Plantar fasciitis can be a major pain in the foot. It can make activities like walking and standing almost impossible, crushing your quality of life. Luckily, it can be managed with conservative treatments like exercises (check out our Home Remedies article) and simple, inexpensive shoe insoles. In fact, prefabricated plantar fasciitis insoles like the ones you can purchase online are shown to be more effective than custom insoles when initially treating plantar fascia. But with so many to choose from, where do you start?
How Do Insoles Work?
As you may know, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligament that gives your foot its arch gets overused. This overuse occurs because your plantar fascia stretches every time you stand or take a step, resulting in microscopic tears that can become inflamed. This overuse is difficult to treat because you use your feet constantly.
An insole allows you to use your feet without forcing you to use your plantar fascia. An insole must then replace the function of your plantar fascia so that it doesn’t have to work as hard and continue to become aggravated. So what does your plantar fascia do exactly?
Plantar fascia gives your foot its arch. This arch helps to distribute pressure across your foot. Think about how your foot has to bear the initial impact of your entire weight when you’re standing. That’s a lot of pressure for a decently small part of your body. It’s no surprise then that people who are overweight, are on their feet all the time, or long distance runners are more prone to getting plantar fasciitis. Long distance runners require different insoles for their sport, so this article will focus solely on walking inserts.
To take over the function of your plantar fascia, your insole will need to provide a few key things. First, it will need to have a heel support where your plantar fascia originates. Second, it will need to have support for your actual arch. Finally, it will need to span at least to the upper middle portion of your arch because your plantar fascia spans all the way to your toes.
Now most normal shoes already have some type of arch support in it already. However, you may want to end up removing the support that is already supplied in your shoe. This is because it can throw off your new insert and put your insole on an unstable foundation that can cause an injury. You don’t want to end up rolling your ankle, giving yourself an additional painful ailment to contend with. This means you may need to deconstruct your shoe to remove your shoe’s provided insole, but it’s worth the effort when you can walk and stand without pain.
Guidelines for Your Purchase
Insoles need to take over the function of your plantar fascia. This means that it needs to displace your weight across the entirety of your foot. So the insole should be made of a semi-pliable material that is still very sturdy and will not give way to your weight.
Well, depending on the severity of your condition, you might want to consider other material. If your plantar fascia has not responded to other treatments or other insoles, then you’ll want to consider a more rigid material for your insole so that your plantar fascia doesn’t have to do any work at all, unlike with the softer insoles.
You’ll also want the heel to be built up slightly to distribute the pressure on your foot down towards your toes and the rest of your foot. This will give your heel a break from the constant strain. You’ll also want the middle arch support of your foot built up. This will allow your foot to stay in its relaxed position, instead of flattening, even when you’re walking.
If your foot tends to pronate or supinate, you’ll also want to take that into consideration with your insole. Pronation of the foot occurs when your foot is turned outward. Supination occurs when your foot is turned inward. A typical plantar fasciitis insole might cause you to over supinate if you already have it. Pronation could be helped by typical plantar fasciitis insoles because they tend to have a built up arch.
You’ll also want to look at their advertisement. This might seem like a strange consideration, but it tells you a lot about the integrity of the company and the potential reliability of the product. If an insole is advertised as being able to cure just about every ailment under the sun, odds are that it doesn’t do a single one of those things.
For example, it was popular for a while for plantar fasciitis inserts to have magnets in them to help improve all sorts of things in your body like cleansing toxins. However, research has shown that these expensive magnets have absolutely no benefit. Don’t get fooled by fancy advertisement. In fact, use it as a sign to move on.
You’ll also want to take a look at user reviews. Some products have 5 star ratings, but they may only have been reviewed by 5 users. Look for a minimum of 20 reviews when shopping online. This way, you’ll get a decent picture of what the product is really like. Additionally, it’s best to look at the comments that 3-star rating users give. This is because they often provide both positive and negative remarks. The higher raters might only report positive comments and lower raters might over exaggerate negatives (not to say that these are not valuable, but your time is precious).
If you don’t feel confident in making your own choice, then we have some products to recommend for you. Our number 3 pick is the Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain by Natural Foot Orthotics.
This insert is best for users who have tried other products that have not been successful. This insole is made of a very hard material, though, making it difficult for some users to use for the entire day. If you can tolerate it (or learn to tolerate it), users swear that it completely alleviates their plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Our number two pick is the Powerstep Protech Control. It is more comfortable than the Natural Foot Orthotic; however, it can still be challenging to walk with initially. Remember that plantar fasciitis insoles are replacing the function of your plantar fascia.
This means that it will feel very unusual the first week that you are using them because your foot will not be stretching the way it normally does when you step. So give the Powerstep Protech Control a try because it might just be the key to fixing your plantar fasciitis problems.
Our number one pick for plantar fasciitis insoles is the 10 Seconds Arch 1000. These insoles are the most comfortable of the three; however, some users wish that the arch was higher. This is why it is important to evaluate your needs before selecting an insert. If your plantar fasciitis is severe then you’ll need to try a more extreme support like our number two and three picks.
You don’t want to be overly conservative and end up with an insole that you will regret in two weeks. It may take a while to adjust to more structured inserts, but they’ll serve you better in the long run. However, if your plantar fasciitis isn’t chronic yet, then this number one pick could be the fix for you.
Whatever you choose, keep an open mind and ready checklist. The best choice for your feet and your health is an educated one and with the guidelines set in this article you’ll be ready to take on the confusing world of plantar fasciitis insoles.
1. Amazon. (2016). 10 Seconds Arch 1000.
2. Amazon. (2016). Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain.
3. Amazon. (2016). Powerstep Protech Control.
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5. Cooper, P., Frey, C., … Smith, R. (1999). Comparison of Custom and Prefabricated Orthoses in the Initial Treatment of Proximal Plantar Fasciitis. Foot and Ankle International, 20(4), 214-221. Doi: 10.1177/107110079902000402
6. Pfeffer, G., Bacchetti, P., Deland, J., Lewis, A. Anderson, R., Davis, W., Alvarez, R., Brodsky,J., Cooper, P., Frey, C., … Smith, R. (1999). Comparison of Custom and Prefabricated Orthoses in the Initial Treatment of Proximal Plantar Fasciitis. Foot and Ankle International, 20(4), 214-221. Doi: 10.1177/107110079902000402
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8. WebMD. (2014). Shoe Inserts for Plantar Fasciitis- Topic Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/tc/shoe-inserts-for-plantar-fasciitis-topic-overview
9. Winemiller, M. H., Billow, R. G., Laskowski, E. R., & Harmsen,S. (2003). Effect of magnetic versus sham-magnetic insoles on plantar heel pain: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 290(11), 1474-1478. Doi: 10.1001/jama.290.11.1474