Why these Best Work Shoes for Back Pain Can Help You Heal [April 2019 Update]

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I have knee and back pain (lucky me, both mild) and believe me, it bothers a lot! Back pain is like what people say, pain in the- you know where. Like mild migraine, always hunting you (or I would say for me, haunting me- unless I do not feel it for a notable time).

It keeps bothering. However mild the notion is, always ticking your conscious mind. And we must keep walking, talking, standing, storming through places and even smiling while working- which sucks. Whenever I feel back or knee pain, just like you, I become choosy, which pair to wear this time?

Update 2019: We explained which type of pairs speed up pain and which particular products to skip.

Table Of Contents

Top Three Pairs

No doubt, these are the top three of our chart:

  • Orthofeet Gramercy Shoe
  • Reebok Work Sublite Athletic Steel Toe
  • Z-CoiL Liberty Pain Relief SR Tennis Shoe

The first question should be,

Can Shoes Cause Back Pain?

Yup, shoes can. High heel, flat flip flops, pointed shoes and many other shoes can trigger back pain. Shoes that do any of these:

  1. Make your arch feel lonely,
  2. Make your toes cluster together,
  3. Uncomfortably position your heel,
  4. Or, alter your foot positioning in any way,

Can eventually trigger back pain. I enjoyed this video:

Can Shoes Heal that Back Pain?

There’s an incredible truth about footwear. We all know that shoes can not heal you.

You know what?

It might sound nasty, but they actually can help you heal. At least, to some extent. As a footwear guy, I spend thousands of hours storming through everything related to foot. As I watch, read and listen to resources, this theory somehow managed to win over my logic. People just keep telling us ‘this pair’ or ‘that insert’ made their day (after a number of days, obviously!).

It’s Your Body that Does the Magic

Our bodies have their own healing system. It heals on its own, and medical treatment dramatically accelerates that recovery (at best). The more you pinch that system, the more you disturb it, the more (time, money, medication and efforts) it will take to heal. By using the right tools and attire, you let the dust settle. Over time, it improves on its own.

How We Fight the Battles for the Best Pairs

(Worth skipping, just making things clear)

You know, ShoeAskers are the extra-milers, we analyze more than you need; we pick more (and cancel even more) pairs than you would like to consider. We gather, research and curate the verdicts like there is no tomorrow.

Is this necessary? Maybe not. But we believe people are different and they deserve flawless results with a ton of choices.

We keep doing it until it satisfies us; you must find more than one pair all of which are LITERALLY the best for you. Best among the available. And we are damn serious about your evaluations- that’s because we keep updating as if we have OCD.

11 Best Work Shoes for Back Pain

Orthofeet Gramercy Shoe, Extra Wide

Best as formal, best for overweight guys

Doctors and podiatrists prescribe these shoes, what more would you want! These are specialized ones. You can get your specialized orthotics depending on your arch or pronation demands. Like most products, they fly from China.

Check it out at Amazon.com

Better for:

These are better for any work environment other than jobs requiring safety shoes. Offices, desk jobs, food industry, health industry or any other job sector- you name it. Superb for overweight persons.

Features Present:

Made for the pain, well-treated leather, soft rubber outsole with a moderate slip resistance, very comfortable, removable orthotic insoles, arch support, lightweight sole, spacious toe box,  

Essential Features Absent:

These are not safety shoes. So you will not get features like waterproof, steel toe, ESD or EH.

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Orthofeet Gramercy shoes are specially made for tired feet and hips.
  2. These are extra comfortable, reasonably more comfortable than mainstream work shoes or boots.
  3. Your feet will sink within the pair, so cushioned.
  4. Relatively lightweight, too soft and flexible.
  5. They fit exceptionally well. These usually come with a bit width.
  6. Enough arch support.
  7. The outsole has Ortho-Cushion system which means you get a decent energy return.
  8. Suitable for all common foot problems. Pains in the back, knee, foot, arch, ball of foot, heel and metatarsal bone.
  9. They serve sensitive, arthritic or diabetic feet better.
  10. If you have plantar fasciitis, neuroma, neuropathy, pronation, bunions, corns, hammer toes or metatarsalgia- Gramercy will surely alleviate pain and make you more comfortable.  

