Running doesn’t grant immunity from back pain. Whether you’re a workout warrior tuning up for a 10K or you just enjoy jogging for fitness, back problems can creep up on you slowly—or strike all at once. In a race or intense workout, back muscles take up the slack for your core as fatigue sets in. Back pain can also result from body changes due to age, pregnancy, or a holiday season with too many parties and too many skipped workouts.
Whatever the cause, dealing with back will likely involve seeing a physical therapist or medical specialist, and it might require a change in running shoes. If you’re looking for the best running shoes for back pain, we’ve analyzed survey responses from over 4,000 runners from Shoekicker, in order to recommend the best running shoes for men and women experiencing back problems. Unsurprisingly, most runners with back pain preferred cushioned, comfortable, supportive shoes that absorb the force of impact. But if you’ve got racing goals, don’t despair: there are a few up-tempo options on each list.
Best Women's Running Shoes for Back Pain
6. Women's Hoka One One Clifton 3, MSRP $130 Neutral Running Shoe
Several shoes on this list have gone into double-digit model numbers as engineers have refined their formula over decades. Not the Hoka Clifton. As the newest shoe on this list, it’s still evolving. And the shoe wizards at Hoka have come up with a real trick: while the Clifton 3 offers Hoka’s maximal cushioning, it’s also the lightest of any shoe on this list. At just 8 ounces in size 8, the Clifton 3 is a true performance shoe, but runners have also praise how it reduces impact and offers a comfortable ride. The Hoka One One Clifton 3 might be the winning formula for ambitious racers who have lower back issues.
5. Women's Mizuno Wave Rider 20, MSRP $120 Neutral Running Shoe
Thanks to effective cushioning, the Mizuno Wave Rider 20 can serve as a daily trainer, but as one of the lighter shoes on this list (only 8.6 ounces in size 8), the Wave Rider 20 is also at home in faster workouts. With its combination of light weight and cushioning, the Wave Rider 20 has also been praised as a great choice for heavier runners, so it comes as no surprise that it’s among the best running shoes for runners with bad back and knees.
4. Women's Asics GT-2000 5, MSRP $120 Stability Running Shoe
The Asics GT-2000 5, which is the number two running for those with flat feet, is the latest successor in a line of shoes that reaches back to 1993. With the Saucony Guide, it’s one of two support shoes on this list. As one of the all-time best-selling running shoes, the GT-2000 5 hits the right combination of support, cushioning, and comfort. The soles have been specifically engineered in the women’s model, and the customization for women’s feet makes the GT-2000 one of the best running shoes for lower back pain.
3. Women's Brooks Ghost 9, MSRP $120 Neutral Running Shoe
Attention shoppers: the Ghost 10 is already out, so you can expect some fantastic sale prices on the Brooks Ghost 9, already named a Runner’s World Best Buy. The Ghost 9 offers a winning combination of comfort and reliable cushioning, which makes it a good choice for women looking for the best running shoes for a bad back. Those who come for the comfort should be prepared for a fast ride, as the Ghost 9 has the highest energy return of any women’s model.
2. Women's Saucony Guide 10, MSRP $120 Stability Running Shoe
While most of the shoes on this list are neutral trainers, the Saucony Guide 10 is one of the few shoes offering pronation control. Women who run in support shoes and are seeking the best running shoes for back problems should take a close look at the Guide. It’s a great all-rounder, managing to be both cushioned and responsive at a moderate price, thanks in part to a somewhat lower heel-toe drop of 8 mm.
1. Women's Hoka One One Bondi 5, MSRP $150 Neutral Running Shoe
Hoka One One pioneered highly cushioned maximal shoes, and the Hoka formula with its high stack and low heel-toe drop is recognizable from a distance. The Bondi is the maximal Hoka, its most cushioned and comfortable model, so it’s no surprise that it was singled out by many runners with foot or hip problems—and especially those with back problems—as the best running shoe for back pain.
Best Men's Running Shoes for Back Pain
6. Men's Nike Air Zoom Vomero 12, MSRP $140 Neutral Running Shoe
Another premium model? So much for that stoic image, guys. At some point almost every runner tries the Nike Pegasus, a shoe whose first model appeared in 1983. The Vomero is the upscale version, more luxurious and more comfortable than the Pegasus,. The extra cushioning that makes Vomero a good shoe for long distances while keeping a responsive feel also makes it a great option if you’re looking for the best running shoes for lower back pain.
5. Men's Saucony Guide 10, MSRP $120 Stability Running Shoes
If you’re looking for the best running shoe for back problems but also need a support shoe for pronation control, the Guide 10 is the only model on the men’s list. Fortunately, it’s another great all-rounder from Saucony, with effective cushioning but a firm feel and a responsive ride, all for a reasonable price.
4. Men's Brooks Glycerin 15, MSRP $150 Neutral Running Shoe
All those stereotypes about women and shoe shopping are completely backwards. Women looking for the best running shoes for a bad lower back seem to favor mid-range, no-nonsense models (average MSRP: $125) that keep them on their feet and running. Men? To judge by your top choices, you’re looking for premium cushioning, plush padding, and a luxurious feel (average MSRP: $140). That describes the Brooks Glycerin 15, which combines top-line arch support in a neutral trainer, a ride that’s fast enough for up-tempo running, and cushioning that neutralizes impact forces, making it one of the best running shoes for back pain. And they’re ultra-comfortable, too.
3. Men's Hoka One One Clifton 3, MSRP $120 Neutral Running Shoe
The best shin splint shoe, the Clifton 3 also made the women’s list. But guys, if you’re looking for the best running shoes for low back pain, don’t mistake Hoka’s maximal cushioning as something for plodders. At only 8.8 ounces in size 9, the Clifton 3 is the lightest shoe and the only true performance model on this list. Take it from Leo Manzano: “The Clifton is my favorite road shoe because it’s light, responsive, and it absorbs the pounding on my feet which keeps it easy on the knees and back.” Remember Leo? The 2012 Olympic silver in the 1500m who medaled in every US championship and made every Olympic and World Championship team from 2007 to 2015? If you’re looking for the best running shoes for bad back and knees, I’d trust Leo.
2. Men's Adidas Ultra Boost, MSRP $180 Neutral Running Shoe
A few years ago, it seemed like all the serious racers on the starting line were wearing Adidas shoes with the new Boost soles. Maybe you were jealous of the space-age speed those shoes promised, but when you thought about running 6.2 miles in them, you started preemptively massaging your lumbar region. Your need for running shoes for a bad back doesn’t have to limit you to clunky trainers, however. The Adidas Ultra Boost offers the highest energy return of any model here, a lightweight feel and responsive ride, and luxurious cushioning, not to mention Adidas styling. Think of the Adidas Ultra Boost as the Porsche of running shoes for back pain. Plus, it's also the best running shoe for achilles tendonitis.
1. Men's Brooks Ghost 9, MSRP $120, Neutral Running Shoe
Like the women’s model, the Brooks Ghost 9 for men made the list of best running shoes for a bad back and is a Runner’s World Best Buy. A 12 mm heel-toe drop doesn’t sound fast, but the Ghost 9’s soles provide an energy return nearly equal to the high-tech (and higher-priced) Adidas models. The Ghost 9 offers good arch support for a neutral trainer, making it a good choice if you’re looking for the best running shoes for a bad back.