For centuries we have known the restorative benefits of running, with millions of people strapping on a pair of running shoes and trekking across all kinds of surfaces to get fit and condition their body.
However, it is only in recent years that runners and exercise specialists have become aware of the negative effects of running on the knee joints, feet and lower back. If you have an existing back condition, long-distance running can actually exacerbate the pain and over time take you off the running track entirely.
When running, especially on hard surfaces like tarmac, the pounding of your feet can cause significant shocks in your back that can trigger a sciatic flare-up as the discs between the vertebrae get jolted and press against the nerve. Sciatic pain can travel into the legs and severely impede your running.
This is where a decent running can rectify your problems. You need something comfortable that corrects any misalignment in your gait, offers enough support in the foot and most importantly prevents shock absorption in the lower back.
But which brand of athletic running shoe is the best to use? What features are you looking for when it comes to giving you optimum support and cushioning for your soles? How much can a decent running shoe be looking to set you back in terms of price?
Well, runners of all shapes and sizes need not worry themselves with such questions, because we’re here to help with all your back pain woes. We have compiled a list of some of the best athletic running shoes specifically adapted for people with back pain, as well as a buyer’s guide that will help you when it comes to deciding which shoe is best for you, followed by some frequently asked questions.
Top 4 Best Athletic Shoes For Lower Back Pain
OUR TOP PICK
First, we have a shoe that comes from one of the most popular trainer manufacturers in the world, having decades of experience in the field, they are always at the cutting edge of shoe ergonomics - introducing the Mike Men’s Air Zoom Vomero 13 Running Shoes.
This shoe is specifically designed for someone with a neutral gait, that is, where the foot, knee and hip joint have their natural alignment and do not need correction with heavy-duty shoe supports. However, it does have plush cushioning on the insole, which will provide you with the absorption you need when running on harder surfaces.
The Nike Air Zoom really lives up to its name, with specially designed air pockets in the heel that makes it ideal for runners who feel like they strike particularly hard in the back of their feet.
Featuring circular knit and a patented Flywire design, this will ensure that the upper is well ventilated and reduces moisture accumulation during long-distance runs, as well as giving you the support and guidance you need throughout the length of the foot.
The Dual Density technology in the midsole is very responsive to an active foot, taking the brunt of the shock from impact so that it won’t travel up to your spine.
The sole balances fashion and comfort with flexibility and support, supporting right through the shoe’s length.
The traction on this shoe is second-to-none, with a thick rubber sole that will give you the ultimate grip on a tarmac surface and mean that you won’t be overextending yourself in the lumbar region.
This is one of the most popular running shoes currently in existence, with thousands of high ratings, you can guarantee that these shoes will not let you down over months and months of use.
Some users have complained that the soles are made of hard plastic rather than the softer materials of previous models of the Nike’s.
This next shoe is one that offers a heftier and protective sole, which will certainly be very important when you’re thinking about protecting the lower back region, as it will offer that additional shock absorption.
This is perfect if you are experiencing aggravated back pain from your old running shoe and want to switch to something with a little more comfort and support until you get better - introducing the New Balance Men’s Fresh Foam 1080 V9 Running Shoe.
This shoe has gained a bit of a reputation of being a lot heavier than other models of running shoe, however, with an EVA foam midsole which promotes the body’s natural pronation, you can be assured that it will offer you the guidance and support you need.
The upper of this shoe is very comfortable, with a breathable mesh material and capacious toe box that will allow you to adjust the position of your foot to minimize shock from the impact on harder surfaces. This shoe is also ideal for those who have wider feet.
This shoe is big and bulky, perfect for shock absorption and protecting your back against the more severe running surfaces.
This is a great shoe for the wide-footed runner, with a spacious toe box and midsole that also conforms to the shape of the wearer's foot. This trainer will guarantee you both a relaxing and supportive run.
The EVA foam midsole creates that level of fluid support that is lacking in other brands of sneaker, cushioning from the heel to the toe.
Some users have complained that due to the extra thickness of the bottom sole, the shoe is far less responsive and has little energy return.
Next up we have another sneaker for neutral running styles, one that will not overpronate your natural gait, but give you that added cushioning in the base that makes it light and responsive enough to be one of the more versatile shoes on this list - introducing the Brooks Ghost 11 Running Shoes.
This shoe contains DNA foam padding, which will really keep the back supported during those mid-distance runs, with segmented crash pads in the center of the shoe, giving the sole that firmness and responsiveness that more runners crave.
