The Best Running Shoes for People With Back Problems

portrait of a young man looking at shoes in a shoe store
Portrait of a young man looking at running shoes in store, blurred in the background. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Purchasing running shoes can be a dizzying proposition with high-tech options. This is good news for those with back pain who have choices galore based on individual biomechanics. Shoes may offer anything from a sophisticated support system to luxurious cushioning or something in between. It is important to find a reputable running store where people understand the science behind the shoes. A fit specialist should examine your arch and how your feet move when they hit the ground running, ideally injury free.

Motion-Control Shoes

These shoes feature support for those who overpronate--when the foot rolls excessively inward as the edge of the heel strikes the ground. This action can cause alignment issues or lower back stress. Overpronators often have low arches resembling flat feet that require additional support. Runners with large frames often prefer these shoes for that reason. Examples of shoes endorsed by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine include Asics Gel-Evolution 5 or Gel-Foundation 8, Brooks Addiction 8, Nike Zoom Equalon+ 4, Mizuno Wave Renegade 4, New Balance 1123, 1011 or 587 and Saucony Pro Grid Stabil.

Stability Shoes

Perhaps you experience general aches and pains in your back, but you have a neutral stride and normal arch. These shoes are designed to control slight overpronation--and most runners overpronate to some degree. It is a shoe designed to offer moderate support and some cushioning--a happy medium between those who severely overpronate and those who underpronate. Examples include Asics Gel Kayano 16, Asics GT 2150, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10, Mizuno Wave Elixir 4 and Saucony Pro Grid Guide 2.

Cushioning Shoes

Runners wearing these cushioning shoes typically supinate, which means the feet exhibit an outward movement. They are the opposite of pronators and tend to have higher arches. Without cushioning shoes, the body is left to absorb that pounding on its own, which can break down your joints and result in muscle pain in the lower back. Examples include Asics Gel-Nimbus 11, Brooks Glycerin 7, Nike Zoom Vomero+4 and Saucony Pro Grid Triumph.

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