A Step in the Right Direction

April 10, 2017

Selecting correct shoes can ease back and joint pain

Flip flops, heels, flats, athletic shoes, boots, wedges, and sandals. There is a type of footwear for every occasion and season. Typically, when women shop for shoes they base their purchase first on style and second on comfort. But how many consider musculoskeletal implications of what they wear on their feet?

Poorly designed and ill-fitting footwear can lead to bigger problems than blisters and toenail discomfort. “Ill-fitting footwear is often a contributing factor for quite a few ankle and foot conditions as well as some knee and hip conditions,” says Fort Hamilton Hospital physical therapist Rebekah Trimbach, PT, CSCS.

Wearing shoes that do not provide appropriate support can cause health complications down the road as well as impede recovery after an injury. Common issues include:

Back Pain: Heels can result in back pain due to overuse of lumbar spinal muscle action. Prolonged use of heels could cause changes in posture and possible lumbar intervertebral disc compression.

Knee Pain: If shoes do not adequately absorb shock, the knees are forced to bend more to compensate, potentially resulting in overuse injuries like tendonitis.

Ankle Pain: Inadequate support can lead to increased stress on the ankles and other joints potentially causing them to collapse inward or outward more than normal and result in inflammation, pain, and discomfort.

“One of the biggest things to be aware of in choosing a pair of shoes is proper arch support,” says Trimbach.

For many sandal lovers, that unfortunately means limiting time spent wearing flip-flops.

“Flip-flops should be avoided for long periods of time and on uneven or slippery surfaces,” says Todd Grime, MD, Kettering Physician Network sports medicine physician. “They have minimal arch and other support and we see patients with foot and ankle pain or injuries attributed to flip-flops.”

Dr. Grime also suggests considering foot structure when choosing shoes. “People with flatter feet tend to need more arch support and people with high arches tend to do better with a more cushioned sole. Another thing runners should keep in mind is to replace shoes every 300 to 500 miles.”

While correctly fitting shoes can minimize injury and discomfort, persistent joint or back pain is usually caused from primary issues like weakness, poor biomechanics, or posture, all of which can be evaluated by a physician. “We always recommend seeing your doctor if you are experiencing joint or back pain,” says Trimbach.

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