13 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 shares. Also, should you frequently wear high heels, they're likely contributing to that pain because, as Dr. Gannon explains, “High heeled shoes in all forms are terrible for your feet and back. Ahead, we tapped the experts to share insight into what to look for when shopping for shoes for back pain, how to choose the best pair, and curated a list of the 13 best options on the market today. Scroll ahead to learn more.

Experts In This Article

Best Podiatrist-Recommended Shoes at a glance

What to look for

When purchasing shoes for back pain, first, your shoes need to fit properly. “You should have a full thumb's 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, Golden Goose, Birkenstock, Dromedaris, and Ecco shoes.

Dr. Lobkova suggests that you look for shoes with a small heel-to-toe gradient, 7mm or less–this is the difference in elevation from the floor between the heel and the toe area. She likes Klaw and Altra shoes for those who have back pain. “When the heel is higher to the ground it causes the forward tilting of the torso and 'lordotic' [c-shaped] back to stabilize the body,” she says. “This can be painful or detrimental to someone with back pain.” 

Adequate cushioning in the midsole is also important. “Look for a shoe that isn't thin-soled,” adds NYC Podiatrist Dr. Nelya Lobkova, DPM at Step Up Footcare. “This part of the shoe absorbs most of the shock from the ground while walking, so less will hit the other weight bearing joints, like the knees and the back.” 

Finally, consider arch support, which is found in the insole of the shoe. “Look for a raised area in the center of the insole to buttress and support the facial band in the foot,” Dr. Lobkova recommends. “The presence of an arch support stimulates the foot to naturally supinate into a more neutral configuration as we walk, thus leading to less complications in the joints above.” 

Shop the 13 best podiatrist-approved shoes

Lilac upper and blue and white EVA foam sneaker
Best cushion: Hoka Bondi 8 — $165.00

These super cushiony shoes are both supportive and comfortable, especially around the ankles, and they have shock absorption. They’re relatively lightweight, made of recycled materials, and have a mesh upper so they’re breathable for all day wear. They are available in regular width but the toe-box has plenty of room. With 21 colors to choose from–think pastel pinks, aqua, and cheery sea foam and coral accents, as well as a selection of neutrals–you can get a shoe to match any outfit.

The mesh-and-Lycra upper, along with a cushioned sole makes this shoe a go-to for routine running and walking, even if you end up going on a rocky path or hiking trail, which makes up for the shoes’ somewhat bulky sole. Just remember that the foam construction gives it the necessary bounce.

Best for: Running, walking

Sizes available: 5–12, regular

Colors: 21


  • Made with recycled materials
  • Cushioned
  • Great for training
  • Breathable


  • Looks bulky
  • Might be heavy for some
walking shoes with leather upper
Best for city walking: Vivobarefoot Novus — $230.00

Upon review, Dr. Lobkova notes that the Vivobarefoot Novus sneaker has a thick, cushioned sole. “This is a good shoe for casual walks,” she says. That’s in part because the sole is made of Michelin material rubber–yes, as in the car tires–which will get you all over without wearing your feet or your back down. You’ll be surprised how soft the leather upper feels and the laces are made of organic cotton. It’s the ideal casual trainer to go with any outfit, whether you’re wearing a sundress in the city or joggers for a hike.

While the shoe only comes in one width, the toe-box is incredibly roomy. Upon testing, our toes felt completely free, as if we were out barefoot with no pinching whatsoever. Each step allowed the body weight to be evenly distributed. The back heel cushioning provided enough padding that the Novus could be worn without socks, which is nice since the recycled PU insert contains naturally antibacterial cork.

The best part is that it comes with a 100-day trial, so if you’re not in love with them, just send them back.

Best for: Walking

Available sizes: 5.5-11.5: Regular, Wide

Colors: 2


  • Uses recycled material
  • Wide toe box
  • Cushioned heel back


  • Expensive
  • Light colors only
EVA clog with multi-color flower print
Best clog: Dansko Kane — $60.00

These colorful Dansko clogs are as comfortable strolling around town as they are when you spend hours on your feet, say gardening or working in retail or the service industry. They help support the arch and have the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance. The cushy clog have a removable insole that’s made for shock absorption, allowing the weight to be distributed evenly without putting too much pressure on the knees and the joints. Thanks to the contoured heel, you can slip into these in seconds, but your foot won’t slip out as you go about your business. While the upper does have side perforation for ventilation, the foot can get sweaty if you’re not wearing socks. (Thought it hasn’t caused blisters.)

