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The Best Running Shoes for Back Pain in 2022

 

Back pain can be uncomfortable, or in some cases, downright debilitating. While we recommend always following your doctor’s advice, sometimes simple changes can make a difference.

Common treatments like physical therapy, meditation, and other lifestyle changes often help alleviate back pain.

The type of shoes you wear can also often make a difference. Meaning, changing the shoes you wear can lead to instant relief.

Running shoes and the technology built into them often help to aid back pain. These shoes have plenty of cushioning and provide ample support.

We’ve outlined our top picks for the best running shoes for back pain. Our top choice is the Hoka Bondi 7; it has plush, shock-absorbing cushioning, excellent traction, and has a wide platform making the shoe quite stable.

Changing footwear won’t work for everyone, but we’ve seen many of these models help people suffering from back pain.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Hoka One One Bondi 7

 

  • Lightweight
  • Tons of cushioning
  • Stable design
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Hoka Rincon 3

 

  • Shock-absorbing cushioning
  • Meta-Rocker midsole
  • EVA foam
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Hoka Arahi 6

 

  • J-Frame midsole
  • Balanced cushioning
  • Plush tongue
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Best Overall

1. Hoka Bondi 7

The Hoka Bondi 7 is plush and highly shock-absorbing, two important factors for those with back pain! No wonder it’s Hoka’s most popular shoe.

What We Like

With 29 mm of foam in the forefoot of the men’s shoe—27 mm in the women’s shoe—the Bondi 7 offers luxurious, soft cushioning underfoot.

The cushioning does a great job of absorbing shock, keeping you more comfortable all the way up the kinetic chain to your back. There’s also decent arch support in the EVA midsole, keeping your feet well-aligned so there’s less stress on the back muscles.

A wide base makes the shoe quite stable. There’s also a lot of space inside the shoe, especially in the toe box, but it doesn’t feel sloppy.

An early-stage meta-rocker in the sole helps with the heel-to-toe transition and reduces the amount of work your foot has to do. This lowers foot fatigue and takes pressure off the back during the transition.

Strategically-placed rubber on high-wear zones of the outsole makes it durable.

Why We Like It

The Bondi 7 offers everything you need to stop experiencing back pain while you run. Strong arch support, impressive cushioning, and a high level of comfort make it a great choice for those who don’t mind the bulky design.

What to Consider

The Bondi 7’s midsole tends to stiffen when the cold weather hits. While it’s still chunky and softish, it does become a little firmer, which may be noticeable for those who love the softness of the midsole in warmer weather.

What’s New

There are not many changes from the Bondi 6. The only real differences are some aesthetic changes to the upper.

PROS:

  • Soft, plush cushioning absorbs shock and protects the feet and back
  • Strong EVA arch support provides the stability you need
  • Early-stage Meta-Rocker reduces fatigue up the kinetic chain
  • Rubber layers in high-wear zones offer great traction

CONS:

  • The midsole may stiffen up in the cold and become uncomfortable
 

Top Value

2. Hoka Rincon 3

The Rincon 3 is a versatile shoe that can be used for various types of runs. It’s also one of Hoka’s most affordable shoes, so it fits just about any budget.

What We Like

The Hoka Rincon 3 is a multipurpose trainer that’s available at a friendly price. One of the best things about this shoe is how light it is—7.4 oz for an average-sized men’s shoe and 6.2 oz for the women’s shoe.

That doesn’t stop it from delivering excellent cushioning! EVA foam underfoot provides both shock absorption and good support underneath the arch, keeping your feet aligned and free from jarring that could aggravate your back pain.

A vented mesh upper keeps your feet cool and molds snugly to your foot for a good fit. Under the sole, zonal rubber protects the shoe in areas that come into contact with the ground.

Why We Like It

The Rincon 3 has similar plush, shock-absorbing cushioning to the Bondi 7, but comes at a more budget-friendly price. Ideal for those who already have shoes but need to buy something extra for reducing their pain.

What to Consider

Some people may not like the new, thin tongue design of this shoe. It’s more slippery than before and tends to move around quite a bit if you haven’t got a solid lockdown on your foot.

What’s New

The Hoka Rincon 3 weighs a little less than its predecessor, although it does have an extra millimeter of foam in the midsole.

The tongue is now thinner than the previous version, the heel tab has changed from a thick strip to a thin string, and the upper is more breathable than before.

