Could my birkenstocks be {causing,exacerbating} my lower-back pain?
July 23, 2012 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Could my birkenstocks be {causing,exacerbating} my lower-back pain?

I've been experiencing pretty bad lower-back pain lately - seemingly more-so on the weekends.

My back doesn't usually bother me during my workday. I'm in South Florida. When I'm not in work attire, I'm usually wearing sandals of some sort. My go-to pair are a year-and-a-half old pair of birkenstocks.

It seems that whenever I go places on the weekends, my back starts to flare up. Not coincidentally, I'm always wearing these sandals. I love them and they're comfortable but could they be bothering my back.

Recently, I've switched to going out in jeans/shoes(work attire) on the weekends and my back doesn't seem to hurt as badly. Having said that, it's not exactly pleasant wearing jeans during July in South Florida.

Few background items: Male, 40, sedentary job(software), active (boxing classes, ice hockey, cycling). My back bothers me during boxing but never during hockey or cycling.

Am I imagining this or could these sandals really be affecting me?
posted by neilkod to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. Definitely. Foot support affects how you walk and stand, which affects your back muscles. Seems like you've already made the connection. Now either get some supportive inserts for your shoes or wear different ones.
posted by Eicats at 7:21 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes. I used to work in an office that was a fair hike to get to from public transport, and had a pair of shoes I wore to work pretty regularly. Not every day, and not seldom enough that the dots were close together, but often enough that they kept my back in regular visits to the physical therapist/chiropractor/massage therapist until I finally made the connection. Toss 'em! Or, well, retire them for a month or so to test your hypothesis. Then toss 'em.
posted by likeso at 7:29 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heh. In light of the way your question was actually phrased, Eicats and I meant to begin our responses with:
NO. You are not imagining this.
posted by likeso at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2012

when I was pregnant, my doctor told me to find shoes with a little bit of a heel; I preferred my birks, because whoa with the swollen feet. But she said that birkenstocks put your heel lower than your toes, and that can mess things up in the back. Worked for me ;)
posted by lemniskate at 7:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the answers, everyone. As a followup, what should I be looking for in a sandal/casual shoe?
posted by neilkod at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2012

Mr.likeso and I have had good experiences with the Ecco brand. Just had a quick look and only found these for men (in two colorways) but yikes, they're not cheap. Yeah, we lucked out with sales.
posted by likeso at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2012

Have your feet ever been evaluated? Either do that first or if you know you're like me, then here's what I've been told.

I have low-to-no arches, so I am supposed to look for really good arch support and/or wear custom orthotic inserts. Shoes without any back to them (flip-flops, most definitions of the word sandal) are worse than sneakers, support-wise, but if you have to wear a sandal get one with GREAT built-in support. Some brands that have some shoes that qualify are Reef and Merrell.

Sneakers are better because they inherently do provide more support and if they still don't provide you with enough support, then you can wear orthotics. Get a pair of orthotic inserts custom made (but only if you're sure you'll use them, as they're expensive).

You should also be switching up your shoes regularly. Even with my supportive shoes and/or with inserts, if I wear the same thing all the time I invariably start to feel sore.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:51 AM on July 23, 2012

Do you have a running shoe store by you? Where I am, there is a store called Jack Rabbit and they have you walk on a treadmill for a few minutes and run for a few minutes then evaluate the best type of foot wear for you. Their staff members are not allowed to take payment or gifts from vendors and they have a strict policy to serve the community. If you can find a place that can evaluate the way you walk and run, then you can get great footwear. I know that people love and swear by certain items and then when I try them, it hurts my knees or back. I just walk differently than they do.
posted by Yellow at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2012

Do your birks have heal attachments? I have been hearing about how thongs make you walk differently because there is no attachment to the heal. I would suppose that birks would be heavier and thus even worse. Maybe try a nice pair of teva's? I think there are some with arch support.

As a related aside, I used to wear running shoes everywhere. They had great arch support but I started to notice that when I was not wearing them my feet would start hurting just walking around the house. I switched to shoes with out much arch support and after my arch muscles got back in to shape things were much better. So arch support, if you can avoid it for just walking around, is not always a good thing
posted by d4nj450n at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2012

Right, likeso, I was answering in the affimative to the title question, not the last sentence. :) As far as what to look for—different people have different feet; therefore, different specific needs. However, I've heard that good arch support is the number one thing to look for!
posted by Eicats at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2012

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