Experts explain what to look for when shopping for shoes that ease heel pain.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the ligament that connects the heel to the toes. Having it is a huge pain—literally. The condition is most commonly described as severe pain in the heel, and it accounts for up to 15% of the foot symptoms that require professional care.
Plantar fasciitis may cause discomfort beyond the feet. “The fascia is connected to the calf muscle and the Achilles,” says Tzvi Bar-David, director of podiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital. “That's why people with plantar fasciitis often feel pain in the morning. When they stand up, the calf muscle extends, which in turn pulls on the heel and the associated ligaments. It’s essentially a tug of war with the fascia."
Dr. Bar-David says stretching can relieve plantar fasciitis-induced discomfort. "I tell my patients to do a simple runner's stretch several times over the course of the day. If you can do it once every hour for 30 seconds on each side, that's ideal."
In addition to stretching, finding the right footwear is essential for curing plantar fasciitis. We talked to three experts to find out which shoes are the best picks for those of us fighting the podiatric problem. These eight pairs may help relieve your heel pain.
Birkenstock Danbury Boot
According to Minneapolis-based podiatrist Paul Langer, people with plantar fasciitis should always seek shoes with sufficient arch support, like these boots from Birkenstock. They also come with a contoured footbed.
Clarks Maypearl Ramie
“Though counterintuitive, shoes with a 2- or 3-inch heel can actually relieve some plantar fasciitis patients’ pain, since they shift weight from the heel to the forefoot,” says Dr. Langer. “Wearing heels is certainly not a therapeutic or long-term option, but it can provide some with temporary relief.” Steer clear of spiky stilettos and instead opt for comfort-minded options like these boots from Clarks.
Aetrex Ara Mary Jane
New York City-based podiatrist Emily Splichal, MD, loves Aetrex for its wide variety of foot-friendly shoe options, including these roomy, rounded-toe Mary Janes that offer plantar fasciitis patients just the cushioning they need with a comfy footbed and generous arch support.
Clarks Un Hinton Oxford Flat
"A lack of arch support can increase the stress to the feet, knees and hips," explains Dr. Splichal. Choose not-too-flat flats like these classic Oxford-style shoes; their lightly padded Ortholite insole will keep your feet feeling comfy all day.
Gentle Souls Blakely High Heel Booties
“The broader the base of the heel, the better,” says Dr. Bar-David. “This absorbs shock a lot better and also cushions the blow of walking.” Armed with Gentle Souls's patented cushioned footbed, these chunky-heeled booties reduce impact from walking to protect the feet.
THERAFIT Coco Ballet Flat
“Therafit has an extensive line of shoes, boots, and sandals with arch support and a deep heel cup, all with adjustable cushioning in the heel that are made specifically for those suffering from plantar fasciitis,” says Dr. Splichal. Feel free to step into these lacy flats for a long day of (stylish) walking.
Dansko Professional Clogs
“People with plantar fasciitis should avoid wearing a heavy shoe,” Dr. Bar-David explains. “When you step down on a heavy shoe, the amount of force you’re putting on your foot is greater.” The heels of these classic clogs from Dansko are made from polyethylene, not wood, so they won’t weigh down your feet.
New Balance 574 Sneaker
If a pair of shoes doesn’t come with sufficient support for your foot, make sure it can accommodate additional accessories. These retro sneakers from New Balance have a removable insole, so you can easily pop in your preferred insert for personalized relief. Looking for solid support? Dr. Langer says Superfeet offers great semi-rigid insoles for people suffering from plantar fasciitis.