Also, the heel counter has been streamlined and there’s extra rubber on the outsole.

PROS:

  • Lightweight but offers plenty of shock-absorbing cushioning
  • Meta-Rocker in the midsole helps to reduce fatigue and pain when running
  • EVA foam supports the arch and reduces strain on the feet and legs
  • Zonal rubber on the outsole increases durability

CONS:

  • The thin tongue may move around as you run
 

Best for Flat Feet

3. Hoka Arahi 6

The Arahi 6 is one of Hoka’s stability shoes. Although it has a stability feature, it retains the brand’s classic chunky midsole for shock absorption and comfort.

What We Like

The Hoka Arahi 6 uses a built-in J-Frame to support the foot on the medial side, reducing the chances of the arch collapsing. It’s a J-shaped section of firmer foam that doesn’t compress as easily as the rest.

It’s also one of the most cushioned stability shoes you’ll find, making it excellent for overpronators who have back pain. With 30 mm in the forefoot and 35 mm in the heel, your joints—from foot to back—will be protected from jarring.

There’s also some energy return in the toe, allowing you to get a peppy toe-off. You can easily wear this shoe for any type of run.

The plushness of the shoe extends to the upper. A thick tongue cushions the top of your foot and reduces lace bite, allowing you to get a good secure lockdown.

The outsole features Hoka’s usual meta-rocker for an easier heel-to-toe transition, and Durabrasion rubber graces the most-used areas for durability and excellent traction.

Why We Like It

This shoe offers excellent shock-absorbing cushioning with a stabilizing J-Frame to protect overpronators. It’s also surprisingly light, reducing strain on the feet and the back.

What to Consider

Hoka’s tend to run wide, and that’s true for the Arahi 6. If you have narrow feet, you may find that this shoe doesn’t fit well.

What’s New

The Arahi 6 is slightly lighter than the 5, although it has 6 mm more cushion in the midsole. The outsole is also more flexible.

PROS:

  • J-Frame in the midsole provides extra stability for flat feet
  • Balanced cushioning offers both shock absorption and energy return
  • Plush tongue helps you get a comfortable and snug lockdown on your foot
  • Durabrasion rubber on the outsole increases durability and traction

CONS:

  • The shoe may run slightly wide and large
 

Top for Wide Feet

4. New Balance 1080v12

Runners with wide feet love the New Balance 1080v12, as it’s wide throughout, not just in the toe box. Made to be both comfortable and effective for reducing back pain.

What We Like

Those with wide feet will be pleased to know that these shoes aren’t just wide in the forefoot. They come in several wide width sizes, making them perfect for those who need more space throughout the shoe.

A wide, stable base keeps you steady on your feet. There’s a rocker in the sole that helps you to move from heel to toe easily without needing to work your muscles harder, which can reduce back pain.

Fresh Foam X padding in the midsole is plush and luxurious underfoot. It does an excellent job absorbing shock and protecting both your feet and the rest of the kinetic chain from jarring.

To complement this, a sturdy heel counter is present on this shoe. It helps to keep your foot firmly in place and prevent lateral movement that could throw you out of alignment.

Plenty of rubber across the outsole ensures that you stay safe on your feet on multiple different surfaces and have much less chance of slipping and tweaking a sore back.

Why We Like It

This shoe offers all the soft, plush, shock-absorbing protection your foot needs in a wide-from-toe-to-heel package. It’s ideal for wide-footed runners who need help with back pain.

What to Consider

Although the shoe itself isn’t too heavy—just over 10 oz—the design is bottom-heavy, which some runners may feel on the road.

What’s New

The Ultraheel on the 11 has been reconstructed. An updated upper and beefed-up heel counter reduce the previous version’s problems with heel slippage.

The stack height has increased by 4 mm and the platform is a little wider, but that comes with an extra ¼-ounce of weight.

PROS:

  • Wider fit from toe to heel accommodates those with wide feet
  • Plush Fresh Foam X cushioning absorbs shock and protects your feet
  • Rocker sole helps to roll your feet through the transition easily
  • Extensive rubber outsole coverage ensures that you stay safe and don’t tweak your back

CONS:

  • Bottom-heavy design may feel uncomfortable to some
 

Most Lightweight

5. On Cloud 5

These Swiss shoes have a distinctive design that’s more than just cool. It provides fantastic shock absorption, and the combination of features makes it great for those suffering from pain throughout the body, especially in your back!

