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Selecting the correct shoes can ease back and joint pain
Flip flops, heels, flats, athletic shoes, boots, wedges, and sandals. There is a type of footwear for every occasion and season. Typically, when women shop for shoes, they base their purchase first on style and second on comfort. But how many consider the musculoskeletal implications of what they wear on their feet?
Poorly designed and ill-fitting footwear can lead to bigger problems than blisters and toenail discomfort. “Shoes that do not fit are often a factor for ankle, foot, and some knee and hip conditions,” says physical therapist Rebekah Trimbach.
Wearing shoes without good support can cause health complications and impede recovery after an injury. Common issues include:
Heels can result in back pain due to overuse of lumbar spinal muscle action. Prolonged use of heels could cause changes in posture and possible lumbar intervertebral disc compression.
If shoes do not adequately absorb shock, the knees are forced to bend more. That means they must compensate, potentially resulting in overuse injuries like tendonitis.
Inadequate support can lead to increased stress on the ankles, and other joints, potentially causing them to collapse inward or outward more than normal and result in inflammation, pain, and discomfort.
“One of the biggest things to be aware of in choosing shoes is proper arch support,” says Trimbach.
For many sandal lovers, that, unfortunately, means limiting time spent wearing flip-flops.
“Flip-flops should be avoided for long periods and on uneven or slippery surfaces,” says Dr. Krista Migliore, a sports medicine physician. “They have minimal arch and other support, and we see patients with foot and ankle pain or injuries attributed to flip-flops.”
Dr. Migliore also suggests considering foot structure when choosing shoes. “People with flatter feet need more arch support, and people with high arches tend to do better with a more cushioned sole. Another thing runners should remember to replace shoes every 300 to 500 miles.”
While correctly fitting shoes can minimize injury and discomfort, persistent joint or back pain is usually caused by primary issues like weakness, poor biomechanics, or posture, all of which can be evaluated by a physician. “We always recommend seeing your doctor if you are experiencing joint or back pain,” says Trimbach.
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