Insoles to Help with Back Pain
A study from the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston showed that women with flat feet are 50% more likely to have lower back pain than those with normal or high arches. If you have low or fallen arches and you have back pain, wearing orthotic insoles could be a simple solution to helping reduce or get rid of your back pain.
Many chiropractors and podiatrists have been recommending insoles for back pain for many years, though there are many other reasons for wearing insoles, such as:
- Plantar fasciitis & foot pain
- Heel spurs
- Shin splints
- Supination or overpronation
- Standing a lot
- Arch pain
There are several different types of insoles, but this review is focused on one type: orthotic arch supports or orthotic insoles. These are best for people with low arches or high arches. The arch of the foot is supposed to drop and lift with every step, so it acts as a shock absorber for the rest of the body on every step. If your arches aren’t functioning normally, it can affect your ankles, knees, hips, lower back, upper back, and neck.
Orthotic arch supports are rigid because they have to support the weight of the body and do the job that your arches no longer do. If you have lower back pain and a low or high arch, orthotics are a relatively cheap and easy way to relieve your back pain. Wearing arch supports was one of the most important steps I took to getting rid of my lower back pain as I have very low or fallen arches. And now when my orthotics stop working, I can feel the difference in my lower back. Talk to your doctor to see if orthotics could be a good option for you.
Cost of Orthotic Insoles
Insoles can be custom-made, semi-custom, or non-custom. You can get non-custom orthotic insoles that cost less than $20, but they don’t give the support that a back-pain sufferer will need. If you purchase a cheaper insole, it will give less support and won’t last as long. Keep in mind that if you’re reading reviews for a cheaper insole, many of the people aren’t suffering from back pain and don’t need the additional support that comes with a higher-quality insole.
If your podiatrist or chiropractor recommends an orthotic insole to you, it’s not uncommon that they’ll offer you a custom-made pair that cost $300 or more. The good news is that as with other industries (mattresses for example), it’s possible to save a lot of money with custom orthotics by purchasing them online. The first pair of custom orthotics that I ordered online was from Hammacher Schlemmer. They send you a mold that you stand on, send back to them, and they send you a pair of custom orthotics that fit your feet. My issue with these was that when they send you back your orthotics, you have to cut them to size, and I found it difficult to get them the right size. The second issue is that I didn’t find them as rigid and supportive compared to our top choices.
Best Insoles for Back pain
“Best Custom Insole”
Tread Labs Stride
“Best Semi-Custom Insoles”
Emsold Ultra-Thin Orthotic
“Best Budget Insole”
WIIVV insoles are our top choice because they are custom made, yet cheaper than most custom insoles because they’re 3D printed. The process is pretty simple:
- Download the WIIVV app to your phone.
- Take pictures of your feet from the top, left, and right from the app.
- Wait around 10 days until they arrive.
The insoles arrive in really nice packaging. Notice that they imprint your name on the front and the back of your insoles.
Tread Labs Insoles
These semi-custom insoles will save you a bit of money compared to going with WIIVV or another custom insole, but these are still really good insoles. The unique thing about these is they include replacement insoles that you attach to the orthotic insert.
The insoles have a Velcro back, so all you have to do is the press the top into the plastic backing. If you ever want to replace the top, it’s really quick, and you won’t need to purchase new orthotics.
Emsold Ultra-Thin Insoles
There are a lot of non-custom orthotics available, but Emsold Ultra-Thin stand out as a higher quality insole. Emsold products are designed and manufactured in Germany, and they specialize in footwear products for various problems with the feet. Keep in mind that they’re semi-rigid, so if you don’t feel that you’re getting enough support with these, you may want to try another brand.
They’re really thin which makes it easier to put into any of your shoes. And the leather top is comfortable and wicks away sweat.
If you suffer from Morton’s Neuroma or Metatarsalgia, these insoles have extra padding in the front center part of the insole, under your toes and upper part of your foot.
The Difference Between Prescription and Non-Prescription Orthotics
Prescription orthotics are the most expensive because they are designed to fit your feet exactly. Semi-custom are in the middle in terms of price as they accommodate people with low, medium, or high arches (and sometimes with even more variation). Most orthotics are not customized and are the cheapest.
Our three choices reflect the different types of customization. There has been some research on prescription vs. non-prescription orthotics that concluded that both will improve your gait initially, but after 4 weeks, the non-prescription orthotics will find a decrease in your economy of gait. If you’re not sure if orthotics will make a difference in your back pain, you could buy a less expensive pair, and if you notice a difference, understand that they won’t be as effective after a few weeks. If you have multiple pairs of shoes, you could put the cheaper orthotics in shoes that you don’t wear as often, and buy a higher quality pair to put in shoes that you wear more often.
Advice for Wearing Orthotics
- You may have to remove the insoles that originally came with your shoes if your feet fit tightly with your new insoles. Some insoles are the full length of your shoes, but if you find that they don’t fit, you may have to use scissors and trim then ends until they fit.
- It may take you a little while to get used to your orthotics, so you can start by wearing them a few hours per day. Or you could wear them until you feel like it’s time to take a break, then you could take them out of your shoes.
- It’s also a good idea to wear your orthotics all the time once you get used to them. If you’re not sure, try wearing your orthotics all day one day, and then not at all the next day, and see if there’s a difference in your back pain.
- High-quality orthotics can last from 1-5 years, depending on how often you wear them, and how you’re using them. If you run a lot in them, they won’t last as long. You will be able to tell if your back pain starts to increase again and nothing else in your lifestyle has changed.
How can Orthotics Relieve Back Pain?
If you think of your body like a house, your feet would be the foundation. Any imbalance there would affect the position of your ankles, knees, hips, lower back, and even your upper back and neck. This is known as the kinetic chain. An imbalance refers to a low arch, where your feet are flat, or a high arch, where your arch doesn’t touch the floor. These imbalances can cause your feet to pronate (roll inward), which can also cause your knees to turn inward, or roll outward, called supination. When you walk you’re putting as much as 5 times your body weight on each foot. The bottom line is when you walk and stand out of alignment, over time it can cause muscular tension in your hips and lower back because your muscles are struggling to try to bring you back into alignment. It can also cause uneven wear on your joints in your spine. For more information, check out our article on how footwear may be causing your back pain.