High heels: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. High heels pain, on the other hand? Can definitely live without it.
Heels are essential to (most) wardrobes, but there’s nothing worse than putting together an amazing outfit for a night out, only to be sidelined an hour in because your feet are throbbing in pain.
It’s the age-old question asked by every shoe-loving woman at one point or another: How in the world do I wear high heels without the pain? Is it even possible? Are we relegated to a “grin and bear” mentality for life in the name of looking—and feeling—awesome? Turns out, a fabulous pair sky-high shoes and pain-free feet aren’t mutually exclusive.
- MORE: Mandy Moore Rubs Cannabis Oil on Her Feet So They Don’t Hurt When She Wears Heels
- 1. Make Sure You’re Wearing the Right Size Shoe
- 2. Educate Yourself on Your Own Foot Type
- 3. The Thicker the Heel, the Better
- MORE: The Best Shoe to Pair with Every Type of Bottom
- 5. Take Breaks
- 6. Stretch Your Feet After You Take Your Shoes Off
- MORE: 25 On-Trend Shoes to Shop at Zara Immediately
- 8. Those Over-The-Counter Shoe Inserts Really Do Help
- The One Hack You Need To Wear High Heels Pain Free All Day Long
- The Real Harm in High Heels
- A dance medicine doctor tackles high heel harm
- Prolong Wearing of High Heeled Shoes Can Cause Low Back Pain
- The 4 Worst Shoes for Back Pain
- What are the Best Shoes to Wear When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?
- How to Find the Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis Pain?
- Using Shoe Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
- What are the Best Work Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis?
- Will Foot Strength Help Cure Plantar Fasciitis?
- RunnersConnect Insider Bonus
- What are the Best Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis?
- How Do I Know if my Plantar Fasciitis is Getting Better?
- Do High Heels Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
- The Connection Between High Heels and Plantar Fasciitis
- More Trouble with High Heels
- How to Wear High Heels Without Pain
MORE: Mandy Moore Rubs Cannabis Oil on Her Feet So They Don’t Hurt When She Wears Heels
We spoke to podiatry expert Dr. Catherine Moyer, who gave us eight tips for how to continue to wear stylish shoes—without paying the painful price.
1. Make Sure You’re Wearing the Right Size Shoe
Photo: Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images
The No. 1 mistake women likely make is not having the right shoe size for their foot. Your foot size changes over the years, even as much as one full size, especially after having kids. Have your feet sized once a year, and do it if you’ve never had it done. Have your feet measured when you’re buying shoes, for width and for length as well. A lot of people think they’re a wide or vise versa and they’re not, so definitely do that before you shop.
2. Educate Yourself on Your Own Foot Type
Know your foot type. In my opinion, a podiatrist would be the best way to know your foot type and what’s going on. If you can’t run out to the podiatrist, there’s a couple of neat ways to see if you have a flat foot or a high-arch foot. Wet your foot and step onto a piece of construction paper. When you make an impression, it will show you how much your foot is flattening or how high of an arch you have. You can look at a person’s foot type and see why they are having pain.
3. The Thicker the Heel, the Better
Photo: Timur Emek/Getty Images
Avoid thin heels: the stilettos. They cause your foot to wobble around. Sometimes, the dress is just going to call for a stiletto, as long as it’s something that’s occasional. If you’re wearing stilettos everyday, you might want to consider a chunkier heel style and change it up a bit.
MORE: The Best Shoe to Pair with Every Type of Bottom
Thin soles will almost always give you pain on the bottom of your foot. You want a thicker sole or a little bit of a platform, which will offset some of the pressure when you’re walking. A rubbery material will absorb that pressure.
5. Take Breaks
Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Kick your shoes off throughout the day and stretch your ankles and toes.
6. Stretch Your Feet After You Take Your Shoes Off
The stretches that you’ll want to do are the stretches that will target the front of the foot and ankle, like pointing your toes down, and pulling your toes up with a strap to get the Achilles’ tendon and the calf muscles. And then side to side to get to the instep and the outside of the foot.
MORE: 25 On-Trend Shoes to Shop at Zara Immediately
Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
The more coverage you have on the top of your foot, the better. Sometimes high-heeled boots are actually something you can wear all day and they don’t bother your feet as much. In the summer, you can try something with an ankle strap or a big wide strap across the top. If you’re prone to blisters and friction, you might want to try that style, something that covers more of the top of your foot.