What We Like

Weighing just 8.3 oz for a men’s shoe, the On Cloud is light as a feather on the feet but doesn’t skimp on support or comfort.

It’s a versatile shoe, and works for running, cross-training, or just wearing around the house. With a light mesh upper and a speed-lacing system, the shoe is all convenience, complete with supportive features.

Zero-Gravity foam cushions your feet without adding much weight. The light shock absorption of the midsole is complemented by the CloudTec pods on the outsole, which compress as you walk or run to absorb shock and redistribute body weight.

The shoe comes with a speed-lacing system that makes it a breeze to get in and out of. If you prefer traditional laces, it does come with a set of those as well.

Why We Like It

The Cloud 5 is lightweight and you’ll hardly feel it on your feet as you go about your run. The unique design offers a ton of support for all kinds of feet, effectively reducing your back pain.

What to Consider

While this won’t annoy everyone and depends largely on where you run, the Cloud Pods underneath the shoe can catch small pebbles, mud, and dirt in them, which can be hard to clean out later.

What’s New

The On Cloud 2.0 is the previous version of this shoe. The new model has a drop of 8 mm as opposed to the previous 6 mm, and it’s gained some weight although it’s still a lightweight shoe.

PROS:

  • Lightweight but doesn’t compromise on support and comfort
  • Zero-Gravity foam provides a high level of comfort
  • CloudTec pods alleviate shock by compressing underfoot
  • Choose between speed-lacing system and regular laces for convenience

CONS:

  • The Cloud Pods can pick up debris and dirt on your run
 

Best for Road Running

6. Hoka Kawana

The Kawana is one of Hoka’s newest offerings, named after Australia’s Sunshine Coast. It’s a sunshiny ride, and perfect for those with back pain.

What We Like

This shoe is fairly new, but it’s a great road shoe. With a max-sized stack of EVA foam that molds to your arch and reduces shock, it’s a great choice for those with back pain.

Its shock-absorbing properties are enhanced by the Swallowtail split heel and extended crash pad underneath the sole.

An early-stage meta-rocker in the sole makes the heel-to-toe movement easy and minimizes strain on the muscles.

A Jacquard mesh upper and flat laces conform to your foot so you can get a tight, comfortable lockdown. Rubber is placed on certain areas in the toe and heel of the outsole so that the high-wear spots are protected from the road.

Why We Like It

The Hoka Kawana is a max cushioned shoe designed for road running. It has enough cushioning to alleviate shock that would otherwise jar your back.

What to Consider

Multiple wearers have mentioned that the Kawana runs narrower than they’re used to for a Hoka. If you have a wider foot, be aware that this shoe may not fit like previous Hoka’s you’ve worn.

PROS:

  • Early-stage meta rocker makes movement easy and reduces muscle fatigue
  • Split heel and crash pad are excellent at absorbing shock on landing
  • Max cushion design features thick EVA foam padding for soft comfort
  • Lightweight engineered Jacquard mesh upper hugs your feet comfortably

CONS:

  • The Kawana seems to run narrower than the usual Hoka
 

Top Wide Toe Box

7. Altra Paradigm 6

The Altra Paradigm 6 is technically a stability shoe; however, neutral runners can also wear it comfortably as the stability feature is not intrusive at all. Those who need space in the toe box will find that the Paradigm offers that and more.

What We Like

Altra’s FootShape toe box features in this shoe, give you plenty of room for your toes to wiggle. The width extends all the way through the shoe, making it ideal for wide feet.

Underneath your feet, you’ll find 30 mm of comfortable EgoMax foam. It’s plush and reduces the amount of shock that hits the legs and lower back, so it should help to reduce your back pain.

The arch support is provided by InnovArch technology. This is a feature on the upper of the shoe that wraps around the foot and pulls the upper tightly to the shoe when laced, forming an underfoot support arch.

A GuideRail3a dense piece of cushioning—runs along the medial of the shoe, stopping the foot from rolling inwards as you step.

It’s effective against overpronation, but it doesn’t get in the way of a neutral stride.

Why We Like It

The Paradigm 6 has a roomy toe box that allows your toes space to splay naturally, whether you’re walking or running. It’s also well-padded so that runners with an aching back get the full benefit of a shock-absorbing cushion with a handy stability feature.

