Stylish Solutions for Plantar Fasciitis

plantar fasciitis

If you have ever had plantar fasciitis you know how absolutely painful and inconvenient it can be. Foot pain is a particular nightmare for me because, as a New Yorker, I rely on my feet to get me everywhere. Comfortable shoes are already a must, so adding any type of foot injury to the mix just makes things worse. Staying off my feet is completely unavoidable. Even getting to my apartment requires walking up three flights of stairs.

I had a bad case of plantar fasciitis about ten years ago. At the time, I was wearing heels a lot more and then transitioned too quickly to flats. As my podiatrist pointed out, the tendons of my heels had shortened from heel wear and switching to flats caused the sharp pain I was experiencing. He advised me to wear shoes with a slight one to two inch heel instead of completely flat shoes. He also gave me a cortisone shot in the heel of my foot. A small price to pay for relief.

This winter, my plantar fasciitis flared up again. If you are unfamiliar with what it is, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It supports the arch of your foot and helps you walk. These ligaments are there to act like little shock absorbers that support the arch of the foot. Too much pressure can tear and damage the ligaments, causing inflammation, heel pain, and stiffness. This is why so many runners and people who stand and walk a lot can develop it.

For me, the pain is on one foot, right where the arch meets the heel. If I press on the tender spot in just the right way, it can send me through the roof. I know exactly what inflamed my plantar fasciitis; a pair of boots that I could walk for miles in, but also seemed to exacerbate this part of my heel at the same time. My feet would be fine throughout the day but the next morning I would have crippling heel pain.

I kept saying I was going to see my podiatrist and, coincidentally, ran into him a few months ago because my podiatrist also happens to be the father of a very good friend of mine. I begged him for another shot in my foot. While he was willing to do it, he told me the best remedy would be to stretch and make some footwear modifications. “Ugh. I didn’t want to do exercises, and I certainly didn’t want to wear ugly shoes. Just give me the shot!” I thought. But, in the end, I am glad he didn’t just shoot up my foot and send me on my way. While the relief would have been immediate, I’m not sure I would have learned all that much about how to take care of myself.

Stylish Solutions for Plantar Fasciitis

I consider it a miracle when a client doesn’t tell me they have foot issues. If the footwear industry designed their shoes for the actual needs of women, I can assure you, the shoe departments in stores would look quite different. Everyone has some sort of foot or shoe issue, and if they don’t, they likely one day will. With this in mind, I decided to share my tips on how I handled my plantar fasciitis and footwear and other suggestions for being stylishly pain-free.

Easing the pain

Let’s start with the pain because, in addition to being mindful of footwear choices, you have to get the pain under control. My podiatrist gave me some stretches to do (I will share those in a bit) and icing will help reduce inflammation. This, with some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, are the first steps.

Icing Plantar Fasciitis

Doing my research, I read about rolling your foot with a frozen water bottle, which serves two purposes, reducing inflammation with the ice, and rolling out the ligament with the bottle. I was reminded I keep vodka in the freezer and used that to roll out my foot. It worked well. The rolling part probably would have been less painful if I actually drank the vodka first.

If I’m not rolling my foot and just want to ice it, which I recommend daily until the pain subsides, I use a frozen package of peas or corn so the ice can take the shape of my foot and be more effective. I just plop it under my foot and eventually forget it is there. Figure 20 minutes, at least.

Stretching

Stretching is the next important step to relieve plantar fasciitis. There are a few things you can and should do. First, in addition to stretching the foot, the calves should be stretched. My podiatrist suggested basic wall stretches to work on stretching my calves and tendons. In addition, here are some other stretches you can do. My particular favorites are using my Theraband to do foot flexes and towel curls where I place my foot on a small towel and grasp the center of it with my toes and curl the towel towards me. I repeat 5 to 10 times.

Massage

Part of the ice bottle roll was to massage the tender part of my foot. While this works, other times I just had to get in there and work out what felt like kinks in my arch. I did this with my hands. It’s not fun or comfortable, but it works. You can also use a golf ball or other sturdy type of small ball that you can use as a roller.

Tight calves can also be to blame for plantar fasciitis, so it is important to stretch this part of your body too. I found this video during a desperate search for relief. It provides relief in a lot of ways. And, trust me, you will hate me while attempting this.

Products to ease plantar fasciitis

If you check out a place like Amazon, there are a ton of products out there to help ease plantar fasciitis pain, all which can add value to relieving the pain quicker.

With so many gadgets and gizmos to choose from, I would say the most important would be heel cup inserts provide cushioning for shock absorption, heel cups for proper alignment, and arch support to help relieve the inflammation and pain of plantar fasciitis. Admittedly, I’m dying to try the Accupressure Massage Sandals.

Best shoes for plantar fasciitis

Let’s talk about shoes for plantar fasciitis, a crucial step in the healing and preventative process.

The first thing to know is because no two cases of plantar fasciitis are alike, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, unfortunately. Your best bet is to try different styles and see which one fits best. Here are a few to get you started.

