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Are Your Feet to Blame for Lower Back Pain?

Published May 16, 2017
Tags:  Feet Orthotics

Could your feet be to blame for your acute back pain?

While you may not give a lot of thought to walking or the process of walking, the truth is how you walk may be contributing to your acute back pain.

Over time, walking incorrectly can lead to conditions like sciatica, bulging discs, disc pain and other degenerative spine disorders, according to the Laser Spine Institute, which has centers in six states across the U.S.

“Our shoes and how they support our feet can have a lot to do with developing a good gait or a bad one. The way your foot moves during a step affects how the rest of your body follows,” the site said.

The Problem of Overpronation

You can tell whether or not you are an overpronator, a condition of walking where you shift your weight from heel to the forefoot when walking or running, by looking at your shoes from behind. You'll find excessive wear on the inner side of your shoes — notice the wear pattern on your heels —and they'll tilt inward when on a flat surface.

If you have knock knees — a condition where your knees touch and your legs turn inward — or flat feet, chances are you a probably an overpronation.

Dylan Brogan of Spinal and Sports Care, a chiropractic and sports health center in Sydney, Australia, said, “The feet are the foundation for your body and excessive pronation of the feet will frequently lead to altered lower limb and pelvic biomechanics which increases the risk of injury throughout the body especially during walking and running. This can cause problems throughout the entire body as force is transferred up through the legs from the feet all the way up to the neck/head.”

Brogan outlined the following pain signals and symptoms that are common to overpronators:

  • Tension and pain being felt in the arch and sole of the feet.
  • Shoes wearing down faster on the outer side of your shoes.
  • Pain that may be felt in the ankle, shins, knees, hips and lower back during standing or physical activities such as running and walking.
  • Increased tension in the lower leg musculature.

Are Orthotics the Answer?

According to their specialists at Foot & Ankle Center of Washington, in Seattle, Washington, “the term ‘orthotic’ can refer to almost any device which is worn inside a shoe. Items called ‘orthotics’ can be found in infomercials, retail stores and even at trade shows. There are three very different types of “orthotics” – custom, customized and off-the-shelf. The educated consumer should be aware of each type.”

They further describe the differences as such:

  • Custom orthotics. Prescription medical devices made from non-weight bearing molds or scans of your feet.
  • Customized orthotics. Created by a computerized system where the patient is asked to walk across a force plate which then shows pressure distribution on a computer display.
  • Off-the-Shelf. Not “bad” per se, but the cost doesn’t justify the purchase.

If you suspect that your feet may be the cause of your lower back pain, especially if you feel it radiating through your knees and hips, a discussion with a podiatrist at a foot and ankle center may shed some light for you. Walking wrong long-term results in strain at both the sacroiliac and lumbosacral joints, said a study by Jerrilyn Cambron, DC, MPH, Ph.D, LMT of the College of Allied Health Sciences & Distance Education for the National University of Health Sciences.

Last change: April 9, 2019