Can’t find the source of that nagging back or knee pain? You might never suspect it, but your feet could be the culprit. If your feet are unstable, chances are the rest of your body is, too. After all, if you built a house on an unstable foundation, wouldn’t you sooner or later expect to see structural problems in the house itself?

It’s the same with our feet. Take flat feet (pronation), for instance—a common condition of collapsed foot bones. It’s more than a local problem because it can cause the ankles to roll in and the legs to rotate inward. Naturally, this puts stress on the knee joints, causing discomfort and pain. Young athletes, especially women, are prone to patellofemoral syndrome, a painful knee condition directly traceable to abnormal foot mechanics. Back pain, too, can result from an unstable foot bone structure.

But there’s a solution! If abnormal foot mechanics make your life uncomfortable or painful, stabilizing the feet by wearing supportive shoes with good cushioning will make all the difference. In some cases, orthotics fitted by a foot specialist may be helpful to stabilize foot mechanics and remedy knee and back problems. Of course, if you have hip or back pain, you should see your doctor—but bear in mind that your feet may be playing a role.

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