So, How Do We Choose the Best Running Shoes for Back Pain?
Know your foot type
The first thing you need to figure out is the shape of your foot: flat feet, neutral or high arched.
Once you know this, you’re most of the way towards choosing the right pair of shoes to help with your back pain.
People with flat feet or high arches will be most prone to back pain resulting from running, so stability (especially for flat feet) and cushioning (especially for high arches) are really important.
However, problems can result from any foot type if the muscles in your feet are weak.
Similarly, regardless of your foot type, if you have strong feet, you’ll be better able to handle the rigours of running.
So, strengthening the muscles in your feet through specific foot exercises and spending time barefoot can help to prevent the stress of running transferring to other parts of your body, such as your back.
If you know your feet are weak, you’re new to running or you barely spend any time barefoot, then choosing the shoes with the right amount of support and cushioning will be essential in relieving your lower back pain.
Cushioning, cushioning, cushioning!
After this, it’s all about the cushioning.
And really, you can’t have too much if you’re a heel striker with back pain.
Lower back pain can be exacerbated by running as the shock of landing is felt more here than other parts of the back.
Running in shoes without adequate cushioning means that your back muscles and spine must absorb a lot of the shock of hitting the ground with each heel strike.
So, a good amount of cushioning and shock absorbance will be essential.
Of course, as with all running related ailments, there are other things that you can do to relieve your back pain, such as avoiding too much road running and sticking to soft grassy or forest trails, and including plenty of stretching in your exercise routine.
However, choosing the right running shoes will greatly improve your chances of being able to run pain-free.
15 Best Running Shoes for Lower Back Pain 2021
Let’s start with the best running shoes for back pain for men!!!
Review: The Fresh Foam 1080 is a neutral road running shoe known for its hefty cushioning and shock absorbance.
It is not a fast shoe, being a little on the heavy side and with little responsiveness or energy return, but when it comes to recovery from an injury, especially somewhere as important as your back, then it makes sense to alter priorities towards a more protective sole unit.
1080 fits this bill with its firm, supportive EVA foam midsole which encourages a natural amount of pronation, particularly helpful for supinators.
The engineered mesh upper is soft and breathable with a spacious toe box and plenty of space for wider feet.
Wide mesh toe box.
Wider width options.
Not a fast shoe.
On the heavy side.
Feels a little firm underfoot.
This shoe is a great choice for wider, neutral feet, looking for a sturdy, cushioned shoe that will go the distance.
Review: The Ghost 11 is a premium, neutral, cushioned shoe from Brooks which remains light and responsive enough to be a versatile all-rounder.
DNA foam with a segmented crash pad provides firm and responsive cushioning making this shoe ideal for middle distance runs, but able to handle shorter and longer distances as well.
Like the NB 1080, the cushioning doesn’t provide a soft feel but rest assured, it’s doing its job. The seamless mesh upper is breathable and very comfortable for narrower feet while protecting from debris.
Full-length segmented crash pad.
Breathable mesh upper.
A little heavy.
Slightly narrow toe box.
Another solid shoe from Brooks, the Ghost 11 is a great choice for those looking for a compromise between extreme cushioning and fast-feeling responsiveness.
Review: Mizuno’s Wave Inspire is an extremely comfortable stability shoe that will provide all of the support and cushioning that a pronator with lower back pain might need.
U4ic and U4icX form the midsole cushioning which combined with the ‘wave’ plastic plate running is almost the length of the sole, which makes for a very soft and yet responsive ride.
The upper is also extremely comfortable, with a seamless mesh that is snug fitting in the heel and midfoot and open in the toe box. If you’re a pronator who heel strikes, this is probably one of the most comfortable choices out there.
Roomy toe box.
Price is a little on the high side.
If you don’t mind the 12mm drop, scoring top points for comfort and stability, the Wave Inspires are some more of the best running sneakers for lower back pain.
Review: Altra have produced a premium cushioned, neutral shoe in the Torin 3.5 knit. A versatile road shoe, the Torin 3.5 will hold up to long endurance runs and tempo training.
This shoe combines the sole of previous Torins with a knit upper that results in an extremely comfortable, responsive and smooth ride.
Altra maintains its classic zero drop which may take a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from a more conventional 12mm drop but ultimately may aid in reducing back pain through promoting a more natural running style.
