Back-Healthy Habits: Footwear

The way your foot hits the ground when you walk, and the support that you get from your shoes when you stand, walk, run, and work, may affect your joints and back. Sometimes, relieving back pain may be as simple as wearing the right shoes or sneakers, particularly if you are covering long distances or on your feet for long periods of the day. Wearing shoes with high heels or shoes with uneven wear, for example, can throw off your posture, and in turn, put strain on your back. If you think that your shoes aren't providing you with enough support, if they show asymmetric wear in the soles, they you are ready for some new ones. When selecting a new pair of shoes, look for the following:

A padded heel: The heel should have some give to it, to absorb shock as you walk. The heel should not ne too wide or too narrow; it should be about the same width as the heel counter.

A durable counter: The counter is the part of the shoe that surrounds the heel. The counter should hold the heel firmly in place as your shoe hits the ground, and as you push off the ground with the heel of your foot. A shoe with an unstable heel may put strain on the muscles and back.



A supportive insole: The insole is the inside part of the shoe that runs underneath the sole of the foot. A well made and constructed insole should support your arch and cushion your heel.

A roomy toe box: The toe box if the part of the shoe that houses your toes. The toe box should give your toes enough room to move comfortably while still keeping your foot relatively stable in the shoe.

A flexible sole: the sole is the floor of the shoe that accommodates the bottom of your foot. The sole should be somewhat flexible and form fitting to your foot, so that your foot feels comfortable in the shoe, and to absorb some of the shock as you walk. The sole should fit well to the shape of your foot so that your sole doesn't bend at the ball of your foot, making you uncomfortable and throwing off your posture. A shoe with a flexible sole should keep your body and posture correct as you walk, so that you don't strain your back.

Today, most sneakers made from the name-brand sneakers like Sketchers, Adidas, Nike, Saucony, and Reebok are designed with padding and flexibility, to make for comfortable walks and runs. Some sneakers are better for certain individuals than others, and some might be more likely than others to accommodate people that are flat-footed, wide feet etc. Though most sneakers come packages with comfortable I insoles, there are products out there to improve on the shoes you already like. People today can but custom shoe orthotics for their foot that are either bought at stores such as shoe stores or pharmacies, or that can be custom made, based on a mold that is made for your own feet. Some companies that you can make you custom orthotics, based on a mold of your foot, include Orthotic Shop at www.orthoticshop.com and Foot Dynamics at www.footdynamics.com.