Limitations:

  • Gramercy or any other Orthofeet shoes are not as enduring as you would expect.
  • They may squeak on waxed floors (not always).
  • Materials used are not the most expensive ones.
  • Pretty vulnerable to stains.
  • These are not heavy; hence you will feel them somewhat bulky.
  • They are pricey. You know, we have to pay for our trouble.

Level of Recommendation:

Very high.

Check it out at Amazon.com

Why did we recommend?

Physicians recommend these. If you have much trouble with your health, there is no way around. We must recommend shoes like this. You can get these or other more mainstream brands.

Reebok Sublite RB4016 Athletic Steel Toe Shoe

Best steel toe sneaker, Amazon’s choice

As Reebok says, they designed Sublite Steel Toes after being inspired and suggested by athletes, and yet they make it for the hard-working people. They provide athletic performance features in every work shoe which is anything but evil.

Users want to know whether the safety toe is wide and big enough or not. Yes, these are big enough to cover your toe area just like the good old work boots. No worries at all. We don’t know, how did they manage to put some steel so light, but these are definitely some alloy of iron or steel mixed with other lighter metals.

Shop now, check price or catch more on amazon.com

Better for:

Anything other than metatarsal guard or waterproofing. Multipurpose shoes are by default great.

Features Present:

Steel alloy toe, rubber outsole, ESD, water resistant, EH, non-slip, the non-marking outsole resists oil as well.

Energy returning footbed. Unlike nearly all sporty sneakers, these are made of leather as well as textile. You can remove the insoles and use your own build.

Essential Features Absent:

You know, they can’t be waterproof. Too much mesh can only be water resistant (unless you use something like GTX.)

They did not provide a metatarsal guard, which is far rarer.

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Lightweight, flexible and comfortable- no doubt at all. They are nearly as light as running shoes and anything but bulky ones.
  2. Stylish for sure, sort of unique look at safety first environments.
  3. Multipurpose: you can’t wear two steel toe work shoes or boots everywhere. It does not work that way. Whereas these shoes can be worn pretty everywhere… will you attend a conference? Going to meet friends?
  4. These will encompass your feet like a pair of gloves. MicroWeb Athletic is their patented, better textile.
  5. Moisture-wicking mesh lining helps your feet stay dry and stink free in the summer and even in the winter.
  6. Stable yet flexible.
  7. Dual resistor design
  8. “FootFuel footbed comfort, technology” means you pick up a good energy return which helps you eliminate stress and reduce fatigue while working. These polymers expand while you are taking your feet off the ground.
  9. Sublite has a particular class of EVA midsole. Definitely better.
  10. High-quality hardware.

Limitations:

  • They mostly fit well, but Reebok Sublite has a tendency of running small.
  • Like all steel toe shoes and boots, these are not airport or metal detector safe. They will surely set the alarms off and attract a magnet.
  • All steel toe shoes face the same fate- you need more and more room around the toes, and they can’t provide that unless they are willing to be bulky. For that, go for comp or nano toe shoes, or you can get extra roomy steel toes. You’ve got to sacrifice the sporty look.
  • You may feel that you need a heavier build for a safety shoe.
  • They can’t be as durable as a couple of rocks! It does not go that way. You must find a pair with 100% leather coverage with premium water and stain resistant treatment, hard welt construction and damn good outsoles with a lot of abrasion resistance here and there. That’s completely another genre.
  • There is no arch support, you gotta get some with inserts suiting your physique.

Level of Recommendation:

High, very high

Shop now, check price or catch more on amazon.com.

Why did we praise?

