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‘I’m a Podiatrist, and These Are the 6 Best Shoes for Sciatica That I Recommend to My Patients’

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Experiencing pain of any kind is no fun, especially if it has to do with the sciatic nerve. "Sciatica nerve pain is pain that radiates from the sciatic nerve at the level of the lower spine down the buttocks and back of the leg," says Nelya Lobkova, DPM, a podiatrist based in New York and founder of Step Up Footcare. It's caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve at the base of the spine, likely due to a herniated disk along the back bone, and can make everyday movements no walk in the park. Thankfully, sciatica nerve pain can be managed through a combination of stretching, strength training, and wearing the proper shoes (yes, shoes make a big difference).

"If shoes fit properly, meaning both length and width is sized correctly, there is a decreased chance of fall or injury causing sciatic nerve compression," she says. Additionally, supportive and stable shoes can promote good posture, which can prevent sciatic nerve irritation.

We tapped a podiatrist for their input on the best shoes for sciatica. Ahead, you'll find their recommendations and tips on what to look for.

The best shoes for sciatica

Best sneaker

Photo: Klaw
Klaw 528 — $148.00

Kiss your back pain goodbye with the Klaw 528. Recommended and designed by Dr. Lobkova, this supportive shoe has all of the elements for stability and comfort, including arch support and a heel cup. This shoe has a seven millimeter heel-to-toe drop, promoting better foot mechanics, and decreasing the amount of stress on your body. Even more, the shoe has a cushioned midsole to absorb shock.

Sizes available: 4-11

Colors available: 4

Best sandal

Photo: Birkenstock
Birkenstock Arizona Platform — $130.00

Another iteration of the Arizona line, the Birkenstock Arizona Platform is Dr. Lobkova’s sandal of choice. That’s because it has a cork footbed, which provides arch support, and molds to your feet with each wear. It’s also lightweight and has adjustable straps, so your sandals don’t slip and slide. What can we say? Birkenstocks reign supreme when it comes to foot-friendly sandals.

Sizes available: 4-12.5

Colors available: 2

Best running shoe

Photo: New Balance
New Balance Fresh Foam x Vongo v5 — $150.00

The New Balance Fresh Foam x Vongo v5 is a cushioned sneaker with a four millimeter heel-to-toe drop. You can go the distance thanks to the shoe’s knit upper, which cradles your feet as you stride out. Constructed with a foam footbed, these kicks will cushion any hard blows to your back and prevent compression on your sciatic nerve.

Sizes available: 5-12

Colors available: 2

Best boots

Photo: Geox
Geox Aerantis 4x4 Abx Ankle Boots — $95.00

The Geox Aerantis 4×4 Abx ankle boots have “a good amount of midsole cushioning for shock absorption,” offering support for people with sciatica pain, says Dr. Lobkova. Although boots are notoriously known for trapping heat, the Abx ankle boots are made of the brand’s signature ventilation system, allowing trapped heat to escape (no more sweaty feet). The boots are finished with a waterproof layer, so you’ll be able to walk out in rain or snow.

Sizes available: 5-11

Colors available: 1

Best budget

Photo: Merrell
Merrell's Moab 2 Waterproof Shoe — $95.00

Waterproof and skid proof, the Merrell’s Moab 2 shoe has got you covered whenever it’s wet outside. The outer layer and tongue locks out water and debris, while the textured sole gets a hold of the ground (no more slips and slides). It also has a firm heel counter for extra stability and shock absorption.

Sizes available: 5-12

Colors available: 4

Best loafers

Photo: Macys
Zee Slip-on Loafers — $45.00

Dressing to impress, but want to stay comfortable? Dr. Lobkova recommends the Zee slip-on loafers. While low, the platform provides shock absorption, and the cushioned footbed levels out any pressure on your joints. It comes in gray, black faux leather, and six other colors.

Sizes available: 5-7.5

Colors available: 8

What to look for in a shoe for sciatica

Heel-to-toe drop

A heel-to-toe drop is defined as the comparison of the amount of cushioning beneath your heels and the amount beneath your toes. Dr. Lobkova recommends shoes with lower heel-to-toe drop to prevent a pressure load on your hips and knees. So, just like Limbo, the lower the heel-to-toe drop, the better.

Heel height

When picking shoes for sciatica, look for a shoe with a heel height no higher than one inch. "A heel height above one inch causes the torso to tilt forward over the pelvis, which can worsen sciatica pain," explains Dr. Lobkova.

Stability

To reduce strain on your sciatic nerve, you'll want a shoe that's supportive and rigid, particularly in the midsole and heel counter. To determine whether your heel counter is firm, "make sure you cannot pinch this part of the shoe," Dr. Lobkova says. You'll also want to check for a rigid midsole because "support from a shoe that is not too flexible has midsole rigidity," she adds. To test, try to bend your shoe's toe box and heel in half. Rigid midsoles shouldn't fully fold in half.

Finding the right shoes is half the battle, but now you've got the resources and knowledge to make it happen.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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