A new study suggests that shock-absorbent insoles do not prevent wearers from getting back pain, and may not help existing lower back pain.
Studies involving some 2,300 people analysed by the journal Cochrane Systematic Review suggested there is no use for insoles as a preventative measure, and that people who already have back pain could find that they shift the pain from the back to the legs.
According to the charity BackCare, up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some stage in their life. During any one year, up to half of the adult population will have back pain.
Some experts have suggested that insoles worn inside shoes could help reduce pain by absorbing shock as the foot hits the ground, stabilising the walking motion.
But lead researcher Dr Tali Sahar, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said more needs to be done to investigate the issue.
He said: "We need some good studies of the effect of insoles on existing or recurrent back pain, so that we can make recommendations with a greater sense of certainty."
In the UK, back pain accounts for around £1bn of NHS costs, and causes losses to employers of more than £500bn every year.