Why Flat Shoes Can Cause Back Pain

It is no longer surprising that footwear shapes the way we walk, our posture, and how we generally carry ourselves. Wearing shoes that are inappropriate for our feet for too long can have severe long-term consequences on our feet and overall posture. It can even lead to severe back problems, as the feet form the foundation for your entire body. For years it has been known that frequent use of high heels can damage your feet and spine, but did you know that completely flat shoes can also hurt you?

Lack of arch support

Flat shoes such as ballet flats and most styles of casual summer sandals lack arch support. Zero arch support leads to a number of conditions, such as plantar fasciitis (one of the most common causes of heel pain), fallen arches, and flat feet. Although these problems occur in the feet, they affect and exacerbate any back issues that may be present in the wearer of such shoes. The feet are the foundation for your entire body, which includes the spine. If your feet are not working properly, it can affect the alignment of all the structures they support.

The arches in your feet act as shock absorbers when you walk. They reduce the impact of the ankles, knees, and hip joints, as well as the joins in your lower back as your feet make contact with the ground. By providing inadequate arch support, wearing flat shoes for prolonged periods of time hurt your back more than high heels. You see, with high heels you are forced to walk on the balls of your feet which activates an arch strengthening mechanism. Your inclined feet in a high-heeled shoe support your arch more than wearing completely flat shoes.

If you normally wear high-heeled shoes and suddenly switch to flats, this transition can also exacerbate lower back problems. Our bodies work to adapt to situations, so when we wear high heels frequently, we adapt our leg muscles to support this behavior. The muscles in the back of your legs are in a constant state of contraction when they are elevated by high heels. This position physically shortens your muscles over time. When you suddenly put on flat shoes, you’re essentially asking these muscles to lengthen. Unfortunately the muscles are not as malleable as they were before you started wearing high heeled shoes every day and the adjustment of the muscles to their new position results in pain.


You need a medical expert to evaluate your symptoms and determine the cause for why you are experiencing debilitating back pain. The spine experts at the Spine Institute of Dr. Marc A. Cohen provide a number of resources to help you discover and attack the root of your pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.