8. Those Over-The-Counter Shoe Inserts Really Do Help
One thing to try are the over-the-counter products that market themselves for high heels. They are called metatarsal or ball of the foot pads. They are oval-shaped pads that go under the ball of the foot, usually made from a silicone gel. They combat soreness under the ball of the foot. Especially if it’s made of silicone, it will hold your foot more steady in the shoe so your feet aren’t sliding forward as much, which will protect your toes from friction and blisters.
A version of this article was originally published in October 2013.
The One Hack You Need To Wear High Heels Pain Free All Day Long
I’ve never been a casual footwear type of gal, which is precisely why finding the one hack to wearing high heels without pain has been an important mission of mine. Honestly, the thought of slipping my feet into sneakers just never sat right with me. And despite a brief fling with Doc Martens, the number of sensible shoes in my wardrobe began to rapidly deplete until I realized I owned not one pair of flat kicks. But as they say, with beauty comes pain. Despite my commitment to a life of platforms and high heels, I never quite got over the blisters and discomfort that so often come as a byproduct.
Now, I’ve yet to find a cost-effective method of preventing blisters that actually works, apart from committing to constant tights-wearing or reapplying Band-Aids all day long. Unfortunately, even those methods don’t help with open-toe heels.
Platforms and flat-forms came to be my saviors for a while. I can stomp around all day and night as long I’ve got a thick wedge placed between my heels and toes. Stilettos and block heels, however, have long proved to be trickier.
I may be a hardened heel advocate, but the lower foot pain in this case just never seemed to be worth the payoff. However, I’ve come to swear by one very cheap, slightly weird-sounding, simple trick to avoid that dull pain in the balls of your feet. You know, the kind that comes from attempting to wear anything taller than three inches with a heel thinner than a pencil for more than two hours straight.
This technique was pioneered by Marie Helvin, the ‘70s supermodel, muse, and former wife of British photographer David Bailey, who spent countless days and nights during her formative years on the catwalk and red carpet in sky-high shoes.
Helvin spilled her heel-wearing secrets a few years ago, and I’ve been an advocate ever since. What might that secret be, you ask? Taping your third and fourth toes — from the big toe outwards — together.
Now hear me out. I know it sounds ridiculous. I know this because every single person I proceeded to tell in amazement after trying it laughed me out the door.
But it works.
Helvin outlined some sketchy science in her explanation to The Daily Mail in 2014, noting that by taping your middle toes together, the muscles in your feet align, thus taking the pressure off the balls of your feet.
Whether her explanation is 100 percent scientifically sound is, in this case, slightly irrelevant. By my fourth day of wearing five-inch ankle boots without any pain, I was sold. Personally, I prefer using Band-Aids, bandages, or soft tape, since the thought of securing my two toes together with anything stickier gives me goosebumps and the fear of damaging my feet even further.
On the occasions when I want to completely avoid any signs of blisters, I still allow for enough heel-free days to allow my feet to recover. Or I slip back into my sturdy platforms.
I’ve heard people argue that my new, near-daily ritual is ridiculous, that no shoe is worth that much pain or effort. But how different are heels from other small rituals we undertake every day, such as applying makeup? The payoff in terms of the confidence I feel when stomping down the street in a pair of killer heels is worth way more than the extra 30 seconds added to my morning routine.
Images: Unsplash/Pexels (2)
The Real Harm in High Heels
Head to toe
A dance medicine doctor tackles high heel harm
You can help prevent injuries and pain from high heels by regularly stretching the plantar fascia and calves.
If you’re among the many who can’t—or won’t—say no to stylish but uncomfortable high heels, Sajid A. Surve, DO, knows all about your pain.
Dr. Surve, co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health and an associate professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, helps dancers and other frequent heel wearers counteract the head-to-toe toll high heels take on the body. He treats high heel pain daily, taking a whole person approach to help performers avoid long-term harm.
Focusing on whole-person care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. With advanced knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, DOs also believe that the body performs better when it is in proper alignment. By partnering with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well, they can help them avoid injuries and pain from high heels. To develop this knowledge, they must complete extensive postgraduate and clinical training before becoming fully licensed physicians. Compare physician training requirements to those required for other types of clinicians.
“From an osteopathic perspective, we’re looking for the body to be centered from head to toe. High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren’t limited to the feet,” Dr. Surve explained. “It’s not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high heels to have low back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.”
