It’s no secret that there are a lot of benefits to running and walking barefoot, but one of the most underrated benefits of spending time sans shoes is its potential for back pain relief.
Not all bodily pain comes from the same source, but experts like Dr. Daniel Howell, author of The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons To Kick Off Your Shoes, agree that spending a lot of time in shoes — even supposedly healthy and comfortable shoes like sneakers and trainers — can mess with your natural posture, change the way you naturally walk and therefore contribute to ankle, knee, hip and back pain. For some, shoes are actually the root cause of their back pain and other bodily woes. And that is a convincing reason to at least consider the barefoot lifestyle.
How Shoes Contribute To Back Pain
No matter how comfortable or expensive your shoes might be, they all affect your body in one way or another. The cushioned soles of sneakers, for example, push out your pelvis and change your natural posture. Meanwhile, when you're wearing shoes, your foot and heel strike the ground in a slightly different position than they would if you were barefoot, and that small difference can lead to a major impact on your feet, legs and back.
What’s more, scientists have studied the difference between shoe-wearing walkers and runners, and walkers and runners who go barefoot. They found that the foot muscles, joints and ligaments in shoe-wearing groups are actually much weaker, because they constantly depend on the shoe for support. The resulting weakness coupled with the foot striking the ground in a way not consistent with the body’s natural posture can lead to injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, torn ACLs, back pain and more.
How Barefoot Walking Can Help Relieve Back Pain
Even adding just a small amount of barefoot walking or barefoot running into your daily routine can help strengthen your foot muscles, correct your gait and posture, and get your whole body working more effectively. When your body begins to rebalance itself and become less dependent on shoes, your alignment falls into perfect place and your lower back muscles are challenged, both of which have the ability to dramatically reduce bodily discomfort like knee, hip and back pain and begin pain rehabilitation.
However, it’s important that you begin walking and running barefoot slowly. When you begin, your feet are weak and reliant on shoes for support and cushioning. Therefore, rushing into barefoot walking and barefoot running can lead to soreness and injuries. Experts advise starting with 10 minutes per day and working up to longer periods of time when you feel comfortable. And when in doubt, try to remember that the human foot and leg are designed to absorb shock. Experts say they actually do a better job of doing so without shoes getting in the way. And if you’re like thousands of others, barefoot walking or running will improve your alignment and significantly relieve your back pain.
Looking for more back pain relief advice? Try these 4 exercises that reduce back pain and work your core. You can also try a soothing foot or back massage, which studies prove is a back pain treatment that can also improve sleeping habits.