What to Consider

People with narrow heels—but who want space in the forefoot—may feel that the midfoot and heel of this shoe is too wide for their liking. It works best for those with wide feet from toe to heel.

It may also take some time to get used to the zero-drop platform, especially if you’ve never run in a zero-drop shoe before.

What’s New

The midsole has been updated, InnovArch technology has been added, and the upper has been streamlined.

PROS:

  • Wide fit extends from toe box to heel for a spacious fit
  • 30 mm of EgoMax foam in the midsole helps to reduce shock on every step
  • Dynamic InnovArch technology keeps you supported where you need it
  • Subtle GuideRail technology to support both neutral runners and overpronators

CONS:

  • The midfoot and heel are also wide, so those with a narrow heel might feel that there’s too much space in this shoe
 

Best for Lower Back Pain

8. Saucony Hurricane 23

If your pain is concentrated in the lower back, we recommend a light stability shoe, which is what the Saucony Hurricane 23 is. Cushioning and stability are the perfect pair.

What We Like

Lower back pain can be brought on by the foot going out of alignment on your stride, causing the rest of the kinetic chain to follow suit. Wearing a stability shoe, like the Hurricane, can help.

It uses a TPU Guidance Frame to hold the foot lightly but firmly in position, stopping it from moving laterally or rolling over and potentially tweaking your painful back.

In terms of cushioning, you’ll find PWRRUN+ cushion, which offers both excellent impact absorption and some good energy return so that you can do a variety of different runs in these shoes.

The outsole is almost fully covered with tacky rubber, so you’ll be safe on most surfaces with little chance of slipping and hurting your lower back again.

A feature we like is the suede tongue, which is soft and plush and prevents lace bite on the top of your foot as you’re locking down.

Why We Like It

The Hurricane 23 offers a great combination of cushioning and support for both comfort and protection of the lower back. It’s also great for those who need a spacious toe box.

What to Consider

At 11.4 oz, the Hurricane is a little on the heavy side. Some runners may find the weight to be noticeable, especially if they’ve been running in lighter shoes before switching over to this pair.

What’s New

It’s about half an ounce lighter than the 22 and has had a revamp to the midsole and outsole. There’s a slight aesthetic update to the upper as well.

PROS:

  • TPU Guidance Frame prevents the foot from rolling and tweaking the back
  • PWRRUN+ cushioning offers both padding and energy return
  • Suede tongue is soft on the feet and prevents lace bite
  • Full-coverage rubber on the outsole helps you avoid slips

CONS:

  • The shoe is on the heavy side, weighing 11.4 oz
 

Top ASICS Shoe

9. ASICS Gel-Kayano 28

Sometimes, the jarring of your feet when running can contribute to back pain. The ASICS Gel range provides exceptional cushioning and shock absorption that significantly reduces jarring and eases back pain.

What We Like

This may be a stability shoe, but it’s suitable for both overpronators and neutral feet. It uses ASICS’ Dynamic DuoMax system, which features a strip of dense foam along the medial side of the midsole, preventing the foot from falling inward due to its firmness.

The cushioning apart from the firm strip is made up of three layers. Flytefoam Blast right under your feet, normal Flytefoam right on the bottom, and Gel in between the two.

This setup is brilliant at absorbing shock every time you take a step, which means that vibration hardly ever affects the ankles, knees, hips, or back.

Extra support in the midsole is provided by a gender-specific Space Trusstic System. This all works with a stable external heel clutch which keeps the foot aligned so it can reap the benefits of the support and cushion.

Why We Like It

The ASICS Gel-Kayano 28 has amazing cushioning, which significantly alleviates jarring and pain that can happen on every foot strike. Its stability features help to keep your foot secure so it can make the most of the support.

What to Consider

This shoe has a fairly narrow toe box, which may be uncomfortable for some runners.

What’s New

The Trusstic system has been relocated to the midsole, leaving full-coverage rubber on the outsole. The heel counter has dropped a little lower, and there’s an extra millimeter of foam in the midsole.

PROS:

  • Triple-layer cushioning provides exceptional protection against jarring
  • Dynamic DuoMax medial posting system stops the arch from collapsing
  • Space Trusstic System provides gender-specific support
  • Excellent for both overpronators and neutral feet

CONS:

  • The toe box is somewhat narrow
 

Best Brooks Shoe

10. Brooks Glycerin GTS 20

Brooks fans who need a shoe that’s comfortable and protective will find the Glycerin 20 to be both. It’s the latest version of the model and has some handy features for reducing back pain when running.