These are OSHA complaint, and you are ready to wear them EVERYWHERE. You get the picture, we recommend footwear that can be worn for different circumstances.  

Z-CoiL Liberty Pain Relief SR Tennis Shoe

Best for people with severe problems

Yes, Z-Coil was an exception 12 years ago, and since then, they have remained the same. Too pricey, less sold and they did not end up managing a cult of followers. Z-CoiL Z-Fit Custom Arch Insole would be the best to suit your conditions. We always recommend personalized orthotics for the best pain relief.

Available Variations:

Bare coil- Men’s

Bare coil- Women’s

Enclosed coil- Men’s

Enclosed coil- Women’s

Better for:

If you feel pain while or after walking, these are better for you.

Features Present:

Leather, enough mesh for breathability, cushioned all around, extra roomy fit for troubled feet

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. They return energy and reduce impact as no other shoe does. That’s the trump card of Z-Coils. For the back, hip, lower back, and knee pain- this is crucial.
  2. These are cushioned as well as spacious all around.
  3. Extremely comfortable.
  4. The wide toe box is essential for fatigue reduction, enough blood circulation, and anatomical comfort.
  5. Soft rubber, slip-resistant fluffy outsole.
  6. The combo of leather and mesh in the uppers provide excellent grip and breathability.
  7. They ease pain. These are helpful if you have knee or back/lower pain, plantar fasciitis, bunions, heel spurs, diabetes, neuroma or arthritis.

Limitations:

  • The coil may encounter debris if you are in an unclean or natural terrain. Use them indoors or at least on clear surfaces.
  • You have to take straight steps as the coil may screw your uneven sideways steps. They are less stable than regular shoes.
  • On the flip side, for enclosed coil shoes, the heel is okay for women, but they might disturb men- speaking of style, trouble wins over everything.
  • Actually, these fit true to size with a bit comfy width. If you find them wider (most of the users don’t)- it’s a nature of pain relief footwear.
  • You will need time to get used to this unconventional attire.
  • They are pricey (well, pricey like hell- as though you are buying a pair of Red Wings.) Give it a shot only if you are okay with that kind of investment and if it is worth the trouble.
  • There are no half sizes, you must go one size up, maybe with the wide sizing.
  • They are not as slip resistant.

Level of Suggestion:

Very high.

Why did we favor?

This might explain it:

“Walked 25 miles at age 64; no fatigue or soreness!”

Better or similar shoes:

If you hate the coils in the heel (or at least you think that they are anything but practical for you), go for the enclosed ones.

Keen Utility Lansing Industrial & Construction Shoe-Men’s

Best sturdy yet breathable steel toe

You have back pain, and you love steel toe shoes at work- here’s the solution:

For back strain, you will need curated insoles. Do you know exactly what your foot structure demands? Is it medium arch support or like high? If so, get two Keen insoles. Once your shoes get the right inserts, back pain will fade pretty quickly.

Buy now or try the latest price

Better for:

Anyone needing steel toes, loving classic, sturdy work shoes and wanting to reduce the weight. Whether you are in construction or factory work, they’ve got your back.

Features Present:

Steel toe (asymmetrical), waterproof, EH, super grippy slip resistance, abrasion resistant, smell resistant, super breathable mesh in the uppers, cushy tongue and collar, easy to put on and off, can be worn as slip-ons.  

Essential Features Absent:

Can there be? It’s Keen Utility after all!

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Still very praised in 2019.
  2. The first specialty of Keen Utility is the name and series. You can not beat Keen Utility, and you should not want to.
  3. You will be hard pressed to find so light yet dependable steel toe shoes.
  4. Comfortable, cushy, breathable and safer.
  5. More flexible than Goodyear Welt construction. Keen glues the lower parts together.
  6. As durable as you would expect them to be.
  7. The mesh lining does not inhibit waterproofing. It’s Keen.Dry, like Gore-Tex. They make the water stop at the surface and bead up. However, you should not dip them into the water. Try to keep water beneath the mesh lining. Whether it is snow or rain, they keep shining.
  8. Bigger, better, roomier toe box.
  9. Substantial steps, solid grip, and consistent dependability.

