Proper footwear is a very important consideration when it comes to back pain relief. Not wearing the proper footwear can be a major contributing factor to ongoing lower back pain. If the correct footwear is being worn, it can help decrease pain by properly aligning the foot when it hits the ground and during takeoff. If the foot is aligned correctly when it hits the ground, the forces and weight are evenly distributed throughout the foot, ankle, knee and hip.

When the foot maintains the proper position, it enables the lower leg to perform its duties with increased efficiency. If the foot is not in the correct position, the joints above that area have to compensate for the decreased stability and poor positioning of the foot.

The following are a few descriptions of the most common walking positions and placement scenarios.

Supination – If a person tends to wear out the outside heal of their shoe, they walk in a manner that is referred to as supination. Supination forces the weight to be unevenly distributed along the arch of the foot and it can be a major cause of lower back pain. This is the most common type walking habit that leads to lower back pain.

When a person supinates their foot during the landing phase of walking, their weight is kept on the outside of the foot. This prohibits the weight to be naturally transferred through the longitudinal arch.

Without the use of the arch, the ability of the foot to spring to the next step is decreased and the joints above have to increase force to move the leg forward. While in this position the leg is now forced to swing forward with a circular motion versus a push off motion with the arch and big toes.

This “swing forward” motion causes the back to upwardly elevate the hips in order to clear the toes. In addition, repeated swinging of the leg causes the gluts to tighten and creates additional tension on the lower back. When this happens it causes the spinal system to be less efficient and more vulnerable to muscle imbalance and pain.

Pronation - another common walking style is called pronation. If a person tends to pronate, the inside part of their heel is worn out. This result is walking “knock-kneed”. In addition, pronation causes a lack of stability in the knee area and makes a person shorten their stride and have less balance.

When the knees become too painful because of the poor landing position of the foot, the person will stop pushing their foot through the walk cycle and begin to swing the leg like in the last example.

This usually causes more knee and hip problems first, followed by lower back pain. The end result is increased lower back pain.

These problems can easily be adjusted by choosing the proper foot wear. Changing your shoes upon the sign of a wear pattern and working on good walking mechanics can make a real difference. Once you know how your foot tends to land, you can purchase shoes to help reduce your bad habits.

In another article, we will discuss additional important factors to consider while walking. Maintenance and strength of muscles involved in walking, flexibility and how to prevent compensatory patterns which in turn reduce lower back pain.

Author's Bio: 

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Martin Schneckenberger is the head Physical Therapist and Back Pain Specialist for the Spinal Wellness Research Center.

The Spinal Wellness Research Center’s mission is to cure your back pain at the core. In addition, our goal is to prevent future pain from occurring, increase strength, flexibility and endurance to get you back to your normal life active, balanced and pain free.