Best shoes for back pain without sacrificing your style

Many people struggling with back pain may not realize their shoes may be one of the main culprits. Orthopedic shoes are good for your back but tend to come in limited styles.

Before we dive into the best shoes for people with back pain that do not sacrifice style, let’s get into which shoes may be causing you pain. The “fashion-forward” styles tend to be the most harmful to your back. Here are the shoes that may be causing you the most back pain:

High heels

Heels taller than 1.5-2 inches cause you to put all the body’s pressure on the toes, pushing your chest forward and the pelvis to tilt towards the front, resulting in a massive strain on the spine. The plantar fascia ligament forms the arch on the sole of the foot and connects to the calf muscles, which connect to the hamstrings. The hamstrings directly affect the lower back, so when the plantar fascia in your foot stretches while wearing heels, everything from your feet to your back tightens.

Flat shoes

While flat shoes may be more comfortable to wear than high heels, they also cause back pain. Flat shoes offer no support for your feet and often slip off the foot, causing the wearer to curl their toes to prevent them from falling off. Flat shoes lead to tight Achilles tendons and strain the plantar fascia ligament, stressing the spine in a similar manner to high heels.


Flip-flops require you to scrunch your toes together in order to keep them on while walking forward. They also have no cushion on the soles of the feet or toes, causing you to put pressure on the outsides of the foot and heel while walking. Walking on the edges of the foot and heel may lead to cause your pelvis to tilt forward causing excess strain on the lower back.

Figure-fixing/toning shoes

While toning shoes may be lesser known, they are probably the most problematic. Toning shoes are meant to define the leg’s muscles with their wobbly padding and uneven soles, however, this leads to abnormal weight distribution which can strain the Achilles tendons and strain the back. Some toning shoes have a curved sole designed to work out your leg muscles while walking. These curved soles can alter posture and lead to back pain.

Choosing shoes that do not cause back pain may feel limiting. It is commonly known that orthopedic shoes properly support your feet and would be the most obvious shoe choice for those with chronic back pain. However, most orthopedic shoes often are made as sneakers which obviously do not work well for every occasion. People with back pain do not need to sacrifice style, here are some shoes that work for a variety of different styles:

Business formal

Business formal often requires women to wear loafers or a heel of some kind and men to wear dress shoes. When looking into a heel, consider a heel made of cork or rubber material, as these materials absorb shock better, thus alleviating the amount of shock sent from the heel, up the leg, and to the spine. 

High heels are awful for the spine, however, a heel around 2 inches or less can alleviate pressure on your feet while walking. This makes a kitten heel a great option for those working in an office.

If you are not a fan of the kitten heel, a wedged heel may be a good alternative for high heels. A wedged heel offers even pressure on the foot while walking unlike high heels, in which all the force of walking pressure is concentrated on a few pinpoint areas of the foot.  

When it comes to dress shoes and loafers, it is important to find one with a slight heel and deep heel cup that helps realign the foot. Loafers with a flexible midsole help absorb shock and relieve pressure. 

Dress boots are a great option for business formal wear. When choosing these types of shoes, look for some that have adequate toe room, can lace up, and have a heel that is part of the underside of the boot (instead of added on). Laces can allow you to tighten the boot as needed to better support your ankle and foot and the heel helps realign your foot.

Business casual

Loafers are great options for a business casual environment. As stated above, it is important to find one with a slight heel and deep heel cup that helps realign the foot. Loafers with a flexible midsole help absorb shock and relieve pressure. 

Other business casual shoes that are much better for your back include dress sneakers. Dress sneakers are not your average sneaker, they are made with a variety of elevated materials (leather, suede fabric, etc.). Dress sneakers are great because they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.  Many dress sneakers offer proper arch support and have good cushioning to alleviate shock.

Night out/date night

On a night out or date night, many people want to wear high heels to elevate their outfits. As mentioned in the business formal section, kitten heels and wedges make a great alternative to high heels. Dress sneakers can also make a great shoe for both men and women as they come in a variety of materials so they easily can be dressed up. 

Combat boots are a chic shoe choice that comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They typically have rubber heels and soles that absorb shock easily and are made for both men and women. These shoes are great for a casual date night or a night out depending on the style. Other dress boots are more catered to men’s fashion and are better suited for a more formal date night.

Daytime outings

Dress sneakers, wedges, and combat boots make for fantastic daytime outing shoes because of their wide variety of styles and ability to be dressed up and down. 

Another great shoe for daytime outings includes Chelsea boots. These boots can be dressed up for a casual lunch or worn outdoors for adventuring because of their water-resistant material. When looking for a Chelsea boot, look for one with cushioning on the sole and a flexible midsole for proper support. 

Birkenstock sandals have cork footbeds that mold to the shape of your foot with time, allowing for far more support than your average sandal. Other sandals with cork footbeds would also make a great alternative. These shoes are great for running errands or casual outings with friends as these sandals can be dressed up. 

Outdoor shoes

The everyday sneaker is the most obvious choice for outdoor shoes. There are many orthopedic sneaker options as well as non-orthopedic sneakers that should offer proper arch support and cushion to alleviate shock. 

Sandals are great for a pool or beach day, so wearing a sandal with a material that can get wet with no repercussions is important. Sandals made of rubber are water resistant and absorb shock. Also, having a slight arch near the heel makes for great shoes for those with back pain as it realigns your foot and balances your body. The rubber absorbs shock while the slightly lifted heel supports the plantar fascia ligament. 

Hiking boots can be rather uncomfortable, so when looking for proper hiking boots, make sure they have a wide toe, durable upper, proper cushioning, and underfoot protection that can handle tough terrain.  Hiking boots do not always make for a good boot if you struggle with back pain, so when thinking about purchasing hiking boots, be sure to do proper research and try on many pairs to ensure you get a proper fit and ankle support. 

Athleisure wear

Athleisure wear is elevated athletic wear made for everyday outings or just lounging around. The athleisure wear style is casual and everyday sneaker works best for this style. Luckily for those with back pain, sneakers are the best shoe you can wear! There are many orthopedic sneaker options as well as non-orthopedic sneakers that should offer proper arch support and cushion to alleviate shock. 


All these shoes are good options for those with back pain, however, a good rule of thumb when buying shoes should be to never buy shoes that pinch you and are uncomfortable, too tight, or too loose. Inserting orthopedic insoles into your shoes can also offer additional support by aligning your spine and balancing your body.  

Chronic back pain should not be a reason to sacrifice your unique, individualistic style. We hope this thorough list of shoes and where to wear can act as a helpful guide when choosing the right shoe for you. 

If you or a loved one suffers from back pain, contact Nextgen Wellness Group today. Our pain management specialists are experts in treating conditions that cause back pain and can provide you relief.