What is Plantar Fasciitis

I never heard of or even knew what plantar fasciitis was until I was diagnosed with it. This was a few years ago, at a time when I was walking my then-dog Buffy for hours a day. Also, I’d just joined a local gym and was taking step classes again after many years away.

Finally, it had been quite some time since I’d gotten new walking shoes or sneakers. Overall, my foot suffered and suddenly I had so much pain in my heel that it was difficult to walk. It was time to see my doctor.

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What is plantar fasciitis?

If you remember back to your high school science classes, then you know that the suffix “itis” means inflammation of. Well, with plantar fasciitis, you’ve got inflammation of the plantar fascia. However, your foot isn’t swollen so you can’t “see” plantar fasciitis.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. This tissue is an integral part of how your foot works. It supports your arch and provides shock absorption when you walk or run. According to the NIH National Library of Medicine, plantar fasciitis presents as a sharp, localized pain at the heel.

I felt it more severely in the morning, as I got out of bed. It felt like I’d bruised the heel of my right foot overnight. However, as the day went on, the pain went away.

Why did I get plantar fasciitis?

I mentioned in the intro that I’d recently started walking more and working out at the gym. Both of those changes in my activity level could have contributed to my heel pain.

However, my anatomy could have contributed to my plantar fasciitis diagnosis as well. For example, someone with high arches, which I have, can have messed up biomechanics in the foot.

When you have a high arch, all of the pressure on your foot goes to the ball of your foot and your heel. It isn’t spread out evenly along the bottom of your foot. Over time, this can irritate the plantar fascia, leading to plantar fasciitis.

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Another contributing factor is tight muscles, specifically in the calves and Achilles tendon, says UCLA Health. By making sure you stretch those two areas on a regular basis, you can help reduce the problems associated with plantar fasciitis. It’s one of the reasons I always do a post-ride stretch after a Peloton ride. Instructors frequently address how to stretch your calves.

Women are more susceptible to plantar fasciitis

According to multiple sources, women are more likely to be affected by plantar fasciitis than men. There are a few potential reasons why women are more prone to developing plantar fasciitis, including:

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause ligaments and connective tissue like the plantar fascia to loosen and relax, increasing your risk of injury.
  • Weight fluctuations.
  • Footwear choices like high heels can stress the plantar fascia.

Here are my choices for comfortable dress shoes for women with wide feet.

How to treat plantar fasciitis

I didn’t Google my symptoms and decide I had plantar fasciitis. I went to the doctor, where she diagnosed me, sent me to a podiatrist for orthotic inserts and referred me to physical therapy. PT wasn’t new to me but doing physical therapy for my feet was.

One of the best things about doing PT for plantar fasciitis? Each session started with a foot massage. No complaints here. After the massage to warm up my muscles, we focused on stretching muscles, which I continue to do to this day.

Also, I started wearing orthotics in my shoes, especially my sneakers when walking the dog. I got two kinds of orthotics — a full-foot one for shoes like sneakers. And then a half-foot orthotic for wearing with sandals and dress shoes. I was still dealing with plantar fasciitis when we got our Peloton bike in 2016 so I put them in my cycling shoes, too.

Another way I treated my condition was doing a better job of replacing my shoes on a regular basis. As someone with high arches, I tend to supinate (roll to the outside of my foot) when I walk. That’s because it hurts to land flat on my arch.

So, I tend to wear out the outer edge of my shoes faster than the rest of the sole. Once this happens, my shoes are uneven and, basically, off balance. That’s not good.

Replacing shoes more often

Anyway, my PT recommended that, on a regular basis, I look at the soles of my shoes. If I noticed that one side of the treads had worn out, it was time for new shoes.

And she shared this tidbit with me: most experts recommend replacing your sneakers or tennis shoes every six to 12 months. That all depends on how frequently you wear them.

According to the American Society of Podiatric Sports Medicine, the general guideline is that after 300-500 miles of running or walking, it’s time to buy a new pair. Since I was walking my dog about three miles a day, I hit the 300-mile mark after a little more than three months.

At this point, the cushioning and support in your shoes has likely degraded to the point where they are no longer protecting your feet. Like my PT had suggested, looking for visible signs of wear and tear, like worn tread or rips and tears should tip you off that you need new shoes.

For casual wear, such as a pair of shoes you wear only two to three times a week, they can last you as long as two years. Shoes you take out only occasionally, such as for special events? They’ll last you much, much longer.

Now that I know the importance of replacing sneakers more often, it’s why I’ll buy sneakers in duplicate or triplicate when I find a brand and style that works for me, like my Hoka sneakers. This way I always have a new pair of sneakers.

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Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Best shoes for plantar fasciitis

Here are some of the best shoes for people with plantar fasciitis, according to relevant sources:

Now that Hoka is no longer making the Clifton 8, I’m going to check out the Bondi 7. In men’s sizes they come in wide and extra wide. Plus, they have sizes small enough that I can size down and still find a shoe that fits a typical woman’s shoe size.

One of my favorite places to buy wide width shoes is Zappos.

If you ever have any questions about shopping on Zappos — their return policy, their free shipping, etc. — let me know.

Finally, whenever Zappos has any coupon codes to offer, I’ll post them here.

Final thoughts on plantar fasciitis

With the lifestyle modifications I’ve suggested, such as replacing shoes more often and stretching regularly, you should be able to manage plantar fasciitis long-term to prevent future flare-ups. These tips have worked for me. But, again, I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV. If your foot hurts, please go to the doctor.

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