Do you suffer from heel pain? You’re not alone.
Heel pain affects over two million Americans annually. The pain experienced can range from mild discomfort to outright debilitating pain. But did you know that if you have heel pain, you might have a condition called plantar fasciitis? Plantar fasciitis is one of the primary causes of foot pain and usually, manifests in the form of a sharp pain in the foot near the heel.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the swelling and pain resulting from repeated damage to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a dense band of tissues running along the bottom of your foot that connects the heel of your foot to your toes. Over time, these tissues will sustain repeated stress and strain. Normal everyday activities affect the plantar fascia, but it is usually more stressful activities such as running or jumping that cause the most damage. Over time, this repeated strain will cause small tears in the ligaments. These tears, in turn, cause swelling, stiffness, and pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. For most people, this pain is most noticeable in the mornings of after sitting for a long period of time, since the foot has not been stretched and kept limber.
Other factors also impact the development of plantar fasciitis:
- Age – People between the ages of 35 and 70 tend to be affected the most by plantar fasciitis.
- Foot Mechanics – People who are flat-footed, high-arched, or who have an abnormal gait (walking stride) are at higher risk of suffering from plantar fasciitis.
- Lifestyle & Activity – People who spend many hours each week engaging in activities that put a strain on the feet (such as running, walking, jumping, or dancing) are at higher risk of plantar fasciitis.
- Body Weight – Heavier individuals are more at risk of plantar fasciitis due to increased strain on the foot’s structure.
How does plantar fasciitis affect me?
The most prevalent symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain in the bottom of the foot, near the heel. For mild cases of plantar fasciitis, this pain is manageable and causes mild discomfort. For moderate to severe cases of plantar fasciitis, the pain can be debilitating, making it difficult to perform even simple daily functions. Walking may be painful, and activities such as running or climbing stairs may be excruciating.
If you suffer from other medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or Achilles tendonitis, you may already experience foot pain or sensitivity. In such cases, plantar fasciitis would cause additional aggravation for the foot, causing increased pain.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. If you have heel pain, it is important to identify the cause of the pain and treat it to prevent further injury. Especially in cases when plantar fasciitis may be the cause, it is critical to begin preventative treatment to avoid advancement of the condition to the point of excruciating pain.
How do I treat and prevent plantar fasciitis?
The best way to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis is to keep the foot properly supported. Most footwear does not provide adequate support for the foot. This may be because there is no arch support, not enough arch support, not enough cushioning, or too little shock absorption in the factory insole. The lack of proper support puts a strain on your foot on a day-to-day basis. An even greater strain is placed on the foot during strenuous activities when performed without proper support.
An orthotic arch support or replacement shoe insole can be a simple and cost-effective way of keeping your foot supported. The purpose of an orthotic arch support is to keep the arch of the foot supported, stabilize the heel, provide cushioning for the foot, and assist with impact shock absorption. Using a pair of orthotic arch supports in your existing footwear is a simple way to get proper foot support to help prevent plantar fasciitis.
If you already suffer from plantar fasciitis, an orthotic arch support is still a good idea. Keeping the foot supported will help prevent the pain from worsening and allow the foot to heal faster. This is because you will no longer be placing a strain on an improperly-supported foot.
Other at-home treatments can provide relief from the symptoms of plantar fasciitis:
- Light Exercise and Stretching – Perform simple stretches and exercises to help loosen up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot. Certain devices, such as a night splint or support sleeve, will allow your foot to remain stretched even at night.
- Ice – Treat the arch and heel of the foot with ice several times per day, for 15-20 minutes at a time. This will help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Inflammation and Pain-Reducing Medication – Over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, taken as directed, may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Rest – Scale back on your exercise regimen and/or switch to low-impact exercises to reduce stress on your feet. If possible, remain off your feet for several days to allow time for your feet to start properly healing.
Relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis will likely not be immediate. Plantar fasciitis is the result of many injuries that have occurred and accumulated over time. It will take time, coupled with rest and treatment, for this condition to subside.
What are the best insoles for plantar fasciitis?
To help with plantar fasciitis, a pair of orthotic arch supports should have proper arch support, a deep heel cup, cushioning, and shock absorption qualities.
An arch support will help keep the arch of the foot supported to prevent further injury to the plantar fascia. There are three primary levels of support: cushioned arch support, semi-rigid arch support, and fully rigid arch support. A cushioned arch consists solely of a bubble of cushioning under the arch of the foot. A semi-rigid arch support gives firm support for the arch, but the arch can still flex. A fully rigid arch support gives an even more, firm support and does not flex at all. For the treatment of plantar fasciitis, a semi-rigid or rigid arch support are typically best.
Be sure that the orthotic arch support you choose has an arch that is suitable for your foot’s arch type. If you have low or neutral arches, a high-arched insole isn’t the best choice! If you don’t know your arch type, you can find out at home with a simple Wet Test.
A deep heel cup will help stabilize the heel of the foot and further assist in supporting the arch of the foot. Most orthotic arch supports have a deep heel cup as a part of their construction. Brands such as Orthaheel Insoles and Superfeet Insoles give extra focus to the heel cup in their design.
Cushioning and shock absorption are important, too. A good orthotic arch support for plantar fasciitis will have some cushioning across the entire top-coat of the insole. The Powerstep Pinnacle Orthotics and the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds are good examples of what to look for, as they feature good padding across the entire top of the insole.
For shock absorption, look for additional padding at the heel and ball-of-foot of the insole. These are the two areas of the foot that are most affected by impact shock, a major cause of plantar fasciitis. The Orthaheel Relief Orthotics and the Spenco Polysorb Total Support Insoles are good examples, as both feature additional padding in both the heel and forefoot.
Where to buy plantar fasciitis insoles?
Come visit us at TheInsoleStore.com. We have the largest selection of insoles for your convenience, and friendly, helpful product specialists available to help you find the insole that’s best for you. Get started on our plantar fasciitis insoles page, or send us a message and we’ll help you choose the insole you need!