Structurally, the plantar fascia in the foot is connected to the calf muscle, which in turn connects to the hamstring. The hamstrings attach to the pelvis and low back, which is why wearing high heels can make your back ache along with your feet. Also, walking on the balls of your feet will shift your center of gravity forward, forcing you to arch your back when you stand and further contributing to back pain.
How can you ensure your heel-wearing teen has a safe prom?
Find out on DoctorsThatDO.org
The high heel stretch
Regular stretching of the plantar fascia and calves will loosen hamstrings and work to alleviate back pain from your high heels. Dr. Surve recommends stretching before and after long periods in heels and sneaking in some foot work during breaks in your day.
Try this stretching routine during your next break:
- Lay a book with a one-inch spine on the floor.
- While standing, place the ball of your right foot on the book and rest your heel on the ground.
- Bend forward at the waist and try to grab the toes on the book. (If you need to bend your knees a little, that’s OK).
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch feet. Repeat two to three times.
- Gradually increase the height of the book by 1-inch increments per week to a maximum of 3 inches.
It’s also important to understand that the slope of the shoe is more important than heel height when it comes to comfort, Dr. Surve notes. Look for a platform sole to decrease the angle between the heel and the ball of the foot, so your weight can be more distributed across the entire foot. A thicker heel also spreads your weight more evenly and decreases the risk of spraining your ankle.
Also, avoid narrow toe boxes that squeeze toes. Narrow, pointy high heels are the perfect storm for foot pain, according to Dr. Surve. Ideally, a pointed shoe will narrow after the toe box to give the illusion of length while providing ample space for your foot.
Finally, high heels should fit snugly and hold the foot firmly in place. High heels that are slightly loose cause your foot to slide back and forth. That friction is the culprit behind blisters, bleeding feet and ripped toenails, according to Dr. Surve.
Prolong Wearing of High Heeled Shoes Can Cause Low Back Pain
Farjad Afzal1 and Sidra Manzoor2
1Sargodha Medical College, UOS, Sargodha, Pakistan
2Madina University, Faisalabad, Pakistan
Corresponding Author: Farjad Afzal
Lecturer in physical therapy
Sargodha Medical College
UOS, Sargodha, Pakistan
Received Date: July 14, 2017; Accepted Date: July 28, 2017; Published Date: July 31, 2017
Copyright: © 2017 Afzal F, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Visit for more related articles at Journal of Novel Physiotherapies
High heeled shoes greatly affect the lumbar curve, increase loading on tibialis anterior muscle and also disturb the center of mass of body. High heels shoes also causing increased weight bearing on toes, ankle sprains and leg and back pain. High heeled shoes wearing also affect the stride length, walking speed, and abnormal gait patterns. Moreover by wearing high heels, posture is not stable and increased risk of fall especially in old population. High heeled shoes also cause increase lumbar lordosis and increase compressive forces on lumbar vertebras that are leading towards lumbar spondylosis. Body balance, trunk stability, muscles activation of ankle and knee, muscle activation of cervical and lumbar spine, body weight distribution and walking speed are all affected by wearing high heeled shoes. As health professionals, we should identify these hazards create awareness among people. New studies are needed to identify how high heeled shoes contribute to low back pain.
High heel; Low back pain; Fashion health
Fashion demands in the form of high heels (disturb the calf muscles length and natural curves in spine), hand bags (disturb the carrying angel on elbows), skinny jeans (compress the nerves), squeezing and skin tight trousers all affecting human health . Tight and skinny wears can compress the nerves in body where nerves are superficial and having potential areas for compression . High heel wearing is increasing in this era of fashion .
Biomechanics of High Heeled Shoes and Low Back Pain
High heeled shoes greatly affects the lumbar curve, increase loading on tibialis anterior muscle and also disturb the center of mass of body . High heeled shoes also causing increased weight bearing on toes, ankle sprains and leg and back pain, also affects the stride length, walking speed, and abnormal gait patterns. Moreover by wearing high heel posture is not stable and increased risk of fall especially in old population.
High heels wearing also cause increase lumbar lordosis and increase compressive forces on lumbar vertebras that are leading towards lumbar spondylosis. Body mechanics are key factors in current population health and wellness. New studies are needed in which researchers can identified how high heeled shoes are contributing factor for low back pain.
During our clinical practice, it was observed that many women were having low back pain also have history of using high heel shoes during work stations, outdoor market visiting and while attending some function like marriage ceremonies. For this problem we hypothesized that there are biomechanical effects of wearing high heels on lumbar curves and calf insufficiency.
