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12 Podiatrist-Recommended Shoes for Back Pain That Are Comfy and Cute

Photo: Getty Images/Tony Anderson
There are a variety of things that can lead to back pain: not stretching properly after a workout, going against nature's design and sitting for 10 hours a day in front of a computer, or...it could be because you're not wearing the right shoes for back pain.

"Improper shoe gear can affect the alignment of all the joints in your lower body," says podiatrist Cary Gannon, DPM. "Think of your feet like the foundation of your house. It must be stable to support [everything] above it or the house falls." Meaning: If your feet aren't stabilized, neither are your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. This makes your muscles work harder to keep yourself aligned and steady, which can lead to lower-back pain because those muscles are tightening and working abnormally.

“If pain is concentrated in your lower back or hips, it may be related to improper shoe gear," Dr. Gannon says. Also, should you frequently wear high heels, they're likely contributing to that pain because, as Dr. Gannon says, "High heeled shoes in all forms are terrible for your feet and back."

What to look for in a shoe when you have back pain

"Back pain could stem from inadequate shock absorption in the feet, which are the foundation of the weight bearing body," say NYC Podiatrist Dr. Nelya Lobkova, DPM at Step Up Footcare. "The lower back, as well as the knees and heels, are weight bearing bones that transmit ground reaction forces up the kinetic chain as we walk." Thus, if you have back pain, it's important to look for shoes that have adequate cushioning, such as platform boots, sandals, or plush sneakers.

Dr. Patrick McEneaney, owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, notes that it's not a one-size-fits-all situation because people can have all different kinds of back pain or ailments. However, having shoes that have more shock absorption can help decrease the heel pounding on the ground, which then gets shot up the chain into the back. He says to look for shoes that have more cushioning at the heel, but also have good support in the midsole so that you're not putting a lot of unnecessary motion into your foot and leg.

In addition, functional orthotics placed inside the shoes can reduce back pain. "Functional orthotics (also known as custom orthotics) are the only devices that place the foot in neutral by providing the correct tilt in the heel as well as providing arch support." Custom orthotics, if made correctly, can minimize excessive motion in the heel and alleviate knee and back pain. Over-the-counter orthotics may also help with back pain, but since they're made of a soft and flexible material, they provide limited support.

How we chose best shoes for back pain

When purchasing shoes for back pain, first, your shoes need to fit properly. "You should have a full thumbs width of space at the end of your toes in your shoes. Your feet swell daily so shoes should fit loosely in morning and by afternoon will fit more snuggly," explains Dr. Gannon. Second, she says to choose shoes that are the right shape for your feet—basically, avoid tapered toe shoes. Third, choose shoes that are structured and more rigid. "Flexible shoes are the main cause of foot pain and instability," she says. She highly recommends HOKA shoes, along with Nike Air Force One, Golden Goose, Birkenstock, Dromedaris, and Ecco.

Ahead find the best podiatrist-approved shoes for back pain.

hoka bondi 8
Hoka One One Bondi 8 — $165.00

These super cushiony shoes are both supportive and comfortable, especially around the ankles, and they have shock absorption. They’re lightweight, made of recycled materials, and have a mesh upper so they’re breathable for all day wear. They are available in regular and wide widths, and in a variety of colorways ranging from bright and cheerful to minimalist and neutral.

Best for: Running, walking

Sizes available: 5–12, regular and wide

Colors: 12

 

 

nike air force 1
Nike Air Force 1 — $108.00

The low-top, iconic sneaker has a classic silhouette and is incredibly comfortable. Its boxy design gives your feet plenty of space to expand as they swell during the day, which is in important design element in shoes for back pain. There’s foam in the heels and Nike Air units in the forefoot for extra comfort.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–12

Colors: 5

golden goose sneakers
Golden Goose Super-Star Low Top Sneaker — $545.00

If you want to splurge on a shoe that’s podiatrist-approved, look no further than Golden Goose. They have sturdy soles that offer a solid foundation for your foot and cushioned, padding to tread on all day long. The terry lining is easy to wear with or without socks, and the shoes have a casual, distressed look that gives them that effortlessly worn-in look.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–11

Colors: White/blue

Birkenstock Arizona Platform
Birkenstock Arizona Platform — $110.00

These platform Birkenstocks are just like your favorite pair of sandals, but with more lift. They come in black or white vegan leather, and are lightweight and comfy. Adds Lobkova, Birkenstocks have maximum cushioning and arch support as an added bonus (since you can’t put your orthotics into your sandals).

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–11.5

Colors: White, black

 

Ecco Soft 7 Mono 2.0 — $160.00

These white sneakers have a minimalist design that feels elevated and polished—not to mention, they will go with pretty much everything in your closet. Those are all reasons to love them, but the reason their worth it if you’re looking to alleviate back pain is because of their stiff soles and roomie toe box.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 4–10.5

Colors: 7

Dromedaris Karissa Boot
Dromedaris Karissa Boot — $109.00

Dromedaris is known for its ultra-comfy, removable footbeds, which help provide stability and keep pressure off of your toes. These boots feature a low heel and rounded forefoot that doesn’t taper so you don’t have to worry about your toes getting squished. That combined with a rigid sole offers ample support with every step.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5.5–13, regular and wide

Colors: 11

Saucony Triumph 19
Saucony Triumph 19 — $150.00

American Podiatric Medical Association-certified, these Sauconys are very cushioned but also lightweight. They have a mesh upper that’s breathable, they hug your feet, and they come in a variety of bright colors to help your feet stand out in a crowd.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–12, regular and wide

Colors: 13

Cole Haan Zerogrand Strappy Sandal
Cole Haan Zerogrand Strappy Sandal — $54.00

Back pain doesn’t take a break during warm days, so these sandals, another recommendation from Lobkova, will keep you both stylish and supported. They have a foam cushioned sole and lightweight construction, and an easy-to-adjust velcro strap to make sure they stay in place.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–10

Colors: Honey/metallic, white/silver

Geox Falena Abx Woman
Geox Falena Abx Woman — $220.00

Sporty, waterproof, and breathable, these boots are ready for any adventure. They have a wide fit, a two-inch heel, and also a good amount of midsole cushioning for shock absorption. They’ll be your go-to shoes on cold days thanks to their thermal insulation and breathable upper to keep your feet warm and dry. The velcro strap also makes putting them on and taking them off super easy.

Best for: Walking, cold weather

Sizes available: 5–11

Colors: Black

Altra Torin
Altra Torin — $120.00

Altra shoes are designed to be zero drop (the toe and heel of the shoe is the same distance from the ground). The Torin has support in the midsole and is foot-shaped, giving your toes plenty or room to stretch out. People who suffer with back pain need shoes with shock absorbency, and these shoes “have exceptional cushioning to them, which is going to help reduce the shock that’s transferred up the leg,” says Michael Fishkin, a certified pedorthist.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5.5–12, regular and wide

Colors: 4

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12 — $105.00

The New Balance 880 are a neutral cushion running shoe with a dual-layer midsole for support They’re lightweight to handle long days and long distances. The double-layer knit upper is durable and breathable and there are reflective details so you can wear the out in low light. They also come in many width options to fit your feet: narrow, standard, wide, and extra-wide.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–13, narrow, standard, wide, and x-wide

Colors: 9

Asics Gel Cumulus
Asics Gel Cumulus — $90.00

For anyone looking to log some miles, these Asics will help you do that comfortably (the name is inspired by cumulus clouds). The shoe has a foam misole and gel technology under the heel to provide cushioning and shock absorption with each stride. Part of the shoe’s upper is also made with recycled materials.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–12

Colors: 17

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