What We Like

The Glycerin is a stability shoe, but the GuideRails feature is hardly noticeable. It uses a dense piece of foam on the medial side to stop overpronation.

The midsole itself is made of a combination of BioMoGo foam and DNA Loft. The BioMoGo has some bounce to it, while the DNA Loft is infused with nitrogen to give it extra softness. It also offers great arch support for medium to high arches.

A wide base, less-rockered design adds to the stability of the shoe, keeping your footing more stable and lowering the chance of aggravating your painful back.

Why We Like It

The Brooks Glycerin GTS 20 is an excellent choice for those with back pain, thanks to its soft cushioning and subtle stability system.

What to Consider

This shoe is definitely on the wider side. Runners with narrow to medium feet may find that the fit is a bit sloppy and doesn’t feel secure when running.

What’s New

The Glycerin GTS 20 is a little less plush and a bit stiffer than its predecessor. It’s also a touch lighter, and it has a roomier, stretchier upper.

PROS:

  • Combination of BioMogo and DNA Loft cushioning provides both comfort and responsiveness
  • Wide, less-rockered base increases the stability of the shoe
  • GuideRail support system for stability in both overpronators and neutral runners
  • Ideal support for medium to high arches

CONS:

  • Not the best fit for narrow to medium feet
 

Buyer’s Guide – Running Shoes for Back Pain

Arch Support

Strong arch support is necessary to ensure that your feet are properly aligned. When your feet are misaligned, you may experience pain up the kinetic chain—back, hips, knees—and pressure points.

Proper arch support ensures that your joints are in alignment and takes pressure off of them, lowering the chance of pain.

You should also make sure that the support in the shoe is appropriate for your feet. For example, an overpronator will need a stability shoe with extra medial support to ensure that the arch doesn’t collapse.

Cushioning and Shock Absorption

Cushioning is essential for both comfort and safely. The padding absorbs shock on every step, reducing vibration through the kinetic chain. This helps to alleviate pain in the back.

Grip and Traction

Ensure that the shoes you choose have excellent traction as this will prevent you from slipping, which can hurt your back.

You should be looking for sticky rubber outsoles with a textured pattern. Keeping in mind that trail running shoes will need a more aggressively lugged outsole than road running shoes.

Fit

Make sure that the running shoes you choose fit you properly. If they’re too big, you may not be able to get a good lockdown and your feet can move within the shoe, leading to instability.

If they’re too small, there’s likely to be chafing and pressure points which will cause blisters and pain. Any kind of pain can cause you to alter your gait, making back pain worse.

Breathability

Breathable shoes will help to keep your feet dry and cool. They will also reduce chafing caused by sweating, which can cause you to alter your gait and worsen back pain.

Durability

When your shoes wear down, the cushioning and shock absorption are compromised. This can increase the risk of developing back pain.

Choose a pair of shoes that’s durable enough to last for a long time and won’t wear down too quickly.

The shoes should be made of high-quality materials. Thick outsoles and protective overlays can help to increase the lifespan of shoes.

FAQs

Can the Wrong Running Shoes Hurt Your Back?

Yes, wearing the incorrect shoes can cause back pain. If the shoe you’re wearing doesn’t have enough cushioning, the shock of impact may cause the muscles and bones to be jarred, which can cause inflammation and pain.

Wearing the wrong type of shoe for your gait—a neutral shoe for an overpronator, for example—can also cause back pain as you won’t have the right amount of support for your feet.

Is Running Good If You Have Lower Back Pain?

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, running can help to stabilize your spine and reduce the pain.

However, this does depend on the runner. If you have weaker core muscles or are using the wrong shoes, your back pain may worsen.

When Should You Not Run With Lower Back Pain?

If your lower back pain is as a result of an injury, you should avoid running until the injury is healed.

Continuing to run through an injury can worsen the pain and damage your spine.

How Do I Prevent Lower Back Pain When Running?

One of the best ways to prevent back pain while running is to develop strong core muscles. Weak core muscles don’t support the spine adequately when you’re running, leading to the back muscles becoming overworked.

Add in a dedicated core workout day to your cross-training. Be consistent, and you’ll find that your back pain improves.

The other way to improve lower back pain while running is to switch to wearing shoes that offer excellent support for the arches and shock-absorbing cushioning.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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