What Evidence and Literature Say
How did high heeled shoes affect the lumbar curve and produce biomechanical changes in standing posture? According to a recent study they concluded that high heel wearing greatly affect the ankle joint kinematics during walking that may causes to abnormalities in foot, parents should take much care for selection of foot wear and avoid the high heel . Another recent study was published in which they compare the biomechanical effects of high heel and low heel on jogging and running and they concluded that there is decrease ROM during stance phase with high heel and also increased weight bearing on ankle, knee and hip joints .
According to another study, the women age between 20 and 29 wear high heel and developed hallux valgus in later age . Mechanism of causing back pain by high heeled shoes was explained by Weitkunat and colleagues in their study in which 23 female participants were included and influence of high heeled shoes were investigated on the sagittal balance of the spine and the whole body . In this study they resulted that high heeled shoes cause increase flexion on knee and ankle with increased femoral obliquity. Increase flexion in knee and ankle is compensated by curve in spine.
In another recent study they identified that habitual high heeled shoes affect the isokinetic soleus muscle strength . High heeled shoes also affect the electromyographic activity of lower extremities muscles. In revised high heeled shoes wearing study, they concluded that revised heeled shoes improve the EMG activity of lower limbs muscles and keep the body in normal alignment . Long time wearing of high heeled shoes produces changes in the distribution of body weight on feet, more weight bearing on frontal part of foot .
Long term use of high heeled shoes also disrupt the arches of foot that affectively transmit the body weight to ground . High heeled wearing can affect the body balance and functional activity . High heeled shoes affect the activation of cervical and lumbar muscle and also on postural control . Postural and balance control required by activation of trunk muscles. Trunk muscles provide stability during conditions that challenging the balance of the body. With high heeled shoes, there is an increase disturbance of body balance and trunk muscle has to work more for maintaining body balance.
High heel wearing greatly affect the ankle joint kinematics during walking that may causes to abnormalities in foot. High heels are contributing low back pain among women of age between 20 and 29. Body balance, trunk stability, muscles activation of ankle and knee, muscle activation of cervical and lumbar spine, body weight distribution and walking speed are all affected by wearing high heeled shoes. As a health professional, we should identify these hazards and should be create awareness among people. Parents should take much care for selection of foot wear and avoid the high heels. Body mechanics are key factors in current population health and wellness. New studies are needed in which searcher can identified how high heel is contributing factor for low back pain.
- Woodall T, Constantine S, Matthews R (2004) What You Wear Can Change Your Life. Weidenfeld& Nicholson, London, United Kingdom.
- Arnold R (2001) Fashion, desire and anxiety: image and morality in the twentieth century.I.B.Tauris& Co Lt, New York, United States.
- No authors listed (2015) Co-location will ease pressure on services, claims report. Emerg Nurse 23: 6.
- Linder M, Saltzman CL (1998) A history of medical scientists on high heels. Int J Health Serv28:201-225.
- Lee CM, Jeong EH, Freivalds A (2001) Biomechanical effects of wearing high-heeled shoes. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 28:321-326.
- Zhang X, O’Meara D, Vanwanseele B, Hunt A, Smith R (2016) The influence of heel height on ankle kinematics during standing, walking, jogging and sidestepping in children. In: ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive.
- Fu F, Zhang Y, Shu Y, Ruan G, Sun J, et al. (2016) Lower limb mechanics during moderate high-heel jogging and running in different experienced wearers. Hum MovSci48:15-27.
- Menz HB, Roddy E, Marshall M, Thomas MJ, Rathod T, et al. (2016) Epidemiology of shoe wearing patterns over time in older women: associations with foot pain and hallux valgus. J Gerontol A BiolSci Med Sci71: 1682-1687.
- Weitkunat T, Buck FM, Jentzsch T, Simmen HP, Werner CM, et al. (2016) Influence of high-heeled shoes on the sagittal balance of the spine and the whole body. Eur Spine J 25:3658-3665.
- Farrag A, Elsayed W (2016) Habitual Use of High-Heeled Shoes Affects Isokinetic Soleus Strength More Than Gastrocnemius in Healthy Young Females. Foot & ankle international 37: 1008-1016.
- Bae YH, Ko M, Lee SM (2016) Comparison of joint angles and electromyographic activity of the lower extremities during standing with wearing standard and revised high-heeled shoes: A pilot study. Technol Health Care 24:S521-S526.
