I see this mistake often in the gym. Lots of people are guilty of it, and it may be further adding to your lower back pain.
And it is...
Stay away from shoes that have a pronounced heel lift!
Besides sucking for lifting weights (except for squats in people with no ankle range of motion), high heels and shoes with an elevated heel such as Nike Shox are biomechanically unsound and may lead to knee and back problems.
Yes, I'll admit, I think women look great in heels and can still be worn in moderation, but everyday use is wrecking havoc on your body! And don't be fooled by any multimillion dollar ad campaigns!
See, an elevated heel shifts your center of gravity forward and puts your pelvis in an anterior tilt. This causes the thigh muscles to overwork leading to strain on the tendons of the knee and the thigh, which leads to tight hip flexors and quads and strain on your tendons. One of the issues you'll experience with an anteriorly tilted pelvis and tight hip flexors is back pain – it is anatomy 101.
Fact: A recent study showed that elevated heels increase pressure inside the knee by 26%, which can lead to osteoarthritis over time.
The human foot was not designed to be elevated while walking. It was designed to walk barefoot and absorb impact across the entire foot on every step taken in a day. Deviating from this natural design causes problems to roll up the kinetic chain – ankles, knees, hips, back.
An elevated heel keeps that calf muscle of yours in a flexed position, which will shorten it. Having tight calves alone can lead to some issues – not to mention you wont be flexible enough to perform the “bread and butter" exercises such as squats and deadlifts that burn tons of calories.
During a normal gait (when you're walking), the leg muscles both contract and relax (stretch), and you're body was designed to do this perfectly! An elevated heel maintains the knee, hip, and low back in a flexed position and prevents these joints from getting stretched. Over time, this leads to muscle imbalances, which means stiffness, pain, and injury for you. Lower back strain is a major issue. And wearing heels is only making it worse for most women.
Random fact: Women have 4x more foot problems than men – you can probably by now guess a major culprit of this.
Now to the resistance training side of things: Most people want that tight, firm butt. Well, if you are wearing a show with an elevated heel this means you are creating tight hip flexors, and a weak butt because you can't get a full contraction when walking or running, and when doing exercises such as squats and deadlifts where you need to really drive off the ground thru your heel, well that is not going to work very efficiently now. (And not having a strong butt will further perpetuate the cycle of knee and back pain).
In summary, just do your best to exercise (and play) in shoes that don't have a pronounced heel lift. A 1 inch heel is much better than a 3 inch heel and great options for athletic shoes include new balance minimus, converse all stars, nike free trainers (what I presently wear), reebok crossfit nano, or any flat training shoe.
So leave the calf raises for a fitness setting!
Founder, The Bootcamp Effect
Serving Langley and Surrey
Your Shoes Are Causing You Back Pain