This is a shoe that perfectly balances the functionality of an athletic shoe with the comfort and support of a house shoe - when you’re out running in these, you can be certain of a cushioned, soft and supported journey for up to two hours.
This shoe is incredibly breathable, making it a solid choice for runners with chronic back pain who don't want to reduce their distances.
This has a breathable mesh upper, which means that your feet will stay well-ventilated throughout your run, which is perfect for avoiding chafing and sores that result from sweat accumulation.
The cushioning and comfort of this shoe is paramount, which is exactly what runners experiencing chronic lumbar pain are going to need.
If you want to soften up your run by switching both surface and trainer, then this shoe will be the one that will accommodate that change, easing up that relentless pounding on your discs and sciatic nerve by some margin.
This sneaker is better for middle-distance runs, but it can easily handle short and long-distance running too.
These shoes are at the pricier end of the athletic shoe spectrum, which might not appeal to runners who want to fork out less money for a new pair of sneakers.
Our next shoe is one that provides the runner with stability and comfort that a lot of people with overpronation issues and chronic lower back pain will need. This shoe will not overly correct your natural gait and lead to further injury down the line - introducing the Mizuno Men’s Wave Inspire 14 Running Shoe.
This shoe contains a state-of-the-art midsole cushioning that works with the wave plastic plate running throughout the midsection, giving you the optimum level of responsiveness and guidance. It does not sacrifice comfort for the sake of support, instead it keeps the two in harmony.
The upper in the shoe is also very generous, with a mesh that snugly conforms to the shape of the heel and midfoot, the openness in the toe box giving the wearer that added support through the entire length of the shoe. It is perfect for those who tend to strike hard on the heel when out for a long-distance run.
The comfortable upper and midsole mean that this shoe is the ultimate in flexibility, giving your feet and toes that natural ability to splay, which promotes circulation in the foot and prevents cramping.
A comfortable inner sole is what sufferers of back issues really need to alleviate the pain they suffer, as it will cushion the trauma in the foot before it travels up the leg and into the spine.
The lightweight feel of this shoe will also help foot mobility that is essential for loosening up the hip joints and vertebrae to increase circulation to the lower back. However, despite the featherweight construction, this still has the necessary support and grip for the foot.
Again, this shoe approaches the much higher price bracket, and some casual runners will probably not see the use in investing in a particularly expensive pair of shoes.
Best Athletic Shoes For Lower Back Pain Buying Guide
When it comes to buying a serviceable pair of athletic running shoes, you’ll need to make sure that you have something that is right for your feet, as well as the particular injury you might be suffering from in your lower back.
Remember the feet, knees, hips and back work in tandem with one another in a system of movement. Usually, a deficiency in one area will lead to problems in another.
One way to test the shape of your foot is by dipping your sole in water, printing your foot on a paper towel and lifting it to inspect the print.
If You Have Flat Feet
If you can see the entirety of your foot on the print, then the chances are that you have flat feet. This means that you have fallen arches, which usually results in overpronation when you run, increasing your chances of injury in the back and hip joints.
If you are flat-footed, you should be looking for a shoe that promotes stability and motion-control, distributing the weight equally as you land.
People with flat feet usually walk on the sides of their feet and have balance issues, so you should ideally be wearing supportive shoes that prevent hip, knee and back pain.
If You Have A Neutral Gait
A neutral foot or a neutral gait means that you have an average arch in the middle of your foot, shown in a print that has a wide band between the heel and forefoot. A neutral arch distributes the weight of the body far more evenly than a flat foot.
Neutral runners will need athletic running shoes with a moderate level of support, but not too much, as this will lead to over-correction of a regularly pronated foot.
If You Have High Arches
If you have a high arch, then your print will show a foot that is barely connected between the heel and the forefoot. Runners with a high arch will probably want to invest in a neutral shoe, which will provide extra cushioning and absorb shock throughout the entirety of the foot.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Different Types Of Running Shoes?
These shoes are ideal for flat-footed runners, correcting the stabilization that a flat foot does not naturally provide.
For someone with a neutral gait, you’ll be looking for this style of shoe, absorbing the impact of the harder running surface and distributing the weight evenly on push-off.
If you have overpronation in your feet, then you’ll definitely be wanting stability shoes, as they reinforce the midsole arch, the area that is most adversely affected in runners with overpronation.