The knit upper is very comfortable but minimalist, providing little in the way of support, so, it is the cushioning and the zero drop aspects of this shoe that will be the draw-card for sufferers of back pain.
Good ground feel despite 28mm stack height.
Minimalist upper may not provide enough support.
The Altra Torin 3.5 knit is an extremely comfortable and well cushioned shoe which may well be the solution to your back pain if conventional 12mm drops and stability shoes haven’t worked for you.
…and now, my TOP 8 women’s running shoes for low back pain!
Review: The Triumph ISO 4 is Saucony’s top neutral shoe with extreme cushioning. The EVERUN midsole runs the full length of the shoe being responsive and very cushioned, which with its 8mm drop makes it a shoe that feels fast and yet ready to go the distance.
The ISOFIT technology in the upper provides a superior fit that literally molds to your feet in a way that few other shoes do, providing an extremely comfortable and secure ride.
The Triumph is one top of the line shoe which will give a neutral foot all of the cushioning and support it needs to manage lower back pain.
Extremely well cushioned.
Flexible and responsive.
High mileage shoe.
No breaking in required.
A little pricey.
Traction could be better.
The Triumphs are one of the few expensive shoes on the market that justify their higher price point. If you’re after extreme cushioning that doesn’t feel slow and sluggish then this is the shoe for you.
If you don’t mind fronting the money and are looking for a top of the line neutral shoe, then these are some of the best running shoes for bad back pain.
Review: The Glycerin 16s are extremely comfortable cushioning shoes for neutral, long-distance runners. Brooks have upgraded their DNA foam to incorporate air bubbles into the new DNA loft for an extra light, soft ride, making it an excellent marathon shoe.
More revelations come to light with the upper which provides more comfort and support using a 3D printed layer on top of the seamless mesh with a particularly soft collar which makes the shoe comfortable enough to wear without socks.
If you loved previous Glycerins, the 16s won’t disappoint.
Very comfortable supportive and seamless upper.
May take a while to dry out.
Easily some of the best neutral women’s running shoes for back pain owing to their superior comfort and cushioning.
Review: The Nimbus is a classic from Asics, being its top neutral, cushioned shoe. However, while it remains a top of the line shoe, it hasn’t changed as much as its counterparts from different brands over the years, keeping a traditional feel which users will either appreciate or resent.
So, whether or not to go with the Nimbus comes down to preference. But it does have some solid attributes in its favor.
The Flytefoam midsole coupled with Gel cushioning in the heel and forefoot provides plenty of cushioning while additional sole structure increases general stability. This edition is also gender-specific, with lighter weight and higher 13mm drop for female runners.
For those who prefer the feel of traditional running shoes while receiving plenty of cushioning, the Nimbus is a great choice.
They are reliably cushioned while supporting your roll through to maintain optimum alignment and remaining responsive enough to not feel sluggish on long runs. The Kayanos are known to go the distance and relieve all sorts of problems that arise from over-pronation including lower back pain.
The introduction of new Flytefoam Lite and Flytefoam Propel cushioning in the midsole mark the advances from previous Kayanos while maintaining use of the classic Gel and Duomax components.
The final product is a highly cushioned and yet lighter, more responsive shoe.
Breathable mesh upper.
Not a lightweight shoe.
The Kayanos are a fail-safe option for pronators with lower back pain looking for a cushioned and comfortable ride.
Review: The 890 V6 is a versatile neutral shoe that will support you comfortably through long distance training and tempo work.
Full-length REVlte foam forms the cushioning in the sole unit which results in a highly responsive midsole feeling firm and fast. TPU strips in the forefoot of the sole unit combined with the 6mm drop make the roll through even smoother and the ride even faster.
The 890 won’t feel as cushioned as other shoes on this list, but it’s a great choice if you suffer from mild back pain but still want a fast and responsive performance shoe with adequate cushioning.
Full length REVlite midsole.
Breathable, seamless mesh upper.
Narrow toe box.
A little heavy.
A great choice for providing cushioning and support for back pain while remaining fast and responsive.
Michael is a fitness expert and professional home/garage gym builder. His tutorials, guides, and reviews are backed up by his own experience and will definitely help you achieve your goals. He also loves putting mayo AND ketchup on the pizza for some reason!