simple as a hot bath or shower or applying a heating pad to your back can help in increasing the oxygen and nutrient flow to your muscles. The heat will stimulate the sensory receptors in your skin.
This means that applying heat to your back may lower the transmissions of pain signals to your brain. If you can get a shower head with an adjustable massage head, that would be great.
Massage causes the muscles to relax, increases the blood circulation and relieves pressure on the nerves. All of this can ease back pain. Be sure to go to a masseuse who is well versed in treating pain, specifically back pain.
Don’t be afraid to tell the massage therapist if what they’re doing hurts. Listen to your therapist’s advice. Tempting as it is, do not go to sleep during or just after a massage. The sauna or a hot tub would be a good place to go right after.
• Additional help
If your back pain becomes excruciatingly debilitating and unmanageable it is recommended strongly that you pay a visit to a podiatrist, physiotherapist, or osteopath. Your usual general practitioner should be able to recommend someone.
A professional specialist will be able to diagnose the source of your back pain and could possibly recommend exercises that you can perform to relieve back pain.
The specialist will also be able to point out whether you need special shoe insoles or prescription orthotics to aid in easing back pain caused by poor footwear. If you need prescription medication or surgery, they’ll be able to help you with that too.
Other Ways to Keep Your Back Healthy
What part of the body works best when upright and is spelled using the letters N, S, E, I and P? That’s right! The spine! There are other things you can fit into your daily lifestyle that will ensure your back and spine stay healthy. They may even improve your health in general.
• Lift right It can be very easy to hurt yourself if you lift something the wrong way. Refer to the instructions earlier in this article on proper lifting techniques. Remember to put your legs, not your back into lifting. Keep the object close to you and keep everything aligned as you move.
• Get a good night’s sleep Sleeping on your stomach puts undue pressure on your spine so go to sleep on your back or side. Sleeping on your side reduces upper airway collapse, ensuring a good, deep sleep. Make sure your mattress and pillows are supportive.
• Stretch regularly To maintain joint function, it’s good to stay flexible. Start your day with a few good stretches, but be gentle and don’t overdo it. It’s also a good idea to stretch before doing any strenuous physical activity.
• Stay active You might want to consider an exercise routine that combines stretching, strengthening and aerobic activity. Walking, biking and swimming are all easy ways to go about this.
• Keep a healthy weight Exercise and healthy foods eaten in moderation will cause you to be at a healthy weight and thus put less strain on your back. Belly fat, in particular, can stress out the muscles and tendons in your lower back.
• Stay hydrated To keep the tissues pliable and elastic you need to stay hydrated. Hard as it is to believe, something as simple as just drinking more water can greatly reduce back pain.
• Work smart Keep ergonomics in mind while you work. Everything in your workspace; be that a desk, vehicle or workbench, must be at a comfortable height for you. Your knees should be at a ninety-degree bend with your feet flat on the floor. Remember to give yourself short breaks once in a while.
• Pay attention to your body If you are in pain, your body is trying to tell you something. That old joke about the guy going to a doctor and saying “It hurts when I do this” and the doctor says “Then don’t do it.” has some truth to it. Don’t strain yourself if you’re hurt and get help if you need it.
• Stop smoking It’s known that smoking is bad for your lungs and heart, but it’s also bad for your back. Smoking decreases bone density, impairs blood flow and stifles natural healing. Being winded easily may also discourage you from doing the exercises you need. If you smoke, find a way to stop.
Selling toys at a bookstore taught me one more thing about spinal alignment. When we sold Elf on the Shelf, the elf had to be displayed sitting up nice and straight. No one wants to buy a depressed elf! If you keep your posture good, you look better and that can lead to overall feeling better.
Back pain can be debilitating. It can affect every facet of your life if you have to deal with it. But you do not have to live with it. Your supervisor at work has the responsibility to see that you are safe on the job site and you have a responsibility to yourself to keep your body healthy and functioning.
If it seems that the cause of your back troubles is your boots, it’s time to switch them out for something that will help you walk better and thus live better. Remember to use proper lifting techniques and live a healthy lifestyle.
If your back hurts, find a way to fix it that works for you. Keep all of this in mind and your back should be able to serve its purpose of keeping you upright and moving for many years!