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Shoe Insoles Do Not Appear to Prevent Chronic Low Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the US. There are a variety of causes for back pain including:

  • High-impact activities
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Poor posture
  • Poor lifting techniques
  • Weak muscles
Shoe insoles are commonly used to treat back pain. The insoles are designed to help by decreasing impact and encouraging proper alignment.

Researchers of the Cochrane Library reviewed several past studies to assess if shoe insoles were actually effective in the prevention or treatment of low back pain. The study found strong evidence that insoles can not prevent back pain. The study was unable to gather enough information to determine if they are an effective treatment option.

About the Study

The systematic review included six previous randomized controlled studies. The studies all compared treatment of customized and non-customized insoles to placebo, no intervention, or other interventions. Some studies reviewed the ability of insoles to prevent back pain in people that spent a lot of time on their feet (walking or standing). Other studies reviewed the effect the insoles had on the pain level of people with current back pain. Some studies reviewed both prevention and pain management. After review, the following conclusions were reached:

  • There is strong evidence that insoles are not useful in back pain prevention.
  • There is some weaker evidence that insoles may help relieve back pain.

There are some limits with this study review. There was no long-term information provided for treatment or prevention. Most of the studies also only focused on young, healthy males.

How Does This Affect You?    TOP

The limits of the study can affect the intensity of the results. The evidence was too weak on back pain treatment to provide a firm conclusion. If you have back pain, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

To prevent back pain, practice good posture and proper lifting techniques. Participate in regular physical activity and work to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles.


American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Sahar T, Cohen MJ, Ne'eman V, et al. Insoles for prevention and treatment of back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009 . Intervention review 2009. Issue 4. Art. No.: CD005275. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005275.pub2.
Last reviewed March 2009 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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