- Rahimi A, Sayah A, Hosseini SM, Baghban AA (2017) Studying the Plantar Pressure Patterns in Women Adapted to High-Heel Shoes during Barefoot Walking. Journal of Clinical Physiotherapy Research 2:70-74.
- Yin CM, Pan XH, Sun YX, Chen ZB (2016) Effects of duration of wearing high-heeled shoes on plantar pressure. Human Movement Science 49:196-205.
- Hapsari VD, Xiong S (2016) Effects of high heeled shoes wearing experience and heel height on human standing balance and functional mobility. Ergonomics 59:249-264.
- Park K, Kim Y, Chung Y, Hwang S (2016) Effects of the height of shoe heels on muscle activation of cervical and lumbar spine in healthy women. J PhysTherSci 28:956-959.
- Sun D, Gu Y, Mei Q, Shao Y, Sun J, et al. (2017) Effect of heel heights on female postural control during standing on a dynamic support surface with sinusoidal oscillations. J Mot Behav 49: 281-287.
The 4 Worst Shoes for Back Pain
Having back pain issues? Look down for the source of the problem. That’s right, your back pain may be coming from the shoes you wear every day. Before you say, “I don’t wear high heels,” know that high heels aren’t the biggest back pain offender.
Yes, high heels can cause back pain, even though they are not alone. The fashion industry is obsessed with creating the illusion of never-ending long legs. Wearing high heels that are more than an inch high causes you to walk with your back bent. Wearing high heels can also put a lot of stress on your knees too.
Flats or ballet shoes are one shoe that can cause back pain. Are you surprised? Majority of the flats on the market can actually cause 25 percent more impact on your back than wearing high heels. This is because most flats are made of thin material and do not offer support to your natural arch. Some companies are starting to make orthopedic flats that actually support your foot like a tennis shoe, but other than that, flats should be avoided.
Like flats, flip flops are not good for your feet either. Since you have to tighten your toes to keep the flip flop on, you walk in an unnatural way, causing strain on your legs and back. Most flip flops are also made of cheap and thin material which does not support your foot. We have all seen flip flops so thin that the person might as well have been barefoot. In fact, going barefoot may have been better for their backs.
One of the worst shoes on the market are toning shoes. These shoes are extremely popular for those looking to tone up without putting the time in at the gym. They are an expensive way to get back pain. Since they are off balanced, they put more stress on your joints and back. Studies have shown that these toning shoes don’t even work for toning or weight loss. If that is not bad enough, the thick insert in the shoe also causes your foot to walk in a flat position and absorb more shock.
We are guessing that getting rid of these four problem shoes means getting rid of most if not all of your shoes. So what is a shoe lover supposed to do? We have some great shoe buying tips for you next week. We will show you that you can have fashion without the back pain.
What are the Best Shoes to Wear When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the bane of many runners’ existence.
It’s the third-most common running injury, accounting for one in every twelve doctor visits for a runner.1
The aching, stabbing pain in your heel that rears its ugly head every morning when you get out of bed is a constant reminder that your body is still injured.
Plantar fasciitis has a nasty reputation for becoming a chronic, long-lasting injury that sticks around for months or even years.
But it’s not just about what you do while your running shoes are on.
Today we are going to look at things you might be doing in your daily life that explain why your plantar fasciitis is not healing, most importantly focusing on shoes for plantar fasciitis that will help you recover, rather than make it worse.
Before we begin, if you are looking for our plantar fasciitis exercises, you can find it in our treatment for plantar fasciitis article, including a plantar fasciitis home treatment plan.
Let’s help you find the best plantar fasciitis running shoes, dress shoes for plantar fasciitis, best work shoes for plantar fasciitis, and even sandals!
Part of the reason plantar fasciitis feels like it never heals is because it isn’t just aggravated by running.
Yep, it’s true:
Plantar fasciitis is common among sedentary people who never run.
It gets worse:
According to one study published in 2005, up to ten percent of the adult population may suffer from plantar fasciitis.2
Risk factors for plantar fasciitis among the general population include obesity, spending long hours on your feet, and poor ankle range of motion.
Did you notice they all have something in common?
All three of these factors put increased stress on the plantar fascia.
Even if you have the best running shoes for plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, if you are trying to get over plantar fasciitis, reducing plantar fascia stress in your daily life is a big part of the solution.
What does that mean?
No factor is more important than the shoes you wear.
Could it be that your work shoes, dress shoes, or even house shoes are to blame for your aching heel?