Limitations:

  • We would love to find more accurate fitting, but some of the users report they have a weakness of running large and luckily that is a low percentage. You know what? They do not run large, they seem large once you get Keen for the first time.
  • There’s a s-l-i-g-h-t chance of squeaking.

Level of Recommendation:

Very high.

Buy now or try the latest price

Why did we recommend?

Hands down, we are blind about Keen Utility and the blindness is not caused by us, instead by the constant quality of that series. This product line shines. You needed a light, breathable, supportive pair that might help the back pain, they will do the magic with the help of the right pair of Keen insoles.

Skechers Parallel-Trapezoid Wedge

Astonishing rating, Amazon’s choice

Get it, look at the deals or explore

Better for:

Good for casual walking along the streets or in the office floors. Are you having back, hip, knee, ankle or foot difficulties and looking for an option other than boots or shoes? These will be better if wearing wedges don’t bother you.  

Features Present:

Leather, memory foam insole, adjustable slingback straps.

Special Features & Benefits:

  • Still very popular.
  • Super cushy, extremely comfortable.
  • Fitting as expected. You can also order a half size smaller.
  • Reduce great impact.
  • The soles are stiffer but don’t get the wrong picture. Sandals are comfortable.

Limitations:

  • Their edges are not that fine finished which is a Skechers downside. Parallel-Trapezoid wedges are somewhat rough. The makers should keep on eye on this issue.
  • There are some disappointments with the buckles.

Level of Proposition:

Very high.

Get it, look at the deals or explore

Why did we advocate?

You don’t have to always wear sneaker-like shoes to reduce pain.

Merrell Jungle Moc Slip-On Shoes

Unusual ratings, selling like hot cakes

Yes, they’ve done a great deal of business with these Jungle Mocs, and no, they’re not done yet. People used to buy them like there’s no tomorrow.

Merrell’s JM slip-ons are anything but a rare style; hence, these are anything but outdated.

People still buy, wear and adore them… you can do it as well.

Available Variations:

Over a dozen color variations.

Buy now or check the latest price

Better for:

Work, casual wear, hiking, standing and walking all day, fatigue reduction.

Features Present:

Jungle Mocs can’t be full-grain! It does not match the style. They are suede leather. The outsole is exceptional and SR.  

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. 5-star rush in 2019.
  2. People still love and trust them, and that should be explaining everything. The days are not gone. The quality is not past.
  3. Stylish, different shoes.
  4. Lots of designs and colors.
  5. They fit more than other pairs do.
  6. Jungle Mocs are anything but time killers, you need not worry about lacing them up, or cleaning them, or taking care of them.
  7. EVA outsole is compression molded.
  8. The midsole is sort of different, air cushioned to be exact.
  9. Stain resistant, water resistant upper takes the beating.
  10. These absorb shock and return energy which is a crucial feature for pain relief.
  11. Elastic side goring.
  12. Antimicrobial agent.
  13. Grippy slip resistant outsole.

Limitations:

  • These are pretty common (which is not a problem for me).
  • “Merell’s dropped their long-time Ortho-Lite Comfort Insole.”
  • As always, old users tend to be a bit dissatisfied with the pairs, maybe the wow factor fades with time.
  • They have a weakness of running small lately.
  • And there are some slipping issues as well.
  • Somewhat bigger arch is not liked by everyone.
  • There are a few squeak reports.

Level of Recommendation:

Very strong.

Buy now or check the latest price

Why did we suggest?

Old faithful.

Keen Utility PTC Dress Oxford Work Shoe

Best supportive yet slip resistant, Amazon’s choice

Whichever pair reduces soreness, stress, and fatigue is worth a shot for back trouble. Another Keen product that rocks.

