Plantar Fasciitis | Expert Guide to the Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis Relief
by CARA SPINDLER
Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of pain and discomfort across the bottoms of the feet.
Most people first notice they are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis when they start to experience morning heel pain.
When they first get out of bed in the morning, they typically feel a sharp stabbing pain in the heel, or they may experience a dull, achy pain that radiates from the heels, down along the bottoms of the feet. Sometimes just one foot is affected, but most often it is both feet, to varying degrees.
Initially, it can be difficult to stand and walk without some amount of pain and discomfort, but as the morning wears on, this foot pain will gradually subside.
The Mayo Clinic states that “Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.”*
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), part of the United States National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, points out that Plantar Fasciitis affects 1:10 people at some point in their lifetime and states that there are over 2 million people worldwide that receive treatment for this specific condition every year.**
According to Google Search, those who suffer with this foot ailment perform nearly a half million searches on the internet for Plantar Fasciitis every month.
Tens of thousands more search the internet monthly, to learn about recommended pain management techniques, therapy relief, surgical options, and also to discover what are the best shoes to wear for Plantar Fasciitis.
If you suffer from foot pain first thing in the morning, or after prolonged bouts of inactivity, it would benefit you to research and learn about Plantar Fasciitis and what you can do to alleviate its symptoms.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
To understand the definition Plantar Fasciitis, we need to break down the meaning of its terms.
Plantar: Relating to the sole of the foot
The sole of the foot is referred to as the Plantar, which is easy to remember because we plant all of our body weight on the soles of our feet.
Fascia: The fibrous tissue that connects bones, as well as other parts of the body to each other.
The Definition of Plantar Fasciitis: that specific band of fibrous tissue that spans the length of the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes.
Since the weight of our bodies are centered on the soles of the feet, the condition of the Fascia becomes crucial, because it acts as a body-stabilizer. Its springy properties create a bounce-back effect, much like a set of shock absorbers would do for a car, giving our bodies a smooth ride and aptly insulating our bodies from ground forces as we walk, or run.
Once the Fascia’s shock-absorbing properties are compromised, or rendered ineffective due to damage, the body has little protection from the impact of walking or running. The body is forced to directly absorb the stress and strain of those hard, unforgiving ground forces. This not only affects the feet, but it also can affect the rest of the body, from the legs on up to the back, and even the neck.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
There are a few tell-tale symptoms associated with Plantar Fasciitis
- Morning Heel Pain
- Contracted Fascia
- Morning Hobble
- Subsiding Pain
- Recurrent Morning Pain
- Pain after Prolonged Periods of Rest
Morning Heel Pain
The first indication you will experience with Plantar Fasciitis is pain in the morning when you first get out of bed. As your foot hits the floor, you will immediately experience a sharp pain in your heel, or you may feel a dull ache that starts in the heel and radiates down along the bottom of the foot towards your toes.
As you first begin to walk after sleeping, or after a period of rest, it may feel as if the bottoms of your feet are in a contracted, almost hyper-state. This is because the Fascia bands have become so tightened up, they seem to be unable to stretch and flex normally under the weight of your body.
As you wake up and walk first thing in the morning, the weight of your body pushes directly down on the Plantar Fasciitis, which may feel like an old, dry rubber band that is being over-stretched. This makes you walk in a very awkward manner, trying to alleviate the pain and discomfort across the bottom of your feet.
Plantar Fascia pain can initially make standing and walking difficult, but after some time during your morning routine, that pain will begin to subside. This is because your Fascia Band begins to slowly stretch itself out and come out of its hyper-contracted state. In fact, you may not even think much about it again...until the following morning when it reoccurs.
Recurrent Morning Pain
Plantar Fasciitis pain is notorious for returning every morning like clockwork. Over time, this morning pain will slowly grow worse and you'll find that the stretching out of the Fascia will begin to will take much longer every morning, and it will be more difficult to do as time goes on.
Pain after Prolonged Periods of Rest
Plantar Fasciitis is known to flare up after sleeping, but it can also flare up after periods of prolonged sitting, or inactivity. This is because when the foot is at rest, the Fascia tends to contract again. Hence, the cycle of pain continues when we get up to walk, as it did when we woke up first thing in the morning.