Kristin Marvin talked about this in the podcast episode about how our lifestyles are actually why we are injured, not so much that we are injuring ourselves in running.
Although of course that is part of it.
Think about it this way:
The plantar fascia acts as a “tie bar” that helps hold the arch up.
Therefore the shoes best for plantar fasciitis problems involve reducing stress on the plantar fascia by holding up the arch through external support.
“Arch support” might be one of the misused terms when it comes to shoe support, but it’s the pivotal factor when it comes to finding shoes that will help, not hurt, your arch pain.
Most traditional running shoes have some type of molded foam build in to support the arch.
Will arch supports help my plantar fasciitis pain?
Shoes marketed as “support shoes” have denser layers of foam underneath the arch and softer foam elsewhere in the shoe.
This type of design, called a medial post, was originally designed to counter pronation, though it isn’t particularly effective at its task.3
Nevertheless, a support shoe might be a good place to start if you’re looking for an athletic shoe to take stress off your arch, since a medial post should still reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
These factors make a quality running shoe a great choice both for walking around and for actual running if you’re getting over plantar fasciitis.
How to Find the Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis Pain?
Beyond the structure of the midsole, the overall firmness of the shoe will affect the amount of stress on your arch as well.
The specifics of how soft or firm your shoe ought to be will depend on the structure of your foot.
What if I have a high arch?
If you have a fairly rigid foot with a high arch, you may need a softer shoe, since a firm surface will put a lot of localized stress on your forefoot and heel, which will translate into tension in the plantar fascia.
Don’t go too soft, however:
If there isn’t enough rigidity, the shoe’s arch support will just crush down uselessly.
For this reason, cheap insoles from brands like Dr. Scholl’s are not a good choice for augmenting your shoes—the support structure is too soft to make a difference.
What if I have a low arch?
If you are a pronator, you have a lower arch and a foot that tends to pronate more, you might benefit more from a rigid shoe, albeit still with good arch support.
Birkenstocks are often popular sandals for plantar fasciitis runners for this reason—the cork molds to your foot’s shape and reduces strain on your arch by providing firm, rigid support along the length of your foot.
Using Shoe Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
Sometimes the best options aren’t feasible.
Running shoes or cork sandals aren’t going to cut it at a business meeting.
This is where insoles can come in handy.
A firm, supportive insole from a brand like Superfeet or Powerstep can transform a pain-inducing dress shoe or boot into a supremely comfortable footwear choice.
Supportive insoles also have a strong body of evidence behind them when it comes to their use in treating plantar fasciitis.
However, custom orthotics don’t seem to be any more effective than prefabricated over-the-counter orthotics.
A clinical trial published in 2006 by Karl Landorf, Anne-Maree Keenan, and Robert Herbert in the Archives of Internal Medicine tested the effects of a custom orthotic, an over-the-counter orthotic, and a sham device (a thin, flat piece of foam) on plantar fasciitis over the course of a year.
Both the custom and prefabricated orthotics were equally effective at speeding the pace of recovery when compared to the sham orthotic, but the custom design fared no better than the pre-fab insert.4
However, don’t throw your custom orthotics out just yet:
They may be useful if you have specific needs that can’t be met by an over-the-counter insole.
For example, a strangely-shaped foot, or an extremely narrow shoe or boot that a standard orthotic won’t fit into.
What are the Best Work Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis?
Beyond arch support and rigidity, there are a few other shoe-related factors that might affect the amount of stress you put on your plantar fascia.
But what are the best dress shoes for plantar fasciitis?
Dr Nick Campitelli recommends mens Vivo Barefoot shoes for work shoes and Vivo Barefoot dress shoes for women.
Dr Mark Cucuzzella recommends Lems Nine2Five for men and OESH or Ahinsa Ballerina’s as the best women’s plantar fasciitis shoes.
Kristin Marvin explained that if you must wear dress shoes to work, be sure to walk around barefoot around your house to combat the time your feet are in shoes, and start to add in foot exercises to strengthen your foot muscles to help get rid of your plantar fasciitis.
High Heels for Plantar Fasciitis
Heel height is a big one.
In theory, a shoe with an elevated heel should decrease pain by reducing tension on the plantar fascia.
But here’s the deal:
Shoes with an elevated heel also put more direct compressive force on the heel.
Tension on the fascia is assumed to be the main cause of plantar fascia pain, but direct compression might cause aggravation too.
Give your work shoes or dress shoes a test-run before you wear them out for the day.