For back or knee pain, it is always better to pick the suitable insole. Keen is one of the best insert makers.

Shop now, check price or discover more

Better for:

Any non-high risk work like jobs in restaurants, grocery shops, hospitals. Firefighters love PTC. These are comfortable for long shifts. You can take a walk, go soft hiking and do a lot more wearing PTC Oxford.

Features Present:

Good leather, rubber sole, Keen protective toe, water resistant, comfy insole.

Essential Features Absent:

They are not waterproof, and food/grocery/hospital jobs rarely need any.

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. As always, high-quality material, well made, good sturdy build.
  2. They fit surprisingly well.
  3. Standing and stepping all day made easy.
  4. Keen.Cush comfort. There’s no question on comfort.
  5. Way too durable than most of the non-slip food service type popular shoes like Skechers.
  6. Protective toe: CSA Z195-09 Grade 1 standard for protection.
  7. Keen.Grip non-slip outsoles meet ASTM F1677-96 MARK II.
  8. Compression molded EVA midsole.
  9. TPU stability shank.
  10. Roomy toe box.
  11. Slightly elevated build helps absorb impact and yield energy which alleviates pain.
  12. Keen shoes are so constant!

Limitations:

  • They don’t look too stylish, and that’s because Keen does not care how they look as long as they serve your feet.
  • Like all restaurant/hospital/grocery shoes, they also have a tendency of falling apart (however, they are still sturdy and durable than the rest). Maybe Keen needs to keep an eye on sturdiness. For a hundred bucks, you will demand more than a year of wear time.
  • Your feet may stink as they are comparatively less breathable.
  • There are some slipping issues lately. This should be taken care of as well.
  • Not broken in out of the box. Takes a little time.

Level of Recommendation:

Very high.

Shop now, check price or discover more

Why did we recommend?

At least a cult-like following. Like once a buyer always a buyer. Doctors prescribe them so do we.

Dr. Martens Resistor ESD Steel Toe Shoe- Men’s

I don’t like steel toe boots or shoes- especially if you have pain in the knees, hips, lower back or back. Steel means weight, weight means stress, stress means more fatigue and more pain.

Having said that, steel toe is kind of eternal and at the same time heavenly to most of the workmen. Most of us somehow relied only on steel toe.

If you like steel toes, if you want the good old sturdy shoe construction, Resistor shoes are here as an exception.

Shop now, check price or learn more

Features Present:

Treated leather, big steel toes, slip-resistant, slip on.

Essential Features Absent:

Not waterproof.

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Durable, sturdy, supportive, reliable- these are the first traits.
  2. Chemical resistant.
  3. Big toe box.
  4. There is padding and cushioning beneath and all around your feet, which makes it comfortable to wear.
  5. You do not have to tie laces which would help back pain.
  6. The moisture-wicking lining enables breathability.
  7. Their uncommon, signature PVC outsole is ultra durable and slip-resistant.
  8. Resistors mostly fit as expected.
  9. They look good and range between formal and casual.

Limitations:

  • Can they be featherlight? Nope. It’s the other way around.
  • As all Doc Martens do, they need a little break in time.
  • These are no doubt heavy.
  • There were golden days for doc martens, and they’ve failed to provide enough satisfaction. The legacy continues which is a big downside of this brand.
  • These can fall apart with no prior notice or can be comfortable for years.

Level of Recommendation:

Medium- for back discomfort. Seriously, weight, flexibility and impact absorption are the keys to reduce back pain. These shoes have none of these features.

Shop now, check price or learn more

Why did we back?

If you are an old school work boot wearer, these are way better. These have reduced weight (than work boots).

Skechers Soft Stride Softie

Amazon’s choice

Get it on Amazon

Better for:

Standing and walking all day long on concrete, asphalt, and pavements. Suitable for driving as well. Especially ideal for restaurants, retail stores, and hospital jobs.

Features Present:

Soft leather, non-slip rubber sole, polyurethane footbed and breathable. Good waterproofing.

