The Science of Footwear and Its Impact on Posture and Back Pain

The Science of Footwear and Its Impact on Posture and Back Pain


It’s clear: wearing comfy shoes is one of the easiest and most effective ways to support good posture and reduce back pain. Footwear has the power to make us feel better physically and mentally.

In the past twenty years, research into biomechanics has shown how certain shoe features and designs can significantly improve posture, gait and body mechanics. This article looks at the scientific view of footwear’s impact on posture and pain. Plus, it explains what elements you should consider when looking for the best shoe for you!

The Anatomy of the Foot

To comprehend the foot’s makeup is a necessity for grasping the connection between the foot, the floor, and shoes when walking and running.

Three arches, the lateral, medial, and transverse, join up with 26 bones and 33 joints to form the foot. The anatomy of the foot is a vital factor when contemplating how shoes affect posture and back pain.


The human foot has 26 bones. These include the tarsus with 7 bones, the metatarsus with 5, and the phalanges with 14. The tarsus is the connection between the leg and foot. It contains the calcaneus, talus, cuboid, navicular, three cuneiforms and two inner ankle bones.

The metatarsus portion has five long flat bones. The heads of these rest on the tarsal bones in a round joint. Each toe has eight long, thin phalanges. The big toe has two, while the other toes have four. Though small compared to our height, they’re bigger than other tiny body parts such as fingers and earlobes.

Two sesamoid bones are in each big toe. They work like pulleys for tendons running across the foot. They also act as shock absorbers and reduce nerve pain, especially during exercise like running or walking. These sesamoids look like diamonds and are tough, making them important to the body’s framework.


The foot has a complex structure with muscles, ligaments, and tendons that aid motion, support, and stability. These muscles can be divided into extrinsic and intrinsic muscles. Extrinsic muscles are located in the leg and come from the thigh or calf. An example is the gastrocnemius. Intrinsic muscles are found in the foot, stretching from bone to bone to allow arch and toe movements.

These intrinsic muscles are in five layers:

  1. Superficial dorsal
  2. Intermediate tendon layer
  3. Deep flexors layer
  4. Plantar layer
  5. Lumbricales layer

The first two layers help move the toes together or apart. Deeper layers let us move the toes with more control. Like when we walk on uneven ground or curl our toes while gripping a shoe while running or walking. The last layer consists of four lumbrical muscles which control each toe joint’s movement. They also stabilize joints during walking and running activities that need sudden changes in direction. This helps balance and stability against external forces like slippery surfaces or quick movements.


The foot’s a complex structure made of bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons. These all work together to give support, stability and cushioning.

Tendons connect muscles to bones. They store and release energy when they move the ankle joint. Tendons need protection from too much friction. This can happen at the ankle or heel. Too much friction can cause injury and inflammation. So, footwear should fit well with cushioning around the ankle and heel.


The foot is a complex structure made up of bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and muscles. Together, they help the body stand upright and move with agility. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue connecting bones in the joint. They supply stability to joints, absorb shock and protect them from overstretching. The plantar fascia is a special ligament that runs from heel bone to toes down the sole. It supports the arches of your feet as you move.

Some common foot ligaments are:

  • Ankle ligaments
  • Calcaneonavicular ligaments
  • Plantar aponeurosis
  • Plantar ligaments
  • Tibiofibular ligament

The Impact of Footwear on Posture and Back Pain

The way our footwear impacts our feet’s biomechanics can have a lasting and big effect on our posture and musculoskeletal health. It can even influence our back pain. In this article, let’s examine the science of shoes and its impact on posture and back ache.

High Heels

High heels have long been connected to posture and back, knee, and foot pain. Though they may make one look taller and more attractive, wearing them isn’t the best way to maintain good posture due to the pressure placed on the lower body’s feet, tendons, and ligaments.

High heels change the center of gravity, leading to bad postural alignment. This affects muscle engagement in the torso, legs, and shoulders. Furthermore, research shows that high heels increase muscle activation in the calf, alter muscle activity in the hips, hamstrings, and adductors, and shift a person’s weight from one leg to the other, making balance more difficult.

