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Your foot is a complicated mechanism. The bottom of your foot is known as the plantar side. The plantar fascia is a long band of thick connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. It connects your heel bone to your toe bones, creating the arch in your foot. It stretches and flexes when your foot bears weight to support the arch and take away some of the impact on the rest of the middle of your foot. This part of your foot also works in something called the windlass mechanism. Basically when your big toe flexes as you step or prepare to step, the plantar fascia winds tighter. This supports your arch and tightens up your foot to help propel you forward. But sometimes a problem develops and the plantar fascia develops small tears.
Image from www.firstaidforfree.com
Mayo Clinic describes the plantar fascia as a “shock-absorbing bow string, supporting the arch in your foot. Put too much tension on that bow string and this thick rubber band-like tissue develops small tears.” Basically a fancy way of saying your heels really hurt from tiny scarring in your tissue. Chicago Bulls player Jakim Noah, a PF suffered, described it as “needles under your feet.” Over time the pain can become worse and worse.
Cause of Plantar Fasciitis
Normally the body repairs small tears in tissue or muscles. For instance typical muscle strengthening exercises actually create tiny tears in your muscles by overworking them. Overnight or during rest, your body repairs the tears, leading to stronger muscles. But in cases of plantar fasciitis, experts think the tiny tears in your fascia don’t heal. You develop more and more of tears, leading to more and more pain. Interestingly, the medical community used to think plantar fasciitis was just inflamed tissue. The ‘-itis’ in fasciitis means inflammation. But experts looked at some biopsies from plantar fasciitis feet, they didn’t find any of the body’s normal markers for inflammation. So now its more fully understood to originate in the tiny pesky tears in tissue.
Why is it so bad in the morning? The fascia also tightens when you sleep. That’s why it is so darn painful when you take the first steps in the morning or walk after prolonged periods of sitting if you have plantar fasciitis. Your body has to stretch and warm up the fascia before the pain gets a little better.
Some people are just at higher risk of plantar fasciitis. Some of the factors include:
Another contributing factor to plantar fasciitis is wearing improper shoes. For instance, those inexpensive summer flip flops may not offer enough support for some feet. They could lead to strains in your arches and heel. Particularly flip flops that require a lot of effort from your toes to keep them from slipping off your feet as you walk.
For me I notice plantar fasciitis in the spring after a winter of walking around my hard floors with no shoes or non-supportive shoes. We hear from many women that get this heel pain after a winter of indoor no shoe visits at their home or other places. Doctors also say they see the condition in people who wear unsupportive shoes in jobs that require them to be on their feet on hard surfaces for much of the day.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
So what if you’ve developed the painful heels common in plantar fasciitis? Experts say there are several things you can do at home to help plantar faciitis.
Another common ‘treatment’ the experts suggest is to change your shoes. (We can help!) According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons “wearing supportive shoes that have good arch support and a slightly raised heel reduces the stress on the plantar fascia.” That pair of shoes you love but that wore out their support long ago could be giving you a pain in your heel. Those popular flimsy ballet flats you see everywhere are also getting the blame for some of plantar fasciitis cases. But good news there, I’ve reviewed flats, yes the best flats for plantar fasciitis that won’t give anyone the impression of orthopedic shoes. Each shoe featured really doesn’t qualify as a flat. Most podiatrists will recommend at least a half-inch heel to take stress off the fascia. So that’s what I’ve found! They also offer arch support, room in the toes and removable insoles in case you need to add an orthotic.
Experts say you should talk to your doctor if the condition is not improving. Sometimes trying to avoid the pain in your heels can make you walk differently, which can lead to problems in your hips or back later on.
If you know you have plantar fasciitis and you’re looking for comfortable shoes that you can wear to spare your painful heels, we’ve got some great ideas on our blog. Generally experts recommend:
Why all the talk about rocker sole clogs?
Wearing shoes that reduce movement in your foot can help relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis. Rocker sole shoes are often the ones you hear about for PF. They typically have a stiff, curved bottom that allows your foot to make a rocking movement instead of flexing and extending the toes. Some just have a rounded sole up front by the toes which helps you roll into the step instead of flexing your toes as much. These can be great choices for some women but we know that we girls love our shoes and we want a life beyond rocker clogs!
Shoes for women with plantar fasciitis
We receive so many notes about plantar fasciitis that we’ve done a roundup of styles in several of our blog posts. Check out the many styles in this post which range from heels to ankle boots and flats.
And here are 8 comfortable shoes for plantar fasciitis, some casual, some dressy for special occasions or work.
If you’re a female you probably love to slip on cute shoes in the summer! I do too. I’ve created a whole separate category on the blog devoted to sandals for plantar fasciitis. Here are five stylish sandals for plantar fasciitis that I’m hoping will fit the bill for your feet.
I just can’t wear the non-supportive flip flops you can find all over in the summer. But I’ve found plenty of cute choices in the sandal category that offer support and style. Check out my review of the Spenco Yumi flip flop for instance.
If you’re a Birkenstock fan (supportive, well made), we highlight several cute styles of Birkenstocks.
Finding flats that aren’t ‘flat’ so those of us with problem feet can wear them is a job I relish! Here are 7 flat shoes with arch support that can be appropriate for plantar fasciitis.
Shoes for colder months
When the temps turn colder, you’ve got choices beyond orthopedic shoes in the fall and winter as well. If you thought that booties weren’t going to work for your plantar fasciitis feet, here’s a post about booties with a built-in orthotic that some readers have loved.
Did you know not all tennis shoes are created equal? Some athletic shoes may be better for your foot problems than others. Readers helped me identify several choices that help relieve plantar fasciitis. Check out this write up of a pair a reader got from seeing them on her nurse!
And we’ve even looked at hiking boots, including some great ones by Merrel.
We hope this page gives you hope that by spending a few minutes on our blog you may uncover shoes that you not only love wearing but also make it less painful to deal with plantar fasciitis. If you have shoes or boots that you’ve found help with your plantar fasciitis, please share! We also have an active community of readers and tips on our Facebook page.
Footcaremd.com – consumer site of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
Foothealthfacts.org – consumer site of the American college of foot and ankle surgeons
Firstaidforfree.org – a plantar fasciitis resource page
Note: the above content is not intended to be medical advice or substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified medical professional. We’re talking shoes here.
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