Back pain is one of the most common types of pain. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of people will experience it at some point in their lives.
Even things as simple as walking can be affected by back pain. If this describes you, then you may be surprised that simply making a footwear change can help. The best walking shoes for back pain are designed to alleviate pain and make physical activity enjoyable again.
Our best overall choice is the Hoka One One Bondi 8, as it has a wide and stable foundation, full-length EVA cushioning and a meta-rocker to ease muscle fatigue.
Here are our top eight shoes for back pain.
Top 3 Best and Favorite
Hoka One One Bondi 8
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Hoka One One Clifton L Suede
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
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1. Hoka One One Bondi 8
The Hoka One One Bondi 8 is Hoka’s most cushioned shoe. It features a wide base which adds an element of stability to the shoe, and 33mm (men) or 31mm (women) of foam under the heel with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop.
A high stack height like this one often feels slightly unstable but the width of the shoe counters it and provides a secure feel. The shoe is not too heavy—11.4 ounces for men, 8.9 ounces for women—which makes it ideal for walking.
The full-length EVA cushion makes up most of the tack height. It absorbs shock effectively, reducing vibration up the legs which in turn reduces back pain. This foam extends to the outsole, providing the maximum amount of cushion possible.
Sections of Hi-Abrasion rubber form a very minimal outsole, but they protect the most vulnerable parts of the sole from wearing out too quickly. It also provides good grip, allowing you to walk with confidence knowing that you won’t injure your back by losing your form on slippery ground. The thin layers can wear out faster than other shoes, but the EVA foam is thick and firm enough to allow for continued running even then.
The meta-rocker technology in the sole also allows one to go through the heel-to-toe transition more easily, reducing leg muscle fatigue and preventing the back from taking strain when the lower body becomes tired.
- Wide, stable base
- Internal heel counter
- Full-length EVA cushioning
- Early-stage Meta-Rocker
- You may need some time to adjust to the stack height of the shoe
Top For Recovery
2. Hoka One One Elevon 2
When recovering, especially if you have a back injury, a safe shoe is even more essential to avoid aggravating existing conditions. The Hoka One One Elevon 2 is our choice for the best shoe for back pain when in recovery.
There are two types of foam in this midsole—firmer foam in the forefoot and soft foam in the heel. The forefoot is designed this way to give you a powerful toe-off without straining. Softness in the heel cushions your joints on landing. The heel is also slightly extended behind the shoe, offering a more stable base and extra padding.
There’s also a meta-rocker in the sole, which makes this walking shoe quite speedy without having to work too hard. It helps you move fairly fast while maintaining great form, reducing your chance of aggravating existing or recently healed injuries.
Anatomical support wings on either side of the shoe add structure and also hold the heel tab. For more support, there’s an Active Foot Frame inside the midsole, which helps to lock the foot in and reduce excessive movement.
On the outsole, crystal rubber and EVA foam give a good combination of durable, flexible, cushioned, and grippy. It also features strategic grooves in the forefoot for more flexibility in the push-off.
- Two different density midsole foams
- Features an Active Foot Frame
- Anatomical support wings
- Extended heel
- Some may find that the thin tongue is uncomfortable and doesn’t offer enough padding
Best Casual Style
3. Hoka One One Clifton L Suede
This is classified as an “all-gender” shoe, and it comes in two pastel colors. The upper is made from suede, which is lightweight and durable.
It also features a 3M reflective element for safety in low light conditions. These shoes look modern and are ideal for casual settings.
They feature the classic Hoka EVA midsole, which is thick enough to absorb most of the shock your feet experience from walking. This prevents jarring to the joints, which can, in turn, alleviate back pain. The tongue and ankle collar are also well-padded, providing comfort and reducing chafing.
An early-stage meta-rocker provides a forward rolling motion when walking that reduces muscle fatigue and helps to make a more efficient transition from the heel strike to toe-off.
Rubber sections on the outsole make the shoe more durable. Although Hoka shoes provide a wide, stable platform which makes the shoe stable enough for users with back pain, some may feel that the toe box is a little too snug.
- Suede upper
- 3M reflective detailing
- Full-length EVA midsole cushioning
- Early-stage meta-rocker
- People with wide feet may find the toe box to be a bit snug
Best For Wide Feet
4. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
It can be difficult to find comfortable shoes for wide feet, especially if you’re looking for shoes that are effective for back pain as well.
New Balance shoes are one of the best for walkers with wide feet, and the Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a comfortable and supportive ride for those suffering from back pain.
A full-length FreshFoam midsole has been precision-engineered to be lightweight but still provide effective cushioning for long distances. It still offers good energy return, and the rocker-style sole makes for a smooth and effective transition from heel to toe.
Innovative Ultra Heel technology helps lock the heel in place and prevent unnecessary movement which could compromise form and lead to back pain. Though some may find that the less padded collar is uncomfortable on the Achilles.
The knit upper is constructed in a bootie style, for a premium fit that stretches with your foot as it flexes. It’s light and ventilated, keeping your feet comfortable throughout your walk.
One of the best things about this shoe is that it’s available in both wide and extra-wide sizes.
- Stretchy knit upper
- Ultra Heel design technology
- Fresh Foam X midsole
- Available in X-wide
- Some may find the thinner heel to be uncomfortable or chafe the Achilles
Most Supportive Cushioning
5. Hoka One One Gaviota 4
Cushioning plays a big role in reducing shock in the joints, as it absorbs a lot of the vibration on every footstrike.
The Hoka One One Gaviota 4 is a stability shoe, which means it’s best for walkers who overpronate—roll their feet inwards when they step. But it’s also a soft, plush shoe – walkers who don’t need the extra support can still use this shoe.