What to look for in shoes for plantar fasciitis

  • Arch support
  • A broad heel base to absorb shock
  • Lighter designs. You’ll want to avoid heavy shoes
  • Removable insoles
  • Back straps or support
  • Deep heel cup
  • Appropriately wide toe boxes
  • Contoured and cushioned footbeds
  • Flats, or heels of no more than two to three inches
  • Rocking motion technology to reduce heel stress
  • Avoiding completely flat shoes until the pain has subsided

Birkenstocks

In my experience, my Birkenstocks have always come through for me. With the cold weather, I haven’t been able to wear them yet this year, but in my effort to work through my plantar fasciitis pain, I have put them on in my home to get some relief because they have the most comfortable footbeds with deep heel cupping to promote equal weight distribution and enhance proper gait. This takes unnecessary pressure off your plantar fascia, relieving pain and allowing you to walk around comfortably.

The biggest difference between the Birkenstock footbed and that of other sandals is the material. Their footbed has a unique latex and cork construction that molds to the shape of your foot creating a custom footbed that cradles and massage your feet. Many people find that these sandals reduce arch stress as well as knee and back problems.

Vionic

Vionic makes an entire line devoted to plantar fasciitis. They are all APMA certified with arch and heel support to help relieve pain. This line includes running shoes, flats, sandals and inserts.

Clogs

The jury is going to be mixed on this recommendation because clogs can be dangerous, particularly if you have weak ankles. On the other hand, nurses, chefs and other professionals who need to be on their feet all day swear by them for comfort and to alleviate pain. So I am not going to take a side either way. But I will tell you, I wore my gold metallic clogs all day yesterday and my plantar fasciitis didn’t flare up. I also find these shoes to be one of the only styles I can stand in all day without any foot pain.

Clogs work for a few reasons. The first is, they’re not entirely flat. As my podiatrist always points out to me, completely flat shoes can be just as damaging on the feet as high heels because the tendon gets stretched and inflamed. The small heel height in clogs can be helpful. Second, the round rocker bottom sole helps to make forward motion easy and smooth. So proceed with caution when choosing clogs. If they aren’t a solution for you, move on.

Dansko

While known for their clogs, Dankso, accepted by the APMA, has an array of shoe styles that also work well for those with plantar fasciitis and are definitely worth looking at. They provide comfort due to features like high-quality leather uppers that follow the natural contours of the foot, leather sock linings, proper arch support, and anatomically correct footbeds.

FitFlops

FitFlops have innovative design called a Microwobbleboard™ midsole which consists of triple density EVA Foam rubber, which helps activate muscles throughout the lower body. The design is such that it also increases the range of movement of the feet. FitFlop footwear helps to accentuate the rolling motion from heel to toe, providing proper support for the foot arches and excellent cushioning throughout the stride. The smooth rolling motion gives the plantar fascia a gentle stretch.

The high-density foam in the heel also by reducing the shocks from walking by up to 22% more than standard footwear, helping to ease heel pain resulting from plantar fasciitis.

Aetrex

Aetrex is a global leader in foot scanning technology and orthotics. The company also has a fast-growing comfort and wellness footwear line. Albert, the brand’s revolutionary 3D foot scanner, offers the most comprehensive, personalized foot scanning technology to date.

Oofos

OOFOS sandals are known for their recovery abilities. They are one of the most comfortable recovery sandals, biomechanically engineered to alleviate the foot stress and soreness caused by your daily grind. In addition, OOFOS is one of the best Plantar Fasciitis Shoe Brands for their amazing arch support, unique OOFOAM material, and biomechanically OOFOAM footbed. 

New Balance

For more than a century now, New Balance focused on improving their research and development to give their customer the best shoes possible. So much that, New Balance provides an extensive choice of shoes for people suffering from foot conditions such as heel pain and plantar fasciitis. They offer shoes with great arch support, rubber outsole, and most shoes have removable outsoles to accommodate orthotics. 

It’s important to note that, first, I am not a podiatrist, nor do I have any medical training or foot expertise. You should always listen to your doctor or a medical professional. Second, these are not the only options out there. If you google “best shoes for plantar fasciitis” you’ll find plenty of other brands.

Another thing to keep in mind is you won’t be relegated to sensible shoes forever. I may not always choose plantar fasciitis-friendly shoes, but I am smart about when I should wear them. If I know I am going to be on my feet all day, I won’t put myself through wearing shoes that will only exacerbate the pain. Doing this also makes it possible to wear not-so-friendly plantar fasciitis shoes when I need to. So, trust me, wearing shoes that will provide comfort while working through plantar fasciitis pain does not have to be a life sentence.

I also read is shoes that offer support shouldn’t be worn in the long term the longer you require orthotics/supportive footwear, the weaker your feet will become and wearing extremely supportive shoes and orthotics will weaken your feet and cause your plantar fasciitis to come back. Instead, as your pain is resolved, you should change to more minimally supportive shoes.

The progression goes like this:

  1. When pain is bad, wear supportive shoes and focus on pain relief.
  2. When pain has gotten better (like a 1 out of 10) move to less supportive orthotics or support shoes
  3. Eventually, you want to progress to not wearing an orthotic at all. You also at some point need to try wearing less supportive shoes (no cushioning or arch support) that allow the toes to spread (wide toe box). You need to use pain as your guide and slowly progress to being able to walk around barefoot without pain. ​

There is so much that sucks about having plantar fasciitis. I hope these tips and shoe suggestions help! Do you have a shoe brand or way to relieve pain that I didn’t list? I would love to hear more in the comments.