Will Foot Strength Help Cure Plantar Fasciitis?
The Vivo Barefoot shoes work to strengthen your foot with a minimalist, flexible shoe.
We also know there has been a great deal of attention on minimalist shoes and barefoot running, but what has the research found about strengthening our feet?
To date, only a few small studies have looked at this prospect.
A 2015 paper published by Michael Ryan and other researchers at the University of British Columbia examined whether a plantar fasciitis rehab program done in Nike Frees (a shoe with a highly flexible sole, albeit with some cushioning and arch support) was more effective than the same program done in a standard athletic shoe.5
The study was small, and it had some methodological flaws, but did appear to show a more rapid improvement in pain levels in the Nike Free-wearing group.
Another paper presented at the 2005 American Society of Biomechanics conference demonstrated that athletes who warmed up in ultra-flexible Nike Frees experienced an increase in the size and strength of the small muscles that control the toes, foot, and ankle.6
Given that other researchers have proposed a connection between foot muscle weakness and increased stress on the plantar fascia, it’s not outrageous to hypothesize that a program like this might be helpful with plantar fasciitis.7
At this point, it’s not possible to say whether cautiously introducing a controlled amount of physical activity in flexible, minimalist shoes is advisable if you have plantar fasciitis.
There are certainly no controlled studies of such a program.
If this is something you’re interested in, realize that you’re very much into hypothetical/untested territory, so proceed at your own risk.
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It’s a PDF with an outline of the conservative and aggressive treatment options to help you get through your plantar fasciitis.
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Listen to our interview with Dr Mark Cucuzzella for more about the importance of shoes for your plantar fasciitis pain.
What are the Best Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis?
As much as we would love to be able to give you one particular pair of shoes that will help cure your plantar fasciitis pain, there is no such shoe.
Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the best running shoes for plantar fasciitis, a lot of it comes down to finding out what works for you.
This may mean you have to purchase a few different brands and styles of shoes, and monitor each pair over a few weeks to see if you notice an improvement.
This will include varying levels of arch support, heel to toe drop, and cushioning.
Both Dr Mark Cucuzzella and Dr Nick Campitelli, two running experts in the area of biomechanics, recommend developing foot strength and moving towards minimalist shoes with minimal heel to toe drop and limited cushioning.
However, if you are used to a higher drop shoe, this may put too much pressure on those muscles, making it worse.
Every runner is different. We all have our own running style, our own walking style, and our own source of comfort.
Yes, that may mean you have to try a few different pairs before you find the pair that finally works for you, but if it saves you hundreds in physical therapy bills, it is worth it.
Besides, once your plantar fasciitis goes away, you may be able to give the other shoes (or the shoes you want to transition into) another try.
How Do I Know if my Plantar Fasciitis is Getting Better?
Ultimately, the day-to-day and week-to-week trend in your heel pain will tell you if you are making the right decisions when it comes to footwear for plantar fasciitis.
Your best bet is to stick with well-made shoes that offer good arch support, like running shoes or Birkenstocks.
If these aren’t an option, or if you need extra support to avoid pain, try custom or over-the-counter orthotics, as long as they’re firm and supportive enough to make a difference.
Don’t forget, shoes are only part of the equation.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you should also be stretching your calf muscles, stretching your plantar fascia, and possibly using a night splint as well.
Be sure to read our plantar fasciitis for runners article to help you figure out whether you can run through it or if you should stop running, what causes plantar fasciitis and what you can do to prevent it in future. Most importantly, we share the best exercises for plantar fasciitis and an effective plan of treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Do High Heels Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
High heels might look fabulous–but looks can be deceiving! There’s a strong connection between wearing high heels and developing plantar fasciitis (not to mention a host of other ailments and problems.)
So, does that mean your stiletto days are over? Is there a healthy way to wear high heels without sacrificing the health of your heels and feet?
We’ve got your answers!
The Connection Between High Heels and Plantar Fasciitis
The connection between wearing high heels and developing plantar fasciitis revolves around this fact: High heels distribute your weight unevenly and force the arch of your foot into an unnatural position.This impacts your gait as well as the way the force from walking and other activity is distributed–putting strain on your arch and causing tearing and inflammation.
High heels also typically fail to support your heels with cushioning, meaning that the pad of your heel is pressed into a hard, unsteady surface. And that’s not all. Even not wearing high heels can cause plantar fasciitis (if you wear them regularly enough!) Since high heels leave you with a weakened arch, suddenly switching to more supportive shoes after chronic high heel use still leaves you with an arch that can’t as effectively absorb impact or support your weight.