High heels also cause greater joint motion ranges, raising the risk of overuse injuries and common ailments such as Achilles tendinosis and plantar fasciitis. They can lead to decreased range-of-motion at the ankle joint, increased pressure or tension on the foot arch structures, a greater angle of heel strike angle, a narrower forefoot width, a shorter stride length, and elongated muscle fibers which cause stiffness. All of this contributes to poor posture and back pain by preventing the body from staying healthy.


Flats have either a low heel or no heel. They are made with arch support and cushioning for reducing pain and improving posture. Flats are good for walking, running, exercising, standing, and dancing. But studies show flat shoes don’t stop foot pronation which can contribute to back pain.

Flats keep feet close to the ground, and promote better posture. This stabilizes a person’s center of gravity and helps avoid slouching or hunching. Good shoes are essential for maintaining correct posture and reducing back pain.

But flats are not as stable as other shoe styles, and people with back issues may prefer wedges or clogs for standing activities and long walks.


Flip-flops, or “thongs,” are a type of footwear with thin rubber soles and straps that pass between the toes and around the back of the foot. They are popular during warmer months due to their breathability and convenience. Yet, they are not seen as a great choice for long-term benefits for posture and back pain relief.

Flip-flops have little arch support or cushioning. The thin sole doesn’t absorb shock when walking, putting extra pressure on feet, ankles and legs. The straps can cause feet tendons to tighten which can lead to plantar fasciitis. People also alter their gait to grip the straps with their toes, interfering with natural body movement and straining muscles in the lower back.

It is generally recommended to opt for sandals or shoes offering better support. These provide good arch support and cushioning, absorbing impact while walking and helping to prevent postural issues from occurring.

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes are made for high-impact activities. They have a thick, soft midsole for cushioning and shock reduction. Plus, padding around the heel counter and collar adds stability for agility. The flexible outsole lets your feet move naturally, but also provides traction and grip.

Remember: the type of shoe you need depends on the activity. Wearing the right shoe helps prevent and manage pain.


Research has revealed that what shoes we wear can affect our posture and back pain. Shoes that don’t fit or are poorly made can cause poor biomechanical alignment, leading to musculoskeletal issues like back pain. However, well-fitted, supportive shoes may help to reduce pain symptoms or stop them from arising.

To make a good choice of footwear, you should be aware of your gait mechanics. There are many shoe styles with arch and cushioning support technologies available. But, your chosen shoe must fit your foot shape and size to be effective. With this knowledge, you can now make a better decision when selecting shoes that are right for you and your body type.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can the type of footwear I wear affect my posture?
A: Yes, the type of footwear you wear can significantly impact your posture. Shoes with a high heel or lack of support can cause you to lean forward or backward, which can strain your back and neck muscles over time.

Q: How can I choose the best shoes for my posture?
A: Look for shoes that offer good arch support, cushioning, and stability. Make sure they fit properly and allow your toes to move freely. Avoid shoes with high heels, narrow toe boxes, and little support.

Q: Can wearing improper footwear cause back pain?
A: Yes, wearing shoes that don’t support your feet or body properly can contribute to back pain, especially if you wear them frequently. Incorrect footwear can change the way you walk, which can cause muscle imbalances, leading to pain and discomfort.

Q: How can improving my footwear affect my back pain?
A: Wearing proper footwear can improve your body’s alignment while standing and walking, which can reduce the pressure on your back and relieve pain. Shoes with good support and cushioning can also help prevent future injuries from overuse or strain.

Q: What are some common foot conditions related to improper footwear?
A: Bunions, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsalgia are a few conditions that can develop due to wearing improper footwear. These conditions can cause pain, inflammation, and discomfort in the feet and can ultimately affect your posture.

Q: Are there exercises or stretches I can do to offset the effects of wearing improper footwear?
A: Yes, there are several exercises and stretches you can do to help offset the effects of improper footwear. These include calf stretches, toe curls, and ankle rolls. However, it’s important to address the root cause of the problem by choosing proper footwear to prevent further damage.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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