What Shoes are Best for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain?

Heel pain is a common complaint among active adults. It is often associated with having flat feet and a condition called plantar fasciitis. Many people ask what shoes are best for this condition to relieve their pain and prevent it from recurring without having to avoid their usual routines. Learn more about what factors to consider when buying the best shoes for heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
Heel pain that is more severe in the morning or after a long period of rest is characteristic of plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is the thick ligament which supports the bottom of the feet, just underneath the skin. It runs from the heel to the front part of the foot. It also supports the medial arch of the foot that is formed by the bones and muscles between the heel and the front of the foot. When the plantar fascia is damaged and inflamed due to constant pressure and strain, it pulls on the heel where it inserts, thus being stretched. This condition is called plantar fasciitis.

Heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis occurs more commonly in the morning because as one rests at night, the plantar fascia, which has been stressed during the day contracts at night, is suddenly stretched as one gets out of bed. Even long periods of rest, such as after sitting or long standing, can result in severe pain.

What Causes Heel Pain
While the heel pain experienced by some people may be mild, to others it may be more intense and debilitating. Factors that increase one’s risk for heel pain include:

• having flat feet, a condition where the medial arch of the foot collapses and stretches the plantar fascia

• over pronation of the feet, where one’s weight is unduly placed in the inner side of the foot

• having tight, weak calf muscles which pull on the heel and stretches the fascia

• other conditions like arthritis, gout and nerve problems

• walking barefoot

• wearing incorrect shoes

What Shoes are Best for Plantar Fasciitis
Many active adults experience heel pain from wearing the wrong type of shoes. Incorrectly fitted shoes and shoe types that do not offer enough support to the arch of the feet can contribute to over pronation, which can eventually lead to the collapse of the arch. People who are most likely to over pronate are those who are obese, diabetic, or overweight, since their weight tends to increase the stress on the medial arch of the foot without being able to shift their weight back to the outer side of the foot (normal pronation). Other people who suffer from plantar fasciitis from other causes also tend to over pronate and likewise need to wear better quality shoes which can support their medial arch.

Shoes that do not fit properly and those whose soles are too soft are more likely to result in heel pain. Examples of shoes that offer little support to the medial arch are the Nike Free, Dunlop Volley, Dunlop KT-26 and similar shoes. While Nike Free promotes “barefoot-like” walking and Dunlop Volley provides good sole grip, users may end up having heel pain because of the minimal support they offer.

Factors to Consider
Selecting appropriate shoes for plantar fasciitis depends on the degree of over pronation and what type of activity the shoes are going to be used. Active people, like runners with flat feet normally over pronate, so they need motion-control shoes that control pronation.

The more the foot over pronates, the greater pronation control technology is required to set the foot back to its neutral position. There are mild, moderate, and maximum support shoes available for people of various frame sizes who demonstrate minimum to moderate over pronation. Motion-control shoes are ideal for runners with maximum over pronation. They are also good for runners with large frames and exhibit moderate over pronation.

Examples of shoes with good pronation control are the Brooks Vapour, Asics GT-2170, Asics Kayano and similar shoes. These shoes provide improved cushioning and support to reduce the strain on the heel and the plantar fascia. Another shoe brand that can help people with plantar fasciitis is the New Balance Motion Control Shoe. For women, the WR1012 Nbx running shoes and the MR1012 Nbx running shoes for men are especially recommended for people who need more foot support.

Selecting the appropriate shoe for one’s activity is also essential. Experts recommend using appropriate running shoes designed for running, tennis shoes for playing tennis, and so on. These shoes are specially designed to provide support for the mechanics of the foot and withstand the stress during the activities for which they are used. However, many people ignore this advice and use one pair of shoes for different activities, ending up with sore feet and heel pain.

How to Choose the Best Shoes for Heel Pain
People who suffer from heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis must rest and avoid too much activity that increases the strain and damage on their plantar fascia. They may also take anti-inflammatory medications, do stretching exercises for calf muscles, and apply other home remedies to relieve heel pain.

In buying the best type of shoe for heel pain and plantar fasciitis, it is important to remember that there is not one type of shoe that best for everyone. People have different foot structures, varying degrees of over pronation and different types of activities.

The first thing to consider when buying good shoes is the heel counter, which is the back portion of the shoe, which wraps around the heel bone. This part controls pronation of the foot and must be firm when squeezed. If it is soft and collapses with pressure it will not provide foot and ankle support.

The next aspect to check is the sole’s flexibility. While most people think that flexible soles are great, a firm sole will help control the foot’s range of motion, help maintain the alignment of the foot and ankle, and prevent overstretching the plantar fascia.

With a firm sole one will need an adequate toe rocker, which will allow one to move forward during the stride. This is especially important for running shoes, which must have toe rockers that curve up, thus preventing the overstretching of the plantar fascia.

The shoes must also have an elevated heels with a rocker soles. It is better to have heels that are about an inch high to relieve the pressure on the heels. Test the rocker sole to see if the shoe rocks forward. Shoes that have flat or neutral heels will allow your feet to bear all your body weight and create more pressure on the plantar fascia. Shoes that provide more cushioning absorb the impact when the heels strike the ground.

Consider buying lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, because slip-on shoes are usually meant to fit loosely and thus lack support.

The best shoes for people with plantar fasciitis also have closed heels, strong arch support, midsoles that offer minimal torquing (twisting or bending), a secure closure system and a pair that allows flexion or bending only at the toebox.

To customize your shoes further, you may need to place some orthotic device or an over-the-counter arch support to fit your condition.

To know more about choosing the correct type of shoes for your specific foot conditions, consult an orthopedic shoe specialist, a podiatrist, or your healthcare provider.

In summary, it is important to wear the proper type of shoes to prevent and relieve heel pan and plantar fasciitis. Factors that must be considered in selecting the type of shoes one needs depends on the type of foot structure, degree of pronation and type of activities for which the shoes are used. In general, shoes that offer more cushioning and support and can help control over pronation are the best type of shoes for heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

Start your heel pain treatment today.