Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common reasons for heel pain. This condition causes inflammation of a thick portion of tissues that runs across the heel and connects the heel bone to the toes.
People with this condition often dread the first step in the morning, which is when the pain level is at its highest. As you continue to move, the pain level generally lowers, but inactivity for even a few hours can bring it back.
Runners, professional or otherwise, are most likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis, though they are certainly not the only ones. People who are overweight or those who wear inadequate shoes also have an increased chance of developing this condition. Plantar fasciitis reportedly affects about 10% of people, and while the condition can appear in various forms, the general symptoms can cause quite a lot of pain.
Fortunately, plantar fasciitis is a treatable condition, and you can even use special plantar insoles to improve your health immediately. Here’s everything you need to know about plantar fasciitis and how to treat it.
Causes and Risk Factors
According to the Mayo Clinic, the plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring that supports the arch of the foot. However, tension and extra stress on the bowstring can cause it to tear. Over time, the fascia can become irritated or inflamed.
Plantar fasciitis can sometimes appear without an apparent cause, but there are some factors known to increase the possibility of developing the condition:
- Aging – plantar fasciitis is very common for people 40 and older;
- Certain sports or exercises – any activity that places too much stress on your heel, such as long-distance running, ballet, jumping or others, can make you prone to plantar fasciitis;
- Previous conditions – such as a high arch, abnormal walking patterns, or being flat footed;
- Obesity – the more extra pounds you have, the more likely you are to develop this condition;
- Day-to-day activities – such as a job that requires you to be up on your feet for long periods.
Improving Your Condition
Of course, sometimes plantar fasciitis just can’t be avoided. For instance, if the condition is caused by aging or long-term damage due to your lifestyle, the only thing you can do is to try and improve your symptoms to relieve the pain.
However, with the use of orthotic insoles you can successfully decrease heel and foot pain, and possibly prevent further development of the condition.
Choosing the Insole
Most insoles come in diverse sizes, so you can pick the one right for your shoe size and check to see if it fits nicely in the shoe. However, you should also know that some insoles may take up half a size, so you’ll have to purchase shoes a bit bigger for your feet, to account for the insole. The heel end of the insole should fit securely in the back of the shoe, and the insole should run across the entire length of the shoe. If there are any parts uncovered, it means the insole is too small.
If it’s too big, it’s also possible to cut a piece of the insole until it fits right into the shoe. But, be careful not to cut too much. Instead, slowly trim parts of it and try it between cuts to get the right dimensions.
You can also remove the insole of your shoe and use it as a guide to measure the orthotic insoles, though these are often much thinner than the ones made for orthopedic purposes, so you still might need to go for bigger shoe size.
Things to Consider
Choosing the right orthotic insoles for you isn’t just about figuring out the proper size. Bear in mind that the wrong insoles can make your condition worse, so before you purchase a pair and start wearing them, here are some things you should be aware of:
1. Your Heel
If you struggle with plantar fasciitis, then it’s important to remember that heel needs the most support. When you’re trying the insole, make sure the heel is adequately secured by it and that it doesn’t bother you in any way.
2. Your Gait
Everyone has their different way of walking, meaning that people put different levels of stress on the fascia muscle in the foot.
With plantar fasciitis, your foot can absorb the shock created with each step, so the insole ideally must do that for you. But your specific gait may need a particular type of insole, so it’s vital to know that before you buy.
Your gait may have some of the following characteristics:
- Overpronation – common for people with flat feet, causing the foot to roll inward when walking;
- Underpronation – this is when the foot rolls outward during normal walking;
- Neutral – this means walking causes proper pronation during normal walking, and it’s unlikely that people in this category need insoles unless they suffer an injury.
3. Arch Support
The arch is the curve of the foot that starts down at the ball of the foot and goes up to the heel, providing stability. If you have issues with arch support, that can increase pressure to the fascia muscle and unleash pains.
Typically, there are three types of arches:
- Normal – the most common one, which allows the foot to absorb the shock evenly and adequately;
- High – in this case, the foot meets the ground at a higher angle, so the lower leg mostly absorbs the shock;
- Flat – people with flat arches often experience knee, legs, and ankle issues since the weight is transferred to the inner foot and not the ball.
Sticking to your regular shoe size might be fine under normal circumstances, but because you are now experiencing fascia pain, you should consider customizing your shoes and insoles.
People’s feet come in very different sizes, and it’s possible that your exact feet measurements place you somewhere between traditional shoe sizes. In other words, the shoes bought from regular stores don’t fit your feet properly.
So, if you have plantar fasciitis, you might want to consider having your feet measured before shopping for insoles to get just the right size, and then have them custom made for you. It might be even better to do the same with your shoes, at least until your condition improves.
5. Insole Materials
Lastly, you need to consider the materials from which the insoles are mate. Some might be better for you than the other regarding conform levels and shock absorption. The most common materials are plastic, gel, and foam, You can discuss with your doctor which insole is best for you, and even try out a few of them to see how they feel:
- Foam – stabilizes foot alignment, and allows for a more customized match with the shape of your foot;
- Plastic – can relieve pain better and offer extra arch support;
- Gel – have the best shock absorption, and can keep the foot cool and dry.
The benefits of the Right Insole
A good shoe insole can go a long way to relieve the pains of plantar fasciitis, and it’s even recommended you wear them regularly to protect your feet, long before any symptoms of fascia inflammation pop up.
Here are the perks of quality insoles:
- Reducing stress and stretch of the fascia muscle;
- Helping spread the shock evenly throughout the foot;
- Easing pressure on the heel, helping the feet, knees, and ankles;
- Improving physical activity because they provide extra comfort;
- Can even protect the shoes so you can save some money by not having to buy new shoes often.
The right insole undoubtedly has significant benefits on your overall feet health, but keep in mind that they are not designed to last a lifetime. As such, you’ll need to replace them if you notice they’re even slightly worn out. Any insole damage can prevent them from doing their job.
Depending on your regular activity, you can expect to replace insoles once every few months. Generally, you can tell the insoles aren’t functional anymore at the first signs of discomfort.
Back to You
When looking for insoles for your plantar fasciitis, it’s always best to consult with your doctor and see what they recommend. Particularly if your condition is more advanced, you should opt for the ones approved by your physician, at least until your health improves.
If, however, you are looking for extra comfort, you can stick with regular store-bought insoles, as they can provide enough support to keep your feet healthy. Also, consider in purchasing some shoes that offer you feet extra cushion and arch support. You can browse our website for reviews on some of the best models available.