It’s a jungle out there when it comes to shoes and plantar fasciitis. Lurking in your favorite pair of shoes could be an arch-killer.
Is your closet safe? Which shoes do the most harm to your feet when it comes to plantar fasciitis?
We’re looking at you first, cheetah-print stilettos!
1. Stiletto Heels or Ultra-High Heels
Hillary Brenner, a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, says, “Heels are getting higher and higher. We podiatrists like to call it shoe-icide.” And shoe-icide is right! Stiletto heels and other ultra-high heels are one of the worst types of shoes you can wear if you have plantar fasciitis (and put you at risk for developing the condition if you don’t have it yet!).
Ultra-high heels raise the arch of your foot to an unnatural angle, destabilizing it and putting an intense amount of strain on your plantar fascia, making them some of the worst shoes for your feet. Not to mention, you’re always one short step away from an ankle sprain or break!
Hold the front door: If stiletto heels are enemy #1, then shouldn’t flats be one of the best shoes you can wear for plantar fasciitis? Not so fast. Flats create the opposite problem for your feet, offering little to no support for the arches of your feet, meaning that your plantar fascia isn’t able to distribute your weight and the impact of movement nearly as well. Without proper support, your arch can be further strained and flattened because of flats. Bad news for plantar fasciitis!
3. Flip Flops
Flip flops are another top culprit for bad shoes for plantar fasciitis. Flip flops typically have flat, skinny soles that absorb very little impact–leaving your arch to stand alone in supporting your weight and the strain of physical activity. Flip flops also have zero support for your heel, meaning it’s possible for your foot to suddenly shift if you encounter an unexpected obstacle, straining your plantar fascia or other muscles and ligaments in your foot. We have a complete guide to sandals for people with heel pain to help you find a pair that doesn’t hurt your feet!
4. Bare Feet
While initially, it might seem that au-naturale is best, walking in bare feet can take a serious toll on your arch and is terrible for plantar fasciitis. Why? Because without proper support, your feet are left alone to absorb the full impact of physical activity. And when the plantar fascia is already strained because of plantar fasciitis, going barefoot can be one of the fastest ways to exacerbate the condition.
5. Old Shoes
Have a favorite pair of shoes that you’ve owned forever? Take heed! Old, worn-down shoes can make plantar fasciitis worse since the sole is often very worn down through use. Thick, cushioned shoes are one of the most important qualities in a pair of shoes that improve plantar fasciitis. Worn, old soles don’t provide much support and can lead to irregularities in gait, strain to the arch, and an uneven distribution of impact from physical activity–all of which make plantar fasciitis worse!
6. Brand New Shoes
New shoes can be just as hard on plantar fasciitis as old shoes, particularly leather shoes that may have a very stiff or tight heel, since this can cause your heel bone to rub against the heel of the shoe, causing additional pain and discomfort and impacting your gait as well. Instead of subjecting your feet to the obligatory “breaking in process” with new shoes, fill two sturdy zip bags with water, place them inside your shoes, and then put them in the freezer overnight. The water will expand when it freezes, stretching out tight shoes without hurting your feet in the process.
What Shoes CAN I Wear?
Are heavy, expensive orthotics your only option when it comes to wearing shoes that will help–not hurt–your plantar fasciitis? Thankfully, the answer is no. While you should still avoid high heels when possible (or wear them for a very short time), a pair of flats or other unsupportive footwear can be turned into a plantar-fasciitis-busting machine with a pair of slip-in orthotics made especially for plantar fasciitis.
Love going barefoot? There’s hope there too. Wear heel wraps, so your feet have the support they need while your toes get the freedom they need!