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The Truth About Shoes And Plantar Fasciitis

Updated on February 23, 2010

Plantar fasciitis affects many different people in all walks of life. A common misconception out there is that only athletes are susceptible to this condition. While it's true that high impact sports like basketball, running and intense workouts often cause plantar fasciitis, no one is completely safe from acquiring it. People that work on their feet day after day, particularly on hard surfaces, often develop foot problems of one kind or another. Obese men and women also struggle with this injury from time to time. One of the best ways to prevent, and in some cases, cure plantar fasciitis is by selecting the right pair of shoes.

For those of you that don't know what plantar fasciitis is, here's a quick overview.  It's basically the inflammation of the plantar fascia.  This is the tissue on the bottom of your foot that runs from your Achilles tendon to your toes.  It's designed to expand and contract when you walk.  Now while it is quite flexible, it's not indestructible.  If you're feet are naturally flat or you're a particularly heavy walker, this bit of tissue can actually develop small rips in it.  These rips in the plantar fascia cause the painful condition known as plantar fasciitis.

Note that I'm not a doctor. I've experienced several painful foot conditions, including plantar fasciitis. From what I've read, this condition can be caused by many different factors. If you're in serious pain, you need to get yourself to a licensed health care professional. Only they can diagnose and treat the specific injury you're suffering from. The points discussed below can be of value to anyone that's looking to prevent plantar fasciitis though.

Look For Shoes With Good Arch Support

Ouch!  Plantar Fasciitis Sucks!
Ouch! Plantar Fasciitis Sucks!

This is really the most important thing to look for in a shoe. Plantar fasciitis is often caused by conditions that sees the foot sit either too flatly or too arched. Look for a shoe that has solid support in the mid sole area of the foot. I say solid support because some shoes are equipped with a flimsy foam material in the mid soles. This isn't really ideal because the foot won't necessarily stay in the arched position. Look for a fairly rigid shoe to make sure you get the support you need. A good test is just to pick up the shoe and try to break it in half! Obviously you won't be able to but the shoe shouldn't bend that much. If it does, try another pair. You should also look for something that has pretty good heel support. If your heal ends up sliding around in the shoe, the arch that's required is compromised.

If The Shoe Fits...

Make sure the shoes that you're using to prevent plantar fasciitis fit as well. This, again, is all about creating a solid arc in the shoe that keeps your foot in a healthy position. If they're too big or small, it doesn't matter how good the mid sole support is. Your foot won't contour to the sole of the shoe correctly. This is particularly evident if you're a runner or a dancer. Think about it for a second. If the shoes you wear are too big, it stands to reason that your feet will slide back and forth while you run. This back and forth motion creates an inconsistent arc in your foot that can cause the painful tears responsible for this condition.

If you are indeed a serious athlete that goes through a lot of shoes, you probably know just how inconsistent shoe sizes can be from brand to brand. An Adidas size 8 is quite a bit different than a New Balance size 8 for example. Because of this, I think it's always a good idea to have your feet measured when buying a new pair of shoes. This will ensure that you're getting the right size every time - regardless of what brand you choose. If you're loyal to one brand, you can probably skip this step. A lot of folks in this category have good luck finding their favorite pair of shoes online. There are ton of options and the prices are often very difficult to beat.

Extra Features Specific To Your Needs

So if you've found a shoe that fits well and has great arch support, you're well on your way. Now it's time to pick out a few features that suit your specific needs. This really depends on who you are, where you live and what you're planning on using the shoes for. Do you live in Vancouver? It rains a lot in this market so you better get yourself something that's at least semi-waterproof. Nothing is worse than having soggy feet! Maybe you live in a warmer climate where the breathing ability is something you need. If this is the case, I recommend getting something with mesh uppers. They'll keep your feet nice and cool - despite the heat.


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    • Didge profile image

      Didge 5 years ago from Southern England

      Great hub James Wikman, like it!

    • profile image

      Laurie 6 years ago

      So, I know it sounds insane, but after struggling for years with it the only thing that has helped is wearing heels - wedge heels, etc... Which one doc told me to do. If I do wear athletic shoes, I build them up in the interior with hard plastic wedges and an orthotic over them that seems to help and sort of creates an interior heel.

    • profile image

      Lucy 6 years ago

      I've had this horrible condition for 6 years now and have to walk my dogs. I too can't possibly imagine ever going barefoot and crocs are THE only footwear that I can wear all day with limited pain. Ive tried everything and they are the best shoe even up against my orthotics in trainers.

    • James Wikman profile image

      James Wikman 8 years ago from California

      Thanks for stopping by gracenotes! It's always good to hear how different people deal with various conditions. I remember reading on a physiotherapy forum once that there is no magical "one size fits all" solution for plantar fasciitis. It really does depend on how and why an individual develops this condition to begin with...

      As far as the crocs are concerned, I've actually heard that they are very supportive of the foot's arch - go figure!

      Thanks again for your input... Cheers!

    • gracenotes profile image

      gracenotes 8 years ago from North Texas

      Well, I have to say that for women, vanity needs to go with this foot condition! Yes, out the window! No more cute shoes. And forget about going barefoot -- I don't do that anymore.

      I have had plantar fasciitis for about 4 years. For serious walking I always put on my Reebok sneakers, but for everyday running errands and cleaning house, I wear my Crocs. They offer me blessed relief. You probably wouldn't approve of Crocs, but they work for me, and the one time I went to see my podiatrist for an unrelated condition, she and her whole staff were wearing Crocs, so I can't argue with that.

      Certain types of stretching exercises are helpful for this condition too (as I found). Also, a decent diet that is not high in inflammation-producing foods.