The Southeastern Spine Institute

Going barefoot may remind you of vacations, childhood in the sandbox or just your daily end-of-the day release. What could be more relaxing than kicking off your shoes and wiggling your toes? But as good as it feels in the moment, going barefoot may be doing you more harm than good, especially if you already have back problems

In the quest for preventing back pain, many spine specialists recommend supportive shoes and reducing the time spent walking around barefoot. Once you realize the effect unsupported feet have on your gait, movement and posture, you may be willing to forego a little foot freedom for a healthier back!

What Happens to Your Legs, Back and Feet

The repetitive motion and increased shock from walking or running without the proper support for your feet can aggravate stressed muscles and tendons. Going barefoot jars your bone structure from your ankles up to your neck.

Since injuries or congenital malformations result in poor biomechanics, the slightest foot pain can alter your gait, causing you to walk differently. It puts pressure on your entire skeletal structure. If you have flat feet or pronation, your shin and thigh bones rotate inward, thrusting your pelvis forward. If one foot is flatter than the other, the discrepancy disrupts the normal balance of your pelvis and lower back.

Symptoms Attributed to Walking Barefoot

Several symptoms can be attributed to walking barefoot, including:

  • Weakness in your feet and legs
  • Breakdown of tissues in or around your spine with subsequent pain
  • Unusual lengthening or shortening of leg muscles that support your pelvis and spine
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain in your feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, back and shoulders
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Swollen or ruptured discs in your back

Preventing back pain means doing everything you can to support your back, especially if you already have back issues or are recovering from back surgery. Common foot problems that can occur from walking barefoot for too many years include:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Bunions

Treatments for Resolving or Preventing Back Pain

Your specialist at Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) relies on several options to treat lower back pain that’s related to foot issues, including:

  • Physical therapy to restore proper gait
  • Chiropractic adjustment
  • Orthotic inserts or specially designed shoes to correct posture and provide pain relief
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, either over-the-counter or prescription
  • Rest, ice, compression and elevation
  • Injections of steroidal or pain-relieving medications
  • Massage therapy to relieve stressed or bound muscles and tendons

In rare cases, surgical options can correct severe foot problems. Minimally invasive surgery can relieve your issues, preventing back pain.

Keep Your Feet Covered and Supported

Low back pain can occur suddenly, due to injury. It can develop gradually due to age, poor posture, occupation or fitness level. If you have even the slightest problem with your back, don’t go barefoot. Your body must work harder if your support structure is compromised.

Talk to your doctor and physical therapist at SSI if you have any questions about your footwear. There are caveats to wearing shoes. The wrong kind can cause back pain, too. Avoid shoes that:

  • Aren’t supportive
  • Are unstable
  • Have high heels that cause you to shift your weight forward to the front of your spine
  • Have no heels, which is almost as bad as going barefoot
  • Cause bunions, blisters, corns, calluses or hammer toe

It’s all right to run barefoot in the grass. In moderation, it isn’t harmful. Choose your shoes wisely for preventing back pain, and treat your toes to a walk on the beach or some wiggles on the lawn when your back is feeling its best.