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 ready and slip into comfort!
What is plantar fasciitis? | What are some issues plantar fasciitis can create? | Wedges and sandals for plantar fasciitis | Sneakers for plantar fasciitis | FAQs | Meet the experts
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 1 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 to look out for.
- 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 [those with] flatter feet," New York-based podiatrist Dr. Suzanne Levine tells us.
- Heel pain: "Other causes of heel pain (such as fractures or contusions) 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, reveals.
- 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," says Dr. Ashley Lee, a foot and ankle reconstructive surgeon at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists.
According to board-certified podiatrist Dr. Najwa Javed, the symptoms of someone with plantar fasciitis appear in two stages.
Stage one: "A dull ache in the heel best known as post-static dyskinesia, which is pain after rest," she explains. "There is pain with the first step in the morning and pain after a long day on your feet."
Stage two: The pain is elevated to "a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel," which Javed says can be triggered by long periods of standing or when you get up from sitting.
Wedges and sandals for plantar fasciitis
Naturalizer Gen N Trace Dress Sandal
You'll dance the night away without aching feet in this chunky heeled sandal from Naturalizer that's available in two neutral hues (black and tan). The style has a manageable block heel, a non-slip outsole and Contour+ technology that keeps your feet comfy all day.
Koolaburra by Ugg Anida Sandal
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.
Easy Spirit Maison EMOVE Walking Sandals
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 three colors and patterns. 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," another commented.
Aerosoles Dave Sandal
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 says.
This espadrille wedge has a 2-inch 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.
Vionic Amber Adjustable Sandal
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?!
Dr. Scholl's Check It Out Wedge Sandal
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 anatomical cushioning to take the pressure off your tootsies. Orthotic insoles, an ergonomic sole and a built-in cushioning system are other major selling points.
Dansko Racquel Sky Multi Webbing
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.
Aetrex Marz Adjustable Sport Sandal
These fashion-forward shoes come in five colors and can help alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. These are also recommended for people with arch pain, wide feet, heel pain and metatarsalgia (inflammation and pain in the ball of your foot).
Sneakers for plantar fasciitis
Saucony Guide 14 Running Sneakers
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 says.
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.
Sorel Women's Kinetic Breakthru Tech Lace Sneaker
Sorel infused plenty of lift into the sole of this cool sneaker which is described as breathable and lightweight by the brand. It comes in seven different colorways so there's an option for every aesthetic. Plus, the chunky rubber sole will keep your tootsies happy when you're on your feet for hours on end.
Vionic Miles II Sneaker
Talk about the best of both worlds! This lightweight sneaker combines support and style and comes in many neutral colors (our favorite is the traditional white). Comfortable features like a removable mesh-covered footbed and plenty of cushioning even earned the shoes the APMA Seal of Acceptance. You can also wear them with or without socks!
Brooks Women's Ghost 14 Neutral Running Shoe
This pair of Brooks offers neutral support, which helps anyone with supination (weight transferring to the outer edge of your foot) when they run. The shoe is designed with a simplified midsole construction that allows for seamless transitions between steps, according to the brand. They come in a plethora of colorways and are currently a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon for women's road running shoes!
Aetrex Carly Arch Support Sneakers
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.
Kuru Pivot Sneaker
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.
"It took me no time at all to break them in, they have been comfortable since day one. In the week that I have had them, my heel pain has lessened," one reviewer wrote.
Bala Footwear Twelves Sneaker
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.
"It hugs my feet and arch and feels like I’m floating on air!" raved one shopper.
Frequently asked questions
What shoes can someone with plantar fasciitis wear?
If you experience plantar fasciitis, Javed and Levin say the best shoes you can wear are those with the following characteristics:
- Heel height. Javed recommends opting for a shoe with at least a 1-inch heel height. "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 says.
- Firmness. Both Levitt and Javed agree that the sole of the shoe should be firm and only bend at the toe box. "You should not be able to torque the shoe like spiral pasta," Levitt says. ""I flip the shoe over and see if I can bend or break the arch; you should not be able to."
- Support. "There should be a supportive and firm material on the medial (inner) border of the shoe to keep the arch from collapsing as you walk," Javed says. Levin adds that the support is important for people with high arches.
- Heel cushion. Both doctors emphasize the importance of cushioning, adding that it can help ease any pain.
Which shoes should they avoid?
Since you're looking for shoes with at least one inch of heel height, anyone with plantar fasciitis should avoid totally flat ballet shoes.
Javed also suggests avoiding "soft flexible shoes with memory foam and zero gravity shoes which increase the pull on the Achilles and cause more strain."
Are there any treatments for plantar fasciitis?
Yes, there are treatments for stage one and stage two for plantar fasciitis patients. Javed recommends the following courses of action:
- Stage one patients: Stretching lower leg muscles is key, specifically the hamstring, calf and big toe joint. If the pain is severe, she says plantar fascial braces can help but an easy way to relieve all-day strain is to wear at-home recovery slippers. "Oofos are great," says Javed. Also, she recommends shoe gear modification and orthotic therapy to maintain the pain from coming back.
- Stage two patients: For more severe pain, you might need to seek out a professional and explore oral anti-inflammatory pills or injection therapy. Braces, splits and physical therapy can help reduce pain. "[About] 80% of all heel pain will resolve [itself after this] but 20% can need further intervention and a small percentage needs surgical [procedures]," notes Javed.
Levitt offers another simple solution to help you find relief: "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."
Meet the experts
- Dr. Suzanne Levin, DPM, RPT, PC, is a New York-based podiatrist and foot surgeon. She also co-chairs the International Aesthetic Foot Society.
- Dr. Bradely A. Levitt, DPM, is a podiatric surgeon at Bayview Physicians Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He's also a contributing editor for the Diabetic Foot and Ankle journal.
- Dr. Ashley Lee, DPM, is a foot and ankle reconstructive surgeon at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists.
- Dr. Najwa Javed, DPM, is a board-certified podiatrist and founder of E'Mar Italy. She specializes in foot and ankle surgeries and clinical research.