There is an all too common link between poor, unsupportive footwear and plantar fasciitis. If you're not wearing the right type of shoe, it can play a significant role in the development of plantar heel pain and prevent your pain from getting better. Unfortunately, the modern shoe industry which focuses shoe design on fashion instead of what is good for a person’s feet doesn't make it easy to find the right type of shoe. Shoes that are often good for plantar fasciitis have adequate arch support and cushioned heels. They should also have a secure fastening such as laces to prevent your foot from sliding around inside the shoe as this creates abnormal foot function. Wearing worn out or ill-fitting shoes can exacerbate plantar fasciitis due to lack of proper support.
The importance of suitable footwear is paramount in the success of treating plantar fasciitis. Unsuitable footwear can reduce the effectiveness of other treatments or prolong the condition, which might be alleviated otherwise. This advice is particularly stressed towards female patients as their footwear choices are usually worse than males. Shoes which often make plantar fasciitis worse are flat slip on shoes or pumps. Ugg boots are also very bad. Flip flops are bad yet remain a popular choice of footwear for many people, particularly those that live in warmer climate. We do not recommend wearing flip flops if you suffer with plantar fasciitis however if you do choose to wear flip flops, try to minimise how often you are wearing them and look for flip flops that have an arch contour built into the bed of the flip-flop to provide some arch support. Avoid shoes with no or a low heel as this requires your heel to be able to become closer to the floor when standing. This requires good calf muscle flexibility which most people with plantar fasciitis are lacking. Therefore in a flat/low heeled shoe, if your calf muscle is already tight, it will increase strain on the plantar fascia.
What about high heels?
Many plantar fasciitis sufferers notice they have less pain when in high-heel shoes, this is because the heel is elevated off the ground which flexes the ankle downwards, thus removing the strain on the plantar fascia as the calves aren't being stretched. This does not mean high-heel shoes are the answer and unfortunately quite the opposite. Whilst you may have less pain in a high-heel shoe, this will increase the shortening/tightening of the calf muscle and further reduce your ability to be barefoot or wear other types of footwear, not to mention the other problems associated with high-heel shoes such as various painful conditions affecting the ball of the foot.
Wearing shoes that will help plantar fasciitis does not mean you have the live out the rest of your days in "ugly shoes". The aim of wearing supportive shoes is to reduce strain on the plantar fascia and avoid aggravating the condition. Once the plantar fascia is healed you may return to less supportive footwear gradually and monitor your symptoms. For some people, they will be lucky enough to go back to wearing whatever shoes they please. Whereas others may have to be a bit more sensible with their footwear options. There is no way of predicting who can and who can’t as it varies from person to person. The take home message here is that footwear choice is just as important as all the other treatment options and should not be overlooked.
See the video below on basic footwear advice and recommendations.