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Finding shoes that are comfy and cute is hard enough, but when you add pre-existing foot pain into the mix, shopping can be a pretty discouraging experience. If you're dealing with plantar fasciitis, you've likely searched far and wide for your sole-mate, but you don't have to look in vain any longer.
The Shop TODAY team spoke with several podiatrists to find out what types of shoes work best for the foot condition, and we've also rounded up 15 rad pairs to give you plenty of options. Now go on, get comfy!
What is plantar fasciitis?
According to The Johns Hopkins University, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligament that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes at the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. Not only is it one of the most common causes of heel pain, a 2019 study released by American Family Physician also notes that this condition will affect one in 10 people in their lifetime.
What are some issues plantar fasciitis can create?
Not sure if you're dealing with plantar fasciitis? There are several telltale signs.
- Arch pain: "When someone with plantar fasciitis puts their foot on the ground (from sitting to standing, for example), they will have a lot of pain in the arch. People with higher arches are more prone to this problem than flatter feet," New York-based podiatrist Dr. Suzanne Levine told us.
- Heel pain: "Other causes of heel pain (such as fracture or contusion) will cause significant pain when one applies weight to their foot in the morning, but plantar fasciitis patients tend to see a reduction in their pain as they get moving," Dr. Bradley A. Levitt, a podiatric surgeon at Bayview Physicians Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia, revealed.
- Inability to walk barefoot: "People with plantar fasciitis find that walking barefoot, especially indoors on hardwood floors, is no longer comfortable. They will also find that non-supportive shoes can increase their pain," Dr. Ashley Lee, a foot and ankle reconstructive surgeon at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, said.
Wedges and sandals for plantar fasciitis
"Some people with plantar fasciitis find a slight heeled shoe to be more comfortable. This is because there is less pulling from your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia when the foot is in a slight plantarflexed position (downward flexion)," Lee said.
You'll dance the night away without aching feet in this chunky slip-on heeled sandal from Naturalizer that's available in two neutral hues (black and tan) and a bold blue. The style has a manageable block heel, a non-slip outsole and Contour+ technology that keeps your feet comfy.
You don't have to give up one of the simple joys of summer (sandals) just because your feet require a bit of TLC. You simply have to seek out the right pair.
"Sandals with support or sandals that are designed for people with plantar fasciitis are a good option," Lee said.
These pretty platforms feature memory foam cushioning, a secure strap that keeps your heel in place and neat quilted detailing. The solid heel is also ideal for anyone with plantar fasciitis.
Wondering how to offer some relief to feet dealing with plantar fasciitis? Tackling inflammation is a great place to start.
"A good trick is to freeze a plastic water bottle then use it like a rolling pin for the arch. This provides the anti-inflammatory features of ice as well as the physical therapy component of stretching," Levitt said.
Opting for a solid pair of kicks like these walking sandals also helps. The fashion-forward shoes come in four colors — glittery rose gold and black, black and gold, and blue and pink — and they have handy Velcro to help you get the best fit possible.
Athletic sandals are a great way to get the best of both worlds and lighten up your footwear while also getting the support your feet crave. This stylish pair is available in six colors and patterns, including a flirty floral and two sparkly hues that have caught our eye. The shock-absorbing walking sandals also have plenty of cushioning while still feeling lightweight.
"They help my back, hip and knee pain," one reviewer wrote. "My feet are very fussy and these work perfectly, very comfortable, good support, and extra bonus they're very pretty, well made," another commented.
Wedges are always a great option when you're looking for a lift, but they're also ideal for addressing some of the foot pain that comes along with plantar fasciitis.
"Small wedged shoes can often make people feel better when wearing the shoe. But stretching is very important to prevent tightness when wearing a heel because it is shortening your achilles and plantar fascia," Lee said.
This espadrille wedge has a 2" platform, molded footbed and flexible sole that makes walking a breeze. It also includes Velcro straps to help you get in and out of the shoe easily.
Flip-flops are a no-no for plantar fasciitis, but more solid sandals like this fun find that comes in several colors are a great bet. The adjustable style lets you customize your level of comfort and features shock-absorbent technology, a sturdy outsole and footbed, a built-in orthotic and major arch support. Did we mention that they've also earned the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance?!
Love heels? You can still rock them with plantar fasciitis.
"Heels should be 1.5 to 2 inches tall, with cushioning in the arch. The thicker, chunkier heel is better," Levine said.
This pretty pair offers lots of arch support and padded foam to take the pressure off your tootsies. Orthotic insoles, an ergonomic sole and a built-in cushioning system are other major selling points.
This conversation starter proves that athletic sandals don't have to be boring. The lightweight shoe comes complete with adjustable straps, arch support, added cushioning and a sneaker outsole that makes it easy to walk in for miles and miles.
Sneakers for plantar fasciitis
When it comes to footwear, plantar fasciitis patients often do best with good old fashioned sneakers.
"Gym shoes are usually the most supportive and can accommodate an orthotic, which many people with plantar fasciitis or a history of plantar fasciitis wear," Lee said.
Saucony's running sneakers have a contoured footbed for optimal comfort, a solid sole to cushion any heel pain and a neutral hue that goes with just about any outfit. The affordable price tag is an added bonus!
The level of height your sneaker offers is also important to consider.
"They can’t be too flat. They have to have good support for high arches," Levine said. "They must have very good cushioning."
Sorel infused plenty of lift into the sole of this cool sneaker that can be described as lightweight and durable. Eco-friendly cushioning is a practical feature (for your feet and the environment) and the chunky rubber sole will keep your tootsies happy when you're on your feet for hours on end.
Talk about the best of both worlds! This lightweight sneaker combines support and style and comes in many colors (our favorite is the marvelous mint). Comfortable features like a removable ergonomic foam insole and plenty of cushioning even earned the shoes the APMA Seal of Acceptance. You can also wear them with or without socks!
Not sure what to look for in a good walking shoe or sneaker? Levitt shared the following tips.
"A good walking shoe or sneaker usually has a rigid or firm counter (the back of the shoe) and bend near the toe box (important for gait). You should not be able to torque the shoe like spiral pasta," the podiatrist said. "I flip the shoe over and see if I can bend or break the arch; you should not be able to."
This collaboration between Rockport and Ministry of Supply features shock-absorbent technology and NASA phase change material in the insole that helps regulate temperature. Other notable features include cooling mesh and replacement insoles.
"Patients suffering from plantar fasciitis tend to improve most in shoes with a good arch support. Laces are a plus to keep your foot secure," Levitt explained.
Aetrex designed this snazzy sneaker with comfort in mind with built-in cushioning, a padded heel and a removable insole. And customers seem to thoroughly enjoy it!
"They do offer great arch support," one reviewer raved. Another said the sneakers "gave me my life back" and said they're equally useful for the gym, errands and more.
Fashion and function? Yes, please! Kuru is known for its ultra comfortable shoes that cater to a range of different foot conditions and the brand hit it out of the park with its Pivot Sneaker. The sleek style offers support without bulk and plenty of arch support.
One happy customer called it a "miracle shoe" and another said the lightweight shoe fits "like a glove."
"It took me no time at all to break them in, they have been comfortable since day 1. In the week that I have had them, my heel pain has lessened," their review continued.
You know a shoe means business when it's designed for nurses, and Bala Footwear has the comfort market cornered with its sneakers that are meant to last as long as you do. The fluid-resistant, high traction shoes are machine-washable and have a highly cushioned platform that cradles your arches as you go about your busy day.
One customer said the sneakers are "comfy and roomy." Another left the following glowing review: "It hugs my feet and arch and feels like I’m floating on air!"
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