Essential Features Absent:

No toe protection, waterproofing, EH or ESD.

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Very popular, the legacy continues in 2019.
  2. They fit surprisingly well.
  3. They relief pain. Quite supportive.
  4. Sporty, casual look.
  5. Flexible and comfortable. More comfy than stylish.
  6. Lightweight and cushioned.
  7. OSHA compliant slip resistance. Top class skid-proofing. However, be cautious on mud, snow or oil.
  8. No or minimum break in time required.
  9. Collars and tongues are padded.
  10. Soft-Strides do not have memory foam which is sweeter.
  11. They do not squeak.
  12. Easy to clean. These are sneaker-like shoes, and you need not polish, but you can if you want.
  13. The toe box is wide enough.
  14. Even the tongue is leather.
  15. Lots and lots of regular users.
  16. They definitely handle the spills and splashes.

Limitations:

  • Not the most durable ones. Having said that, they are not the most fragile ones either.
  • There’s a little arch support, you need to get your own inserts.
  • These are not oil resistant.
  • The bottom is sticky. Tread is on self-cleaning.

Level of Recommendation:

High.

Get it on Amazon

Why did we recommend?

These are very popular.  

Crocs Unisex Classic Clog

Amazon’s choice, Superb user rating

Crazy simple footwear for a crazy simple price. Widely praised.

Available Variations:

Over forty colors.

Get it, check the deals or explore

Better for:

Yard, pool and garden work. You can wear them at home if you feel at home wearing these traditional shoes. Perhaps you would feel okay while swimming or having fun on the beach. In a word, it is best to use them around water.

Features Present:

Heel straps, ample ventilation,  

Special Features & Benefits:

  1. Again, lots of 5 stars in 2019.
  2. Incredibly popular. 300 Million+ pairs sold around the world since 2002.
  3. Way better and protective than flip-flops.
  4. Featherlight.
  5. Easy to clean and dry.
  6. Non-marking soles.
  7. Roomy.
  8. Somewhat bumpy.
  9. Comfortable enough to win your heart.
  10. Flexible and soft.
  11. Enough slip resistance.
  12. Heel strap ensures proper fitting.
  13. Breathable as well as a bit protective.
  14. Lots and lots of size and width and colors.
  15. As cheap as they can be.
  16. They proudly present these as the ultimate summer shoes.
  17. Classic clogs are surprisingly supportive if you have certain difficulties like back pain.

Limitations:

  • They shrink in sunlight.
  • Not as cool. However, they look pretty.
  • Hype tagged.
  • Don’t get extra wide ones.

Level of Support:

Very high.

Get it, check the deals or explore

Additional shoes from other Articles

Dansko Pro XP Mule- for men and women

These are legends, and I don’t want you to miss out.

Merrell Jungle Moc Pro Grip SR Work Shoe/Slip-On

Moderate arch support. Very good for back pain and plantar

Asics Gel-Kayano 23 Running Shoe

Men’s, Women’s

Yes, you can use running shoes at work. No one will stop you unless they break some code. Asics Gels are fantastic for back discomfort.

Not recommended for back pain

The following shoes are fallen stars; previously they used to be good for pain but no more.

Dr. Scholl’s M Harrington Work Shoes/ ii

Doc Schooll’s is a falling star I presume. These might hurt and can fall apart quickly. However, they have an excellent supporting arch.

Rockport World Tour Classic

We would have loved to prescribe these shoes, but the fact is, there are lots and lots of unsatisfied (or I better say pissed off) old users since Rockport started making them in India and 50% newer evaluations got worse.  

Crocs Unisex Bistro Clog in Black/White/Navy

“They have a reasonably higher arch than most crocs,” and everybody does not need high arch support.

If you want to read some excellent write-ups on back pain and choosing shoes, go for these:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/best-worst-shoes-back-pain/

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Keep smiling- pains are transient, while life is worth celebrating.

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