We also love that these are incredibly lightweight, thanks to the bio-based EVA made from fast growing and renewable sugar cane. Bonus: the EVA material is incredibly easy to clean, making them perfect for gardening, or any other messy job that can encounter spills.

Best for: Walking, Gardening

Available sizes: 5.5-6 to 11.5-12: Medium

Colors: 7


  • Made of sustainable bio-based EVA
  • Lightweight
  • Cushioning
  • Easy to clean


  • Feet can get sweaty
Silver casual sneaker
Best minimalist: Ecco Soft 7 Mono 2.0 — $170.00

These sleek sneakers have a minimalist design that feels elevated and polished—not to mention, they will go with pretty much everything in your closet. No wonder they are an Ecco best-seller. You’ll love that the removable, leather-covered insole can be taken out for more space and added comfort. If that’s not enough reason to love these, the leather toe box has plenty of room, so your walking won’t cause back pain. Reviewers love these for its arch support.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 4–11.5

Colors: 5


  • Sleek design
  • Removable insole
Birkenstock Arizona Platform
Best sandal: Birkenstock Arizona Platform Vegan by Papillio — $110.00

It’s official: Birkenstocks are back. (There is even a cameo in the Barbie movie). 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. The insole actually contours to the shape of your foot to help distribute your weight as you strut around. Note that the outsole is made of EVA, a flexible material that is not only durable, but will help absorb anything underfoot. Since you can’t put your orthotics into your sandals, Birkenstocks have maximum cushioning and arch support as an added bonus, adds Dr. Lobkova.

It comes in a narrow width option, so the sandals don’t look too bulky. Plus, the adjustable buckle closures allow you to create a custom fit.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–11.5

Colors: White, black


  • Cushioning
  • Contours to foot
  • Arch support


  • Only two colors available
golden goose sneakers
Best casual: Golden Goose Super-Star Low Top Sneaker — $545.00

If you love Converse but don’t find them comfortable, you might want to splurge on a shoe that’s podiatrist-approved–Golden Goose. The luxury sneaker, which is made in Italy, has sturdy soles that offer a solid foundation for your foot. Though some reviewers note that the toe area feels a bit flat. The cushioning and , padding will let you tread on all day long, which makes these the go-to pair when you’re on vacation playing sight-seeing tourist

The top portion is leather, which may feel stiff at first and may need a bit of breaking in. 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/Ice/Night


  • Looks casual
  • Sturdy sole


  • Expensive
  • May need to break in leather
Dromedaris Karissa Boot
Best boots: Dromedaris Karissa Boot — $225.00

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. The removable footbed focuses on cushioning, arch support, and shock absorption–all which can mitigate the effects of plantar fasciitis. That combined with a rigid sole offers ample support with every step. You’ll love the faux fur lining which keeps your feet snug and comfy. Bonus: the inside zipper makes it a cinch to put these booties on. The German-made boots are a favorite of nurses, doctors, engineers, and ballerinas–really anyone who is on their feet all day.

Best for: Walking, casual wear

Sizes available: 5–12.5, regular and wide

Colors: 11


  • Arch support
  • Cushioning


  • Expensive
saucony blue sneaker with foam on sole
Best breathable: Saucony Triumph 21 — $160.00

American Podiatric Medical Association-certified, these Sauconys are very cushioned but also lightweight. They have a mesh upper that’s breathable, even on a hot summer day. T they hug your feet, and they come in a variety of bright colors to help your feet stand out in a crowd. The new version Triumph has PWRRUN+ sockliner so your feet can withstand any terrain, whether you’re going for a jog or putting in a day’s worth of walking. The sole has traction, even on gravel trails, so you’re less likely to slip. Plus, they are very lightweight, only 8.8 ounces!

