I am an amateur runner with a chronic lower back condition (narrowing of the disc space on lower discs), these reviews and all comments are made using my experience as a runner with a lower back condition, and show what helped me continue running with my particular back problem. I have no medical skills or experience whatsoever, it is essential that you speak to your doctor or medical practitioner for any advice on whether you should run or not, and any guidance towards which back support is right for you.
If you only get back pain when running then you do not necessarily need a back support, you may need to get expert help as there may be a medical problem, you may need to some strength training or you may even need to adjust your running style (heel striking can cause back problems), this article is aimed at runners who normally run without pain, but then get an injury and wish to continue running.
Four days ago I ran a park run as usual, but had to stop three times to stretch my back due to sharp pains from the nerve being trapped between discs. I did panic and honestly thought this could have signaled the end of my running ‘career’, the situation was most likely not helped by me neglecting my core strength, I knew it was my core strength that helped support my lower spine and enable me to start running in the first place, so should have known better.
So I decided to try a back support
What harm could it do? Today I ran 9 miles with a back support without incident, which was a great relief. If you suffer from lower back pain you probably know that if you mis-step or go off balance it can cause excruciating pain. There were several occasions where I mis placed a step and expected that sharp pain that could have ended my run, but I was genuinely surprised that it didn’t occur. The back support kept my back protected.
The other thing I noticed while running with the back support was that obviously you can feel it is there, they are not that comfortable that you forget your are wearing one, but because I could always feel it, I was constantly aware of my core and was able to focus on keeping it tense, which most likely provided extra support and protection for my back. As well as providing the extra support, tensing my core was also giving my core muscles a good workout, as well as my legs and cardio. Over time this is also going to help protect my back, not just for running but also for day to day life.
A word of Warning
A side effect of wearing a back support is it makes you sweat around where it is worn, the ones I tested were breathable neoprene material, but there was still a lot more sweat in that area than I would have had without a back support. The good part of this is it creates heat in the area which will be increasing the blood flow and helping my core muscles, the downside is it may be uncomfortable in hot weather, and also the sweat can only go down, so you really do need to be wearing tight fitting underwear that has a ‘wicking’ action on the moisture, or you will probably get very sore in places you don’t want to get very sore. You can view our section on running underwear here.
I personally didn’t have any problems with rubbing or soreness from the back supports (except one), but this may differ for you depending on your body shape and how it sits under your ribs.
There is a wide range of back supports on the market, not all designed for runners, I researched the range and these are the four that appeared to be the most suitable as they claimed to be breathable and allowed some flexibility of movement. There are also some much more expensive ones available, but after testing these I could not see how they could possibly provide any more benefit that would justify the substantial additional cost.
Measuring for your Back Support
It is important that when buying your back support that you measure yourself around the waist through and level with your belly button, this will be your waist size for the purposes of fitting a back support, many people assume that their normal trouser/skirt size is the size they need to order, this is wrong because the back support does not get fitted around your hips, it goes much higher. When wearing a back support for running you need to wear the support under your running shirt, wearing it outside will restrict the airflow more and will contribute to you overheating.
As with most products on amazon the prices will rise and fall depending on many factors, including stock clearances, special offers, currency conversion, price wars amongst sellers, the list goes on, so all reviews are based on the product alone, I have totally ignored the price, so please read these reviews, check them against the current prices and then make your own decision based on our comments and their current prices.
All of the running support belts that we tested are basically the same design, you wrap them around your waist and the two ends overlap each other and stick together with velcro. They also have 2 strong elastic straps that are pulled around together, under tension to adjust the pressure you want, and stick to the velcro as well. This is a very good design which was easy to use and I was able to get a lot of pressure around my back. They also all have ribs running vertically around the belt, these extend the support up to the top and bottom of the belt. I would say they do slightly increase the support, but most of the support is provided by the elastic ‘pulls’. Used at a desk they all pushed on the ribs slightly, so were not overly comfortable, but did support very well, so enabling work to be done with less pain.
The Back Supports for Runners
Body and Base – Adjustable Neoprene Double Pull Lumbar Support LowerNeoprene was the most comfortable material, but this one was not as comfortable on the skin as the Clever Yellow and ProWorks belts due to the stitching around the top and bottom, but not too bad for running in. Accurate on sizing, the medium we tested seemed accurate to the sizes stated.
- Quite comfortable to wear against skin
- Largest range of sizes
- Height 22cm (measured on medium size version)
- Material Neoprene
Neotech Care Back Brace NTC Y015Designed to be wider than normal back supports for extra support, but when worn, it seemed to not support too well at the top and bottom, so in effect it was no more supportive than the other belts. I did not personally get any rubbing from the extra material at the top and bottom of the supportive part of the belt, but this could cause problems for some people, In my opinion you will be better off with a more narrow belt.
It has been made with a webbing style of material in order to increase breathability, but when used for running I found there was the same amount of sweat produced, most likely down to the extra skin it covered in relation to the other back supports on this page. The webbing type material is not as comfortable on the skin as the other belts on this page.
I tested the Medium size, which was for sizes of 74-90cm, (remember to measure yourself around the waist level with your belly button, not around your hips as in measuring trousers/skirts.) My waist was 88cm and I would say it would have fitted a 90cm waist as well, so I would say the sizes are most likely quite accurate.
- 25cm high (measured on medium size version)
- Hand Wash Only at 30 degrees
- Not as comfy to wear against skin due to the webbing
- Material 64% Polyester, 15% Nylon, 21% Elastodiene
- Caters for larger sizes
S = 66-75cm 26-29.5 inches
M = 74-90cm 29-35.5 inches
L = 90-102cm 35.5 – 40 inches
XL = 102-113cm 40 – 44.5 inches
XXL = 113-125cm 44.5 – 49 inches
XXXL= 125-145cm 49-57 inches
CleverYellow Adjustable Back SupportThis back support is made from the same material and finish as the ProWorks support belt. It measures slightly higher at 24cm, but the ‘ribs’ are only 18cm high, which means that the rest of the height of the belt is just wasted material, so it is helping generate extra sweat and heat, but not giving the extra support you would expect with a higher belt. The size we tried was the medium which seemed accurate to the stated sizes.
- Claims to be Certified Medical Grade
- Height 24cm (measured on medium size version)
- Hand Wash only 40 degrees- mild soap and air dry Do not machine wash, tumble dry, or use bleach or softeners.
- Allows a good range of movement
- Very comfortable against skin
- Material Neoprene
S = 53cm-68cm 21” – 27”
M = 71cm-84cm 28” – 33”
L = 84cm-101cm 33” – 40”
XL = 101cm-119cm 40” – 47”
ProWorks Adjustable Back SupportI found this back support very comfortable to wear against the skin, with no irritation whatsoever. I tested the medium version which was for a waist up to 90cm, which I believe is very accurate as it fitted my 88cm waist with about 2cm of space left, you cant get more accurate than that. The support sat below my ribs and was my personal favourite for running in.
It can be washed, but must be washed by hand only.
- Height 22.5cm (measured on medium size version)
- Very comfortable against skin
- Hand Wash Only
- Allows good range of movement
- Material Neoprene
S= 55cm-80cm 21″-31″
M= 65cm-90cm 25″-35″
L= 75cm-100cm 30″-40″
XL= 80cm-110cm 31″-44″
Of course you don’t have to wait for a back injury before using a back support, if you find you are prone to picking up back injuries, whether that is running, at work or doing any household activities at all then you can use a back support to prevent the injury as well. Back supports are ideal for relieving lower back (lumbar) pain, sciatica, herniated disc pain, osteoporosis, scoliosis and other injuries or conditions that effect the lower back area.