As time goes on, the pain of Plantar Fasciitis will only get worse.
Like the 2 million other people in the world that suffer with Plantar Fasciitis, you will probably start searching the Internet to better understand and treat this foot ailment and to learn what are the best shoes are for Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis Causes
Over the years there has been much speculation about the causes of Plantar Fasciitis, but not all of these causes have been proven to induce it. Advanced research continues to be done to this day, simply because of the sheer number of people that suffer with this condition.
Mythical Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Unproven Causes of Plantar Fasciitis.
- Heel Spurs
- Natural Thickening of the Fascia Band
- Weight-bearing Activities.
Heel Spurs are calcium deposits that cause a bony protrusion on the bottom of the heel bone. While they are commonly thought to be one cause of Plantar Fasciitis, heel spurs are its own condition. They often occur in people who already have Plantar Fasciitis and many who have heel spurs do not even experience any pain from them.
Natural Thickening of the Fascia Band
If the Fascia Tissue is injured and reinjured over time, which is a common, natural occurrence during a lifetime, it can become thicker. However, the thickening of the Fascia Band has not been proven to be a catalyst of Plantar Fasciitis.
Carrying heavy weights will invariably lead to more weight and pressure pressing down on the Plantar Region as you walk. Generally, weight-bearing activities are only for short periods of time, unlike being obese, where one would bear extra weight all the time when standing, walking and running.
While Heel Spurs, the Thickening of the Fascia Band and Weight-Bearing Activities are suspected causes, none of these issues have been shown to have any direct, significant correlation to the onset, or the condition of Plantar Fasciitis.
Documented Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The following issues have shown to be documented causes of Plantar Fasciitis.
- High Intensity Activities
- Hard Flooring
As our bodies age, there are degenerative changes that will naturally occur. Specifically, between the ages of 45-65, there is a marked decrease in elasticity in the Fascia, which affects its shock absorption capabilities. This decrease also leaves the Fascia more fragile and prone to injuries, such as rips and micro-tears.
Older athletes tend to suffer much more from Plantar Fasciitis than their younger athletic counterparts and report sharp stabbing pains in their heels as being the first symptoms they had felt.
High Intensity Activities
Starting a rigorous activity that creates increased pounding pressure on the feet can bring about Plantar Fasciitis , such as; Running on Pavement, Military Activities, Aerobic Gym Classes, or even Irish Dancing. The reason is that the Fascia band does not have time to adjust to this newly added stress. Like the over-use of any untrained muscle in the body, pain and inflammation will naturally set in.
Being overweight increases the risk of having Fascia pain 1.4 fold. This is because the Plantar Region sustains all of your body weight, as you go about your day.
Obesity adds increased weight and pressure on the Fascia band, heavily stressing the Plantar region. Over time, the Fascia begins to stretch out to its max under all of the body's weight and it will eventually develop tiny rips and micro-tears. Pain sets in, because the Fascia has become weakened and damaged.
Genetics plays a big role in the development of Plantar Fasciitis.
Some inherited genes are genetically predisposed to leaving an individual more susceptible to Muscle Contractions. A contraction is the shortening and hardening of tendons and tissues, such as the Fascia Band. As the band retracts and hardens, its elasticity is lost and injuries can easily occur.
People who have flat feet are referred to as Supinators. They are more prone to suffer from Plantar Fasciitis than those with higher arches.
When you have flat feet, your Fascia bands are already fully extended and have no real elasticity to provide bounce-back to cushion your steps. Any compound stress that is put on this key area will affect it quickly.
Significant association has been found between Plantar Fasciitis and standing at work all day.
This activity can either instigate, or compound, the pain and discomfort of the Fascia Tissue. Restaurant Workers who spend all day walking on hard floors, or Factory Workers who stand on hard concrete floors all day, are most susceptible in this regard.
Plantar Fasciitis Pain
An over stretched Fascia can be as achy, or as painful, as any other over-extended ligament in the body. Just as a rubber band will begin to get micro tears in it when stretched to its limit, so will the Plantar Fascia band.Tiny little rips and micro-tears can occur, that lead to a lot of pain and inflammation.
