Summer is here.  That means the season for sandals, flip-flops and heels are among us.  While these fashionable footwear options will keep you in style, they might also land you on the couch.  Back pain often works from the foot to the knee and back, creating a roadmap of pain. Orthopedically sound shoes don’t have to look like they came out of a nun’s closet.

“You have a number of good choices for shoes designed to ease or reduce symptoms from musculoskeletal complaints involving foot, knee, hip, and back pain,” says Dr. Kenneth S. Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. “All of these are linked, and the force imparted on the foot is ultimately imparted on the back.”

Therefore, with vacation ahead, what footwear will you where?

On the Beach:  This sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Just because sandals have the word sand in it, doesn’t mean they are the best choice.  Walking on the beach can leave you unsteady, forcing your ankles to do more work, so flip-flops are certain spine sabotagers.

To keep flip-flops from falling off as you walk, you have to bunch up your toes. This motion compromises your ability to use the front of your foot causing your hips to overcompensate.  The result is lower body fatigue, muscle imbalances along the back of your leg, and an aching, tender lower back. Instead, try a pair of waterproof shoes that offer arch support to the insole and flexible protection on the outside.

Hitting the Trails:  If you prefer to boulders to beaches, then you probably already have a pair of hiking boots in your closet.  A heavy boot can come with a heavy price tag, but spending a couple more dollars can spare you a lifetime of lower back pain.  One quick step to avoid a branch and you’ve wrenched your back.

When investing in pair of hiking boots, look for a mid-to-high top ankle support.  Leather will protect your feet from the elements, but may require some time to break in.  Finally look for a deep lug pattern (on the outersole) to offer traction on tough terrain.

The Wedding March – High heels are the devil of all women’s shoes.  Some dare not try, for lack of looking foolish, while others wouldn’t be seen in anything else. So why all the bad press?  How can shoes that make you stand taller and tone your calves be bad for you?

The narrowing at the toe and the elevation of a heel over an inch, forces the calf, hip and back muscles to tense to maintain balance.  Ultimately, wearing heels over a long period of time forces your back out of alignment causing a range of issues from foot cramps to sciatica.

The best way to maintain a healthy back and neck is to avoid problems before they start.  If you’re experiencing an early onset of back pain, but can’t remember how you hurt yourself – make an appointment with Dr. Fast.  Intervention with exercise and stretching may be all you need to alleviate your pain.  The Back Pain Clinic Belleville is always accepting new patients and offers a range of convenient times to fit your schedule.