Your Shoes Matter: A Guide to Decreasing Back Pain & Discomfort

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

When you think about things that change with weight loss, do you ever consider your shoe size? What about changes in the way you walk or stand? Believe it or not, these variables constantly change as you lose or gain weight. It makes sense why many people experience back pain and discomfort when they are a heavier weight and then see improvement as weight decreases. With all this weight loss, your shoes will likely become too big or start fitting incorrectly which may lead to discomfort.

If you think about it, your shoes and your feet form the foundation you use for walking and standing. Every bit of gravity is pulling downward, putting pressure on the lowest part of your body (your feet), which are ultimately responsible for keeping you upright. It only makes sense that we should protect the part of our body that gets the most wear and tear with a good support system: good quality and well-fitting shoes. Furthermore, what is one of the major components of weight loss surgery success? Exercise! How motivated will you be to exercise if your feet, legs, or back hurt? You likely won’t want to move at all. You must dig down to the source of the issue, and many times it starts with not only your weight but also the shoes you are wearing. So what can you do to ensure you are providing the best care to your feet? Start with these tips!

1) Get fitted by shoe stores. Getting professionally fitted is a fun experience that I have done in the past and consistently recommended to my clients. Professionals can perform a custom fit analysis that measures your size and width, ensuring you choose the best fit for your feet. Seek out stores like Fit2Run or The Good Feet Store. Fit2Run will actually have you walk on a treadmill to assess how your feet hit the surface so you can choose the right type of shoe for whatever activity you do most. You can try on different styles and go for a walk on their in-store track so you can take your new kicks for a test drive.

2) Get fitted by a podiatrist. Many people may opt to go to a podiatrist to get fitted for orthotics for optimal support, especially if they have a medical history of hip, back, knee, or joint issues. Yes, this can be an expensive route depending on your needs, but think about how much more activity you could achieve and how much more comfort you could experience.

3) Try them on for size. While I recommend getting fitted professionally, maybe you’re not ready for that just yet... In the meantime, it’s best to try shoes on in a store rather than guessing your size or fit online. Each brand fits differently, so if you’re a size 7 in one brand, you could be up to a whole size larger in another brand. Some styles manufactured by the same brand even vary in fit. When trying shoes on for size, stand up, walk around, jump around, and pay attention to what the shoes feel like as you move. Let an associate know what type of activity you will be doing to ensure you get the proper type of shoe. Wear the shoes around for a few days at your house to try them out and see how you feel. Most stores will have a great return or exchange policy if you are not satisfied.

4) Check out your soles. If you have shoes you are wearing on the regular, take a look at the bottom of the soles... Are they worn down in particular areas? Chances are, if the tread is wearing down in certain areas to the point where it’s almost smooth, you’re not being supported. It may be time to get a new pair. As you begin to lose weight following WLS, keep in mind your body recognizes these changes and adapts along the way, sometimes in the wrong way. Continually checking the current fit of your shoes can be vital to staying comfortable, preventing injuries, and ensuring your body is supported when doing something as simple as walking.

Although many back aches and pains are generally caused by obesity and improper footwear, it is important to get checked-out by your doctor if you continue to experience pain or discomfort after losing weight and choosing quality footwear.

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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