The J-Frame in the midfoot is a rubberized foam section in the shape of a J that runs down the medial side of the shoe. It provides support in the area of the foot that tends to roll inward.
In addition to the rubber cushioned J-Frame, the Gaviota is maximally cushioned, with an extra 2mm of foam compared to the previous version. It delivers a plush feeling with every step, reducing vibration noticeably and saving your back from further pain.
There’s an H-Frame in the midfoot to provide more support and keep the midfoot locked in. A late-stage meta-rocker helps increase your speed without increasing muscle engagement and fatigue.
- Has an extra 2mm of foam
- J-Frame technology
- Padded heel collar
- Late-stage meta-rocker
- Walkers who don’t overpronate may find this shoe to be uncomfortable
6. Brooks Addiction Walker Suede
Wearing the wrong shoes when you have flat feet or low arches can force your muscles and joints into unnatural positions, putting pressure on the joints and causing a compromised chain of movement, even leading to back pain.
Walkers who feel that they need slightly more support for their flat feet may like the Brooks Addiction Walker. This version has a suede upper, which adds to the support and makes them look smart-casual.
The midsole is made from BioMoGo DNA foam, which is a good mix of stable and soft. It reduces pressure on the joints with every step as it absorbs impact. It’s also good for the environment, degrading 50 times faster than other similar foam compounds.
Also in the midsole is an Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar. This technology provides firm structure in the midfoot to prevent overpronation.
The suede upper performs similarly to leather, offering structure without being too rigid. It has micro-perforations across the upper, to allow for airflow through the inside chamber.
The outsole is certified slip-resistant—SATRA TM144:2011. This allows you to walk with confidence and prevents accidental slips that could worsen back pain. It also lets you walk with proper form.
The removable insole allows for the addition of an insert or orthotic if necessary. You may need to order half a size larger than usual because these shoes run small.
- Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar
- BioMoGo DNA midsole foam
- Suede upper with micro-perforations
- Slip-resistant outsole
- These shoes can run small and you may have to order a half size up from your normal shoe
7. Saucony Tempus
The Saucony Tempus is a stability shoe that provides excellent support and pronation correction while offering a springy ride and reducing vibration.
Stability shoes can be heavy, but the Tempus remains very light at 8.9 ounces for a men’s size 9. For support, it features a PWRRUN frame that works with the upper to provide structure and support for a fallen instep. This is less intrusive than a medial post.
The engineered mesh upper is well-ventilated but also fairly stiff, to provide even more stability. Working with the guidance frame, it keeps the foot locked down and stable.
PWRRUN PB cushion is lightweight but offers a plush feeling under your feet. It has a spring in it that makes the shoe feel fresh and snappy, but not so much that you can’t feel the cushion.
The XT-900 carbon rubber outsole keeps you safe from slipping or losing your footing and potentially injuring your back further.
- TPU guidance frame
- Engineered mesh upper
- PWRRUN+ cushioning
- XT-900 carbon rubber outsole
- Some people may find the sole of the shoe to be a bit stiff
8. On Cloudstratus
If heavy shoes make your back feel worse, the On Cloudstratus is a lightweight option.
The men’s weighs just over 11 ounces and the women’s is just under 10 ounces. The engineered mesh upper is light and soft, but the toe box is reinforced to protect the feet and maintain the structure of the shoe.
There is also reinforced mesh wrapping around the midfoot for more support and a snug fit, minimizing movement of the foot within the shoe. The inside of the shoe is minimally padded, which accounts in part for the reduced weight but also provides a closer fit.
The lacing system is in a unique star shape, which is said to reduce pressure across the bridge of the foot. There are three extra holes if one wishes to get a more locked-in fit.
Helion foam in the midsole is On’s newly engineered invention, designed to be lighter and more responsive than others. It’s also temperature-resistant, so it won’t lose its shape in the heat or become stiff in the cold.
Within the midsole you’ll find a CloudTec Speedboard, which is a plastic board that delivers both support and propulsion. There is also a section of textured ribbing on the inside of the shoe, on the medial side of the arch.
Although this shoe is designed for neutral feet, this feature helps walkers to be aware of when they are losing their form, as their arches will begin to touch this textured section. Before your form can begin to affect your painful back, you can correct it or take a rest.
- Form-fitting upper
- Star-lacing configuration
- Lightweight but comfortable
- Helion foam midsole
- Some people may find the midsole cushioning to be a bit too firm
What features should walking shoes have when having back pain?
There are a number of things that one needs to take into consideration when buying walking shoes when you have back pain. The first thing to consider is if you overpronate or underpronate and how much you may be rolling your foot.
The degree to which you pronate may mean that you need more support. You might need to get a stability shoe or a shoe that’s designed to keep your foot in a neutral alignment. You’ll also need to make sure that the shoe you get provides adequate arch support for your foot shape.
Make sure that the cushioning also provides adequate cushioning—especially in the heel and forefoot—as this will help to reduce the impact from walking. Look for outsoles that are durable and provide good traction.
The shoe should have a moderate heel height, as this will prevent your gait from being altered which could lead to back pain.
What to avoid when buying shoes with back pain
You should never wear ill-fitting shoes, as this can lead to a number of foot conditions that can cause back pain as well.
Avoid shoes that are zero-drop, minimalist shoes, or shoes that will place your heel in a position that’s lower than your toes. These can cause your pelvis to rotate which can aggravate back pain or maybe the reason for your back pain.
Don’t wear shoes that provide too little cushioning or that have cushioning that’s too hard for you, as they won’t be able to provide adequate shock absorption.
You should also avoid wearing shoes with cushioning that is too soft, as this can lead to you being unstable, as well as not absorbing the shock from your foot strikes efficiently.