More Trouble with High Heels
Plantar fasciitis isn’t the only trouble that can come from high heels, unfortunately. Because of the unnatural position of the heel and the raised calf, atrophy of the achilles tendon and a weakened calf muscle can occur. High heels also carry an increased likelihood to injuries of the ankle through a sprain after a fall when the heel catches in a crack or raised surface and the shoe is destabilized, causing the ankle to pitch sideways.
High heels can also harm your toes, which are more compressed because of the downward pressure into the toe of your shoe. Bunions, hammertoes, corns, neuromas, calluses, and ingrown toenails are all common conditions for chronic high heel wearers.
In addition to these problems, wearing high heels can also cause back, neck, and shoulder pain–since high heel’s disrupt the entire body’s alignment as the weight is shifted unnaturally to the balls of the foot.
How to Wear High Heels Without Pain
If you love heels, don’t despair. You can still love your feet without sacrificing the style you love! Simply follow a few key guidelines.
- Don’t immediately change from wearing mostly heels to wearing flats! If you’re accustomed to high heels and an unnaturally elevated arch, switching to flats cold turkey can be just as damaging as wearing heels in the first place. Wearing very high heels can cause the Achilles tendon to atrophy, meaning that when it’s stretched and worked harder in much lower flats, the chances of a break or tear are much greater. Lower your heel height gradually.
- Don’t be afraid to wear a little heel. Supportive shoes with a very slight heel can actually better for your feet than unsupported flats like ballet slippers, which can lead to flat feet. Heels should be 1-2 inches at the most.
- Fit is crucial. Many women make the mistake of buying heels that are too small for them. When wearing heels, it’s more important than ever to get the exact right fit.
- Keep in mind that slope is more important than height when looking at comfort and negative impact. Look for a thicker heel to distribute weight more evenly, and look for heels that are sloped gradually.
- Stretch your heels (the ones on the bottom of your foot!), plantar fascia, and calves before and after wearing heels to keep key muscles and ligaments strong and in good condition. (Try these easy stretches!)
- If you must wear high heels, try to wear them only to sitting events. And bring more supportive shoes to change into after the event–since the walk to and from the car is usually a significant part of the walking you’ll be doing!
If you wear high heels a lot–or are noticing pain in your feet or heels, it’s time to make some positive changes in your footwear to avoid further damage or injury. It’s also a great idea to incorporate slip-in orthotics to your footwear to cushion, support, and heal the damage caused by high heels. Wearing high heels might look fabulous, but it has nothing on the look–and feel–of healthy feet!
That pain that you feel at the end of a long night-no, it’s not a hangover and it’s not exhaustion. We’re talking about something worse-the pain that’s caused by a seemingly evil and malicious pair of high heels. But, believe it or not, not all high heels are created equal. In some cases, they can actually be healthier for your feet than flats. “Excess pronation is a condition that affects 75 percent of the population and has been related to many conditions, such as heel pain (otherwise known as plantar fasciitis), knee pain, and even lower-back pain,” says podiatrist Phillip Vasyli.
In this case, doctors actually recommend wearing shoes with a slight heel, as opposed to our trusty flats. “The popular trend of ballet flats has caused us to see an increase in many of the aforementioned conditions due to a lack of overall support and flimsy shoe construction,” Vasyli says.
Generally, there are a few things to look for when you’re shopping for stilettos. First, make sure the heels are of moderate proportions, not the towering Lady GaGa variety. Save those for dinners out, where you’ll be sitting for most of the evening.
Vasyli recommends opting for well-constructed “quality” shoes, especially those that have shock absorbing materials in the ball of the foot, and using an insert like Orthaheel, which he invented. He also suggests wearing your highest heels for only short periods at a time and giving them a little bit of closet time now and then.”If you feel the need to wear higher-heeled shoes daily, then take a more comfortable shoe to get to and from work and wear the higher shoes while you’re sitting at your desk,” he adds.
Also, while you’re having a ball, be conscious of the weight that’s being distributed onto the ball of your foot. “The higher the heel, the more the shoe increases the arch height and also changes the ‘arch position’,” Vasyli says. He suggests looking for shoes that “contour” to your arch and distribute your weight over the entire foot, not just the ball of the foot.
for a rundown of our favorite “healthy” heels for holidays and why you should be wearing them.
- By Jené Luciani