Relieving the Pain of Plantar Fasciitis
Treating the pain and discomfort of Plantar Fasciitis is the most recommended and routine course of action, with most people finding relief from the condition within six weeks to 1 year.
The most common thing that people do to alleviate the pain and inflammation of Plantar Fasciitis is to take over-the-counter medications; such as Ibuprofen (found in Advil,) or Naxoprene (found in Aleve.)
Plantar Fasciitis Exercises and Stretches
To avoid recurrent episodes of pain and swelling, it is helpful to gradually stretch out the Fascia doing some of the following general exercises 2-3x a day. All exercises should be done after consulting with your doctor first.
- Wall Calf Stretch
Face and place your hands on a wall, stretch one leg out behind you, Keeping it straight with its heel pressed to the floor, bend the other knee toward the wall until you feel a stretch up the back of the leg. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
- Basic Achilles Stretch
Repeat above exercise for Wall Calf Stretch, but this time while still keeping the heel to the floor of the outstretched leg, bend the knee of that extended leg until you feel a stretch along the Achilles tendon.
- Towel Toe Stretch
Before you get out of bed in the morning, sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a towel behind the top of both feet and toes and gently pull the towel towards you to obtain a stretch along the bottom of the foot.
- Stand on Stair Edge
Holding securely onto the stair railing, stand on edge of the bottom stair so the balls of your feet and your toes are on the edge and your heels are off of the stair. Slowly raise body up on your toes, hold, then release.
- Basic Hamstring Stretches
Bend over and touch your toes, feeling the stretch up the back of your legs.
Common Home Remedies for Plantar Fascia Relief
- Rolling foot across a Frozen Water Bottle - stretches the Fascia Band and relieves inflammation
- Wearing Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks -Decreases swelling and inflammation and increases daily arch support
- Wearing a Plantar Fasciitis Day Brace-Provides a stretch to the Fascia Band and also to the Achilles Tendon
- Wearing a Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint - Prevents the Fascia Band from contracting while you are sleeping
- Wearing Supportive Insoles - Alleviates Fascia pressure by providing proper foot support
- Wearing Supportive Footwear - Provides the overall proper support to the feet while walking and running, to alleviate and prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis Cure
To date, there is no cure for Plantar Fasciitis.
Of the millions of people who suffer with Plantar Fasciitis treating the symptoms, as referenced above, is their only needed course of action.
Most of these treatments are geared to reduce any inflammation, to gradually stretch the Fascia band, to provide adequate arch support underneath the feet, or to counter-act the Fascia's contraction while sleeping overnight.
Some people may seek help from their chiropractor, or their primary care physician. However, most Primary Doctors will simply confirm the condition and then suggest standard home treatments that can be researched online.
It is only a small percentage of people that will be told it has progressed to the chronic stage where the pain is recalcitrant; meaning it is not responding to any routine treatment. These people will be sent on to an Orthopedist to consider further options.
These Orthopedic options may include:
- Steroid Injections
Used for for temporary pain relief. Overtime they may weaken the plantar fascia band, potentially leading to its rupture.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections
These injections are guided by up-to-date Ultrasound Technology for targeted pain relief
Sound waves are used to hasten the healing in the Plantar area.
Side Effects: pain, swelling, numbness, tingling and localized bruising
- Tenex Procedure
A non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure to remove Plantar Fasciitis scar tissue
Detaches the Fascia Band from the heel bone.
After visiting an Orthopedist, only a small percentage of people opt for the surgical treatment. This is because surgery has its own inherent risks, that can result in more complications, such as Its weakening the arches and lessening underfoot support.
The good news is that 90% of all Plantar Fasciitis cases are remedied within 12 months time with conservative at home treatments, including the wearing a good pair of store-bought Insoles and properly fitting, supportive shoes for all your daily activities.
