Pain of any kind is no fun, especially if it's related to sciatica. Because it's so large, when the sciatic nerve is inflamed, it can affect your lower back, buttocks, legs and toes, making walking or running difficult.
Thankfully, with the proper footwear, it can "improve your gait and encourage proper biomechanics, which leads to less stress on the joints," says podiatrist Patrick Sanchez, DPM, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon based in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
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In addition to helping with pain, "This will help prevent early onset osteoarthritis of the spine," Dr. Sanchez says.
Below, you'll find the best shoes for this condition.
The Best Shoes for Sciatica
- Best Overall: HOKA Bondi 8 ($164.99, DicksSportingGoods.com)
- Best Runner-Up: New Balance Fresh Foam X 860v13 ($139.99, NewBalance.com)
- Best for Walking: HOKA Clifton 8 ($140, HOKA.com)
- Best for Running: Brooks Ghost 14 ($109.95, BrooksRunning.com)
- Best Sandal: Birkenstocks Arizona Soft Slide Sandal ($140, Nordstrom.com)
How We Chose
We spoke with a podiatrist, who offered his recommendations. In addition to that input, we selected these products based on the following criteria:
- Arch support
- Stable midfoot
Why Are Certain Shoes Marketed to Men or Women?
Manufacturers typically market shoes according to gender, so we have listed both women's and men's picks below according to the language used by the brands. However, the main difference between most men's and women's shoes lies in the shoe width and size.
In some cases, men's shoes are built to support greater weights. So people with bigger bodies may want to opt for men's versions, whereas people with smaller bodies may prefer women's versions. We encourage everyone to shop according to their personal preferences rather than feel restricted by marketing lingo.
1. Best Overall: HOKA Bondi 8
Going for a run or taking a walk? The HOKA Bondi 8 is a comfortable and supportive sneaker designed to absorb impact no matter the activity, earning its spot as the best overall pick.
The cushion and support are essential because it "helps take pressure off the spine," which can be helpful for people with sciatica, Dr. Sanchez says.
Additionally, the outer layer is constructed of breathable mesh (see ya, sweaty feet) and the collar is made of memory foam to support people with smaller ankles.
2. Best Runner-Up: New Balance Fresh Foam X 860v13
New Balance's Fresh Foam shoe has a supportive sole that's layered with foam to relieve pain and provide stability.
You can run longer distances, even outdoors, thanks to the mesh upper and reflective accents, which make the shoe breathable and visible. What's more, the shoe comes in 6 fun colors, from electric green to a cool grey and pink.
3. Best for Walking: HOKA Clifton 8
Another bestselling shoe from the HOKA family is the Clifton 8. What makes this pair ideal for walking is that it's lightweight and breathable. The shoe features a cushioned sole and mesh upper, and the crash pad is designed to absorb impact with each stride.
Beyond being extremely comfortable, the Clifton 8 received the seal approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), which means it has been reviewed by APMA podiatrists for promoting better foot health.
4. Best for Running: Brooks Ghost 14
Run the distance with Brooks Ghost 14. It's made with the brand's signature cushioning technology, which absorbs impact and offers smoother transitions from heel to toe, making it an ideal running shoe.
Constructed of adaptive mesh, the outer layer adjusts to your foot shape for a customized fit. Bonus? There are 29 fun colors to choose from, such as fuschia and violet stripes.
Dr. Sanchez recommends swapping out your running shoes every 500 miles, so this might be the perfect one to make the switch.
5. Best Sandal: Birkenstocks Arizona Soft Slide Sandal
If you're looking for a sandal option, "Birkenstocks are the optimal sandal to wear," Dr. Sanchez says. "They have a unique cork-and-latex-style sole that provides more support than a typical sandal but also contours to your foot a bit, becoming more comfortable as time goes on."
The cushioned footbed provides arch support and absorbs shock with each stride. Plus, the straps are adjustable.
Buy it: Nordstrom.com for unisex sizes 4 to 11.5; Price: $140
What to Look for in Shoes for Sciatica
1. Stable Midfoot and Rigid Heel Counter
A good shoe for sciatica should have a stable midfoot and a rigid heel counter, according to Dr. Sanchez.
To tell if your shoe has these features, "pick up the shoe and try to bend it in half where the foot arch would be," he says. If you can bend it all the way, the sole is too flexible and Dr. Sanchez recommends putting the shoe back.
2. Cushioned Footbed and Sole
When buying a shoe for sciatica, look for a padded footbed and extra cushioning. A cushioned footbed and sole absorb impact of sciatica exercises and put less stress on your knees and joints. Some shoes, like the New Balance 860v13, are padded with soft foam.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.