The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Study Identifies Flat Feet as Common Culprit in Lower Back Pain in Women

Posted by on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013


Can flat feet be the culprit behind lower back pain? Yes, says Dr. Nadia Levy from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York. “Your biomechanics from your head to your toes are connected and every body part can affect the others,” Dr. Levy explains. “It has been illustrated in various studies over time that feet can affect the lower back and vice versa.  Flat feet and the less-than-ideal mechanics that go along with them are no exception.” A recent study published in the journal Rheumatology confirms this opinion.

 The Framingham Foot Study Points To Flat Feet As Enemy #1.

If you have flat feet, you are 50% more likely to have low back pain, according to a new study. Researchers found that 38% of women in their sixties reported low back pain. People with flat feet instinctively roll their feet inwards when walking. This foot pronation is significantly associated with low back pain in women — even after adjusting for factors like age, weight, smoking, and depression. The Framingham Foot Study looked at nearly 2,000 people and found that neither foot posture nor asymmetry contributed to back pain, but a flat foot’s rotation causes the tibia to rotate, the pelvis to tilt, and the lumbo-pelvic area to become stressed.

flat foot pronation
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Why Do Women With Flat Feet Have Low Back Pain?

“The key takeaway from the study is that if women have low back pain, it may not be just the back,” said senior author Marian Hannan of the Institute for Aging Research in Boston. She adds that the body may use other muscles to compensate for pronation. The tendency for women, specifically, to develop low back pain may be explained by the fact that women move their upper bodies more than men and have wider pelvic bones.

biomechanics of feet
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How Can Low Back Pain From Flat Feet Be Addressed?

At-home treatments for flat foot low back pain include:

– Strengthening foot muscles by scrunching the toes to pick up a towel and lower it back to the ground

– Doing core muscle exercises and stretching out the back to improve flexibility

– Taking anti-inflammatory medication to deal with the pain

“Interventions that modify abnormal foot function, such as orthoses may have a role in the prevention and treatment of low back pain,” the authors of the study concluded. However, patients should also be careful about buying generic one-size-fits-all orthotics because these may actually cause back pain by creating asymmetric forces on the back.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.