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–12, regular and wide

Colors: 7


  • Contains recycled materials
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable


  • May wear down over the big toe
Geox Falena Abx Woman
Best Weatherproof: Geox Falena Abx Woman — $230.00

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. The top is made of nylon and a tumbled leather-effect material, so your footsies will look as if they walked off the runway. What’s more, the Geox Falena Abx is waterproof so you can wear them in the rain or snow. You can also remove (or replace) the footbed to suit your comfort needs.

Best for: Walking, cold weather

Sizes available: 5–10.5

Colors: Black


  • Hybrid design
  • Weatherproof
  • Good for cold weather


  • Expensive
  • Only one color
Yellow and blue shoes
Best zero drop: Altra Torin 7 — $150.00

Altra Torin 7 shoes are designed to be zero drop. “They actually have 0 mm heel-to-toe gradient so there is absolutely no totling forward of the torso or abnormal curving in the back when standing and walking,” says Dr. Lobkova. “They also have a lot of cushioning for shock absorption.”

The new Torin 7 has more cushioning (they added two extra millimeters of foam to the midsole), a molded heel color, and a re-developed tongue. These support in the midsole and are foot-shaped, giving your toes plenty of 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. The Altra outsole technology encourages natural foot movement, no matter the terrain.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5.5–12, regular

Colors: 5


  • Zero drop
  • Extra foam in midsole
  • Shock absorbency


  • Does not come in wide
  • Looks a little bulky
White shoes with orange sole tip
Best lightweight: New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 — $113.00

Talk about a pretty shoe that is actually pretty good at keeping back pain at bay. The New Balance 880v13 sports a supportive foam midsole and a cushy rubber outsole. (Plus, the midsole is partially made from bio-based foam.) Thanks to the 10mm drop, you’ll have good weight distribution as you’re out and about. . They’re lightweight to handle long days and long distances. The double-layer knit upper is made with at least 50% recycled content, is durable and breathable.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–11, standard, wide

Colors: 1


  • Sustainable
  • Lightweight
  • Creative design


  • One color
training shoe with foam sole and navy and purple upper
Best for wide feet: Asics Gel Cumulus 25 — $140.00

For anyone looking to log some miles, these Asics will help you do that comfortably (afterall, the style is inspired by cumulus clouds). The shoe has a foam midsole and special gel technology under the heel to provide extra cushioning and shock absorption with each stride. The Cumulus is also designed for anyone who has a neutral gait or underpronation–meaning your heel curves a bit to the outside when you walk–and relieves unnecessary pressure on the outside of your foot. Use this sneaker for everyday training, you’ll get a toe-off boost every time. It has an 8mm heel drop and weighs less than 8 ounces. Part of the shoe’s upper is also made with 90% recycled polyester.

Best for: Walking, running

Sizes available: 5–12, standard

Colors: 14


  • Made with recycled materials
  • Extra cushioning


  • May feel too wide for some
  • No half sizes
  • May feel too soft for running
White Klaw tennis shoes good for walking with great arch support
Best Arch support: Klaw, Klaw 528 — $148.00

Dr. Lobkova contributed to technical design for Klaw footwear. The shoe has a small heel-to-toe drop of 7mm and the midsole is lightweight (it only weighs 11 ounces) yet it is cushioned, specifically at the heel for heel contact phase of gait. “The insole has a deep heel cup and medial and lateral arch support, which helps maintain the foot in neutral position,” she says. “This decreases the possibility of compensatory problems in other weight bearing joints, such as the knees and the back.” Dr. Lobkova also notes that this is a great shoe for orthopedic walking. You’ll also love that it has a rain-proof leather upper and an anti-slip tread–that way you’re always sturdy, no matter what the weather or the terrain.

Best for: Walking

Available sizes: 6-11: Regular, Wide

Colors: 4

  • Excellent cushioning
  • Arch support
  • Grippy tread  
  • Forefoot rocker
  • Rain-proof


  • Limited colors

How can wearing the right shoes help with back pain?

“Back pain could stem from inadequate shock absorption in the feet, which are the foundation of the weight bearing body, explains Lobkova. “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.

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