The inflammation of the plantar fascia can influence a person’s quality of life, especially when it is accompanied by the stabbing pain at the level of the heel.
The condition is known as plantar fasciitis and it can affect people of all ages and occupations, being aggravated by a number of factors, including excess physical training, running and inadequate footwear.
Medical specialists recommend physical therapy, night splints and shoe inserts among the conservative treatments for plantar fasciitis. In more invasive cases, one has to rely on corticosteroids injections and even surgery.
Physical therapy, in patients who suffer from plantar fasciitis, is meant to strengthen the muscles in the lower leg and ensure the necessary stability for the foot (heel & ankle).
Both physical therapists and podiatrists recommend that patients change their shoes, switching to adequate footwear, with adequate arch and heel support. Combined with taping, this can provide the feet with enough support, in order to reduce the symptomatology experienced (pain, inflammation etc.).
In this article, we will discuss about the best shoes for plantar fasciitis, helping you take the best decision for your needs.
Essential aspects to consider before making any purchase
First and foremost, there is no ideal pair of shoes for someone who suffers from plantar fasciitis. You cannot just go into a store and imagine that you will find the right shoes, from the first try. Basically, you have to try out several pairs and see how they fit, before you decide on a particular one. It is also important to understand that, no matter which pair of shoes you decide to use, these cannot cure plantar fasciitis but rather reduce the intensity and/or frequency of the symptoms.
Do not be in a hurry to choose a particular pair of shoes, just because someone else declared himself/herself to be satisfied with them. Find out what works for you, by testing several pairs and only then decide. You need a supportive pair of shoes, one that will ensure the comfort you need, without making your plantar fasciitis symptoms worse.
General features to be on the lookout for
When you will go shopping for the first time, you will be amazed at how many great choices there are out there. Before you declare yourself confused, keep in mind that there are a number of general features to be on the lookout for.
Shopping for the best shoes should not be random decision; you should spend a considerable amount of time thinking about the activities you are going to undertake, while wearing those shoes. Your foot alignment is also important, as plantar fasciitis shoes can correct over-pronation or other misalignments. The height of the arch is a determinant factor in choosing the best shoes as well.
If you are going to perform strenuous physical activity, such as running, you have to choose a pair that offers excellent arch and heel support. Your future pair of shoes should have the ability to absorb shocks, having soft cushioning as well.
As it was already mentioned above, plantar fasciitis shoes can correct misalignments. You can visit a physical therapist or a podiatrist and discuss about such matters. Then, you can go ahead and choose a pair of shoes that is suitable for the correction of pronation or supination.
There are plenty of shoes available for those with a neutral arch, so you do not have to worry about not being able to find the right pair of shoes. Just make sure that you take your arch type into consideration, otherwise you will risk only making the plantar fasciitis worse.
How to select the best running shoes
If you are an avid runner, then you probably know how important it actually is to choose a good pair of running shoes. The selection process becomes even more essential, in the situation that you are suffering from plantar fasciitis.
It is important to understand that wearing the wrong running shoes can favor the appearance of this condition, causing chronic inflammation and pain at the level of the heel. The same goes in the situation that you are wearing old or worn out shoes, so make sure to change your footwear on a regular basis. The chosen footwear should be able to correct your over-pronation, in case such problems do exist.
The biggest advantage of running shoes is that they can be used not only for running but also for walking or other casual activities. Running shoes are extremely versatile and they provide a high level of comfort. However, if you are looking for enhanced stability and a firmer support at the level of the heel, it is recommended to stick with walking shoes.
Essential features of running shoes
Running shoes are available for those with high arches, as well as for those with flat feet. They have a sturdy design, being comfortable to wear, even for prolonged periods of time. A good pair of running shoes should deliver both adequate heel and arch support, being able to absorb shocks and reduce the pain experienced due to plantar fasciitis.
Modern versions of running shoes have improved midsoles, with excellent protection against shocks. The heel is also reinforced, for added support, thus allowing the ankle to maintain a higher level of stability (no risk of aggravating the existent symptoms). With some models, you can even add shoe inserts, thus benefitting from added support. In the situation that you have flat feet, you should search for running shoes that have superior arch support (additional foam in the arch area).
Less desirable features
You should avoid running shoes that are heavy, no matter how stable these might seem to be, upon first impression. This is particularly important, if you are interested in running on long distances or if you have to spend a good part of your day on your feet. Avoid running shoes that might raise durability issues or those that are too pricey (the price is not necessarily an indicator of quality). If the running shoes are too narrow, they might not deliver the comfort you need.
