Back Pain and Your Feet: What’s the Correlation Between Your Arches and Your Spine?


Does your back hurt? If so, you may need to check your feet. Yes, that’s correct-your feet. Your feet are your body’s base-its foundation. If your body’s base isn’t properly supporting its foundation, there will be problems. Imperfect feet can cause knee pain, unlevel hips, and back pain. So, it’s important to know which kind of feet you have and how to care for them.

There are three kinds of feet in this world: flat-footed (pronators), high-arched (supinators), and medium-arched (normal). How do you know which feet you have? You can perform a fairly reliable, simple test called the “Wet Feet” test:

Step 1: Wet the entire bottom of your feet.

Step 2: Step on a piece of paper, paper towel, or brown bag that is placed on a flat surface.

Step 3: Observe your wet footprint.

If your footprint reveals your entire foot, you are likely flat-footed. If your footprint reveals about 50% of your arch (middle of your foot), you likely have a normal arch. Lastly, if less than 50% of your foot is revealed, you probably have high-arches. Now that you know how to determine your type of arch, let’s talk about what’s next.

When functioning properly, the arch of your foot acts as a shock absorber. However, flat feet and high-arches do not properly function and can result in either too much or too little shock absorption. This change in arch function can result in back pain.

If you are flat-footed, you will need an arch support in your shoes. Some shoes have built-in arches that may suffice. However, an orthotic insert may be necessary in addition to a shoe’s built-in arch if your arch is severely collapsed. Be aware that flat-footed people are at higher risk for chronic low back pain.

High-arched feet, or supinators, do not have enough shock absorption and are at risk for knee and low back pain. A supinator needs a soft shoe with extra cushioning to compensate for the lack of shock absorption in their arches.

Please note that if you have normal arches you, too, must be wary of your shoes. Because your arch is adequate, it is important that you do not wear shoes with built-in arches as it may have an adverse effect.

If you are unsure of your foot type or which type of shoe is best for you, seek the advice of a qualified health professional. There are numerous running shoe stores that are available to assist you in properly selecting a shoe, as well. Back pain may result from myriad issues. If your back pain doesn’t resolve three weeks after you’ve changed shoes, seek professional help. You want to ensure your back pain isn’t a result of some other factor.