What Happens When You Select the Wrong Type of Shoes
Your feet support the weight of your entire body, absorb the shock generated when you run and walk, and help keep your spine properly aligned. If you choose shoes that don't offer adequate support or place too much pressure on one part of your foot, the vertebrae in your spine may soon become misaligned.
Misalignments, called "subluxations" by chiropractors, cause back and neck pain, muscle tension, spasms, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Hands-on spinal manipulation can improve spinal alignment, but subluxations may continue to occur if you don't make a few footwear changes.
Some Shoes Are More Likely Than Others to Cause Problems
High heels are particularly troublesome because the shoes place extreme pressure on the front part of your foot. A one-inch heel increases pressure by 22 percent, while pressure rises by 76 percent with a three-inch heel, according to UPMC Pinnacle.
When you put on a pair of high heels, your posture changes completely. Due to the unnatural position of your feet, your lower back moves forward slightly, disrupting the natural curve of your spine. Wearing the shoes every day will increase wear on tear on the discs between the vertebrae that absorb shock and may strain the joints and ligaments in your back. Knee and muscle pain, tight calf muscles, and Achilles tendons are other consequences of wearing high heels.
Both high heels and flip flops can affect your gait, which is the way you normally walk. Gait changes may alter spinal alignment, cause balance problems, and trigger knee, hip, and back pain. Auburn University researchers reported that an altered gait due to flip flop wear makes walkers take shorter steps and affects the vertical force of the heels.
Lack of arch support is a common problem when you wear flip flops or flats. Arch support helps stabilize your feet, legs, and spine, and is essential to proper spinal alignment. Without proper support, your feet and your back may begin to ache by the end of the day.
How to Select Shoes That Protect Your Spine
Keeping these tips in your mind will help you select spine-friendly shoes:
• Lower Your Heels. "The lower the better," is a good motto to follow when it comes to heels. If you're not ready to give up high heels entirely, give your feet a break by switching to lower heels after a few hours or wearing high heels every other day. Thick heels are a better choice than stilettos and offer more even weight distribution.
• Rethink Your Flip Flop Obsession: Flip flops can be a good choice if you're spending the day at the beach or hanging around the house, but they shouldn't be your go-to shoes. You're more likely to develop back pain or injure yourself if you wear flip flops every day.
• Choose Well-Cushioned Shoes. Shoes with plenty of cushioning help your feet absorb shock and, of course, are much more comfortable.
• Replace Athletic Shoes Often. Your shoes may look like new, but that doesn't mean that they're still offering adequate support. Cushioning in running shoes may become compressed in as little as three months. Replacing your shoes often helps you avoid injuries and pain.
• Try Orthotics. Orthotics are shoe inserts custom-designed by your chiropractor. The inserts provide arch support, keep your feet properly aligned, reduce foot movement, and provide extra cushioning.
• Get Fitted. Ask the shoe salesperson to measure your feet the next time you go shopping. Wearing the wrong size shoes, whether they're too small or too big, may be a factor in gait issues.
• Avoid Tight Shoes. Tight shoes also increase pressure on your feet and can affect alignment and gait. Make sure your shoes offer a little wiggle room in the toes.
• Make Arch Support a Priority. Look for flats, flip flops, and other types of shoes that offer adequate support.
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PubMed: Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association: Comparative Analysis of Human Gait While Wearing Thong-Style Flip-Flops Versus Sneakers, 7-8/10
American Osteopathic Association: The Real Harm in High Heels
UPMC Pinnacle: The High Price of Heels, 5/10/19
Spine Universe: High Heels and Flip-Flops Cause Back Pain, 8/1/18
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: That Pain in Your Back Could Be Linked to Your Feet