How to select the best walking shoes
The first thing that you have to remember about walking shoes is that they are less demanding than running shoes. They also tend to be heavier, providing an added level of stability and support.
Essential features to consider
When it comes to purchasing walking shoes, there are three essential features to be on the lookout for: stability, support and comfort. If these three features are met, then you don’t have to worry about your walking shoes not being a suitable choice. You should also make sure that your shoes have ample cushioning and leather soles, as these are features that guarantee the best comfort, as well as excellent shock absorption.
Less desirable features
Avoid walking shoes that are excessively heavy, as they will not be comfortable to wear. Moreover, these are not aesthetically pleasing, making your feet appear bigger than they actually are. Once again, you have to avoid walking shoes that raise durability issues or those that are too expensive.
How to select the best tennis shoes
Just because you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, this does not mean you cannot enjoy your hobbies anymore, such as tennis. Tennis shoes are not like other shoes for plantar fasciitis, as these have to provide enhanced stability during actual movement on a hard surface (tennis field).
Essential features to shop for
First, make sure that you seek out a pair of tennis shoes that are suitable for your feet (high arch, flat feet, neutral position etc.). As it was mentioned above, these shoes should be able to provide support during actual movement. Apart from the arch support, make sure that the shoes have excellent cushioning, in order to absorb shocks. They should be made from lightweight materials and guarantee proper ventilation, as there will be a lot of excess moisture to absorb.
The great thing about tennis shoes is that they are available in a wide range of colors and designs, so you cannot complain of having only a limited scope to choose from. Keep in mind to seek out a pair of shoes that provides excellent traction, in order to remain stable, despite running or walking on a wet surface. Always strive to find that one pair of shoes that fits immediately, without a long break-in period.
Less desirable features
Most tennis shoes do not have sufficient room, in order for custom orthotics to be inserted into them. Also, you might find that some of them are too narrow, aggravating the pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
How to select the best dress shoes
When a person is diagnosed with plantar fasciitis for the first time, the decision to avoid certain types of footwear is almost instantly taken. Shopping for dress shoes might be something you dread but, given current possibilities, it can actually be exciting.
Dress shoes for women
When it comes to dress shoes for women, there are two features to be on the lookout for, meaning style and support. The sole of the shoes should be able to absorb shocks, while the general design should ensure the necessary comfort, no matter how long you might wear those shoes. It is important that your dress shoes guarantee the stability you need, while keeping the pain at a distance. Always avoid dress shoes that are too narrow, as such footwear can aggravate the existent symptoms.
You can also consider a pair of pumps, going for those that have a removable footbed (can be replaced with something more comfortable). Make sure that these shoes are both flexible and stable, so that you do not suffer from even more pain or inflammation. These pumps should deliver the same level of comfort, whether they are worn for a minute or for the entire day. Go for the ones that provide the best arch support and are equipped with a memory foam midsole.
Dress shoes for men
The best dress shoes for men can correct any misalignments at the level of the foot, such as the over-pronation. They have features, such as the leather upper, cushioned midsole and rubber soles (for best traction, regardless of the surface). They should provide the necessary support and stability, as this will also bring pain relief from plantar fasciitis. Go for a pair that looks both elegant and comfortable to wear and avoid any shoes that have too wide/narrow toe box.
What do researchers have to say on the subject
According to an article presented by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the pain caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia can be significantly reduced by wearing comfortable shoes. The authors of the article draw attention to the fact that one can also add heel cups or arch supports into the shoes, in order to reduce the pressure at the level of the heel and provide the foot arch with enhanced support.
In another article presented by the University of California (Berkeley), the wearing of improper shoes is presented as one of the main causes of plantar fasciitis. The authors of the article highlight the fact that worn out shoes, those that have too thin soles or those that are too loose can lead to plantar fasciitis. The same goes for those that do not provide sufficient shock absorption or adequate support. Inadequate footwear, in time, causes the Achilles tendon to shorten and places a lot of stress on the plantar fascia. By wearing well-fitting shoes, one can improve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
As an article presented by the Sports Medicine Institute International points out, running in old or worn out shoes can irritate the plantar fascia and lead to plantar fasciitis. The same goes in the situation you have been wearing the wrong running shoes for a prolonged period of time. It is recommended that you visit a specialist in order to have your feet evaluated and discuss about the suitable type of shoes that you should wear.
 Plantar fasciitis. American Academy of Family Physicians, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0915/p686.pdf
 Plantar fasciitis. University of California, Berkeley, 2007. Retrieved from: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/Plantar%2520Fasciitis.pdf
 Plantar fascia pain. Sports Medicine Institute International. Retrieved from: http://smiweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/plantar.pdf