Supportive Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
Purchasing the right insoles to combat the pain and discomfort of Plantar Fasciitis can be a step in the right direction. However, just grabbing one off a store rack in your shoe size is a dangerous gamble that could only serve to make your condition worse
Stop into your local shoe store, like Family Footwear Center stores, that have trained professionals to help you utilize a foot scanner to determine where your feet need the most support, and based on what your daily personal activities are.. With this new knowledge, they will be able to steer you into the right pair of shoes to get you on the path to having your feet feel good again.
Once your feet have been scanned, you will know just the right Insoles to purchase to alleviate and help prevent Plantar Fasciitis, such as Spenco Insoles, that can be found here:
The Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
The Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis are ones that fit properly and support your feet.
Plain and simple.
Since everyone's feet are different, you need to find daily shoes, running shoes, sandals or work boots that have just the right amount of cushioning and arch support for you.
Our Expert Advice is to find a local shoe store that offers old-fashioned service, like Family Footwear Center. They will be able to professionally measure your feet, just as your parents had the shoe salesmen do when you were fitted for shoes as a child growing up.
It is important to properly measure both of your feet to determine the length, width, and most importantly, the arch of each foot. Ill-fitting shoes can exacerbate a Plantar Fasciitis condition.
How to Pick the Best Running Shoes
It is especially important to select the right type of running shoes if you suffer with Plantar Fasciitis, especially if you are an early morning runner.
Please check out our Expert Advice on How to Pick the Right Running Shoes
Plantar Fasciitis Relief
Our expert advice to allay the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis is to have proper support under your arches and sufficient cushioning under the heels and forefront of your feet.
Many brands have built-in metatomical insoles that will mold to the bottom of your feet, with added Memory Foam cushioning that will give you a customized fit.
If you suffer with Plantar Fasciitis, it is more important than ever to pay attention to the type of shoes, boots, sneakers or sandals that you put on your feet.
Below are the brands that we recommended to our customers who are dealing with Plantar Fasciitis.
Best Work Boot Brands for Plantar Fasciitis
- Chippewa Logger Boots
Logger heels provide strong arch support
- Keen Utility Boots
Made for workers standing on concrete floors all day
- Danner Acadia Boots
The ultimate support for Law Enforcement personnel
- Wolverine DuraShocks Work Boots
Engineered to provide cushioning and flexibility in key places
Best Shoe Brands for Plantar Fasciitis
- Dansko Shoes
Excellent arch support and their XP 2.0 styles have extra cushioning in the footbeds
- Merrell Shoes
Their Q-Form Technology is specifically engineered to support a woman's foot
- Keen Shoes
Metatomical Footbeds and Asymmetrical Toe Boxes follow the natural shape of the foot.
Best Sandal Brands for Plantar Fasciitis
Flat, non-supportive sandals can set you back on your recovery from Plantar Fasciitis. Invest in sandals that will keep you cool in summer,while cradling feet with supportive technology.
- Keen Sandals
Wide Asymmetrical Toe Boxes and Metatomical Footbeds
- Vionic Sandals for Women
State-of-the-art supportive Orthaheel Technology and Bio-mechanical Footbeds
- Taos Sandals for Women
Metatarsal, Arch and Heel Support, Shock Absorbing Pod Cushions and Curving Insoles
Best Running Shoe Brands for Plantar Fasciitis
Whether you are someone who walks daily, or if you are a runner who goes the distance, you need a top quality pair of athletic shoes that provide cushioning and support mile after mile.
Our expert picks are Brooks and New Balance.
One Final Thought
The old adage is true:
"You Get What You Pay For."
Cheaply made shoes, boots, sandals and slippers provide very weak cushioning and support. While they may feel good for a quick minute in a shoe store, their insoles and any support they offer usually breaks down within 2-3 months, leaving feet hurting even more than they did before you bought those poorly made shoes.
It is a well-known fact in the industry, that when the price of a shoe goes up, so does its level of features that provide both comfort and support. Keep this in mind when shopping for footwear if you suffer with Plantar Fasciitis. It is well worth your time, and investment, to purchase quality brand name shoes, known for their higher level of quality. It will help to alleviate, and may even help to avoid, the pain and discomfort that is caused by Plantar Fasciitis.
Updated on November 20 2023 to ensure accuracy of the most up-to-date expert information
*Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice.
by CARA SPINDLER
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