When you suffer from plantar fasciitis, shoes can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
As a sports medicine doctor- and someone who has personal experience with foot pain- I’ll give you some guidance on shopping for the best shoes for plantar fasciitis. I’ve also enlisted the input of some experts in the orthopedics, sports medicine and podiatry field to offer you the absolute best medical advice on purchasing the right running shoes, walking shoes, sandals, and insoles.
Why Shoes Matter
When you wear the right shoes, they act as a sort of bridge to compensate for an exhausted plantar fascia. So if your shoes aren’t giving your feet enough support you may just be asking for an episode of PF.
The same concept applies when it comes to going barefoot. If you have PF this is always a bad idea. If minimalist shoes equal minimal support, then bare feet equals zero support. Going barefoot puts extra stress on your feet and can cause arches to collapse, increasing your likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis.
“Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a number of biomechanical etiologies including an individual’s unique anatomy, muscle tightness, degenerative changes, and overuse. Any of these abnormalities can cause local stress at the plantar fascia insertion, and lead to heel pain. I always have my patients begin with proper shoewear.”
“It’s not such a simple thing to say here is the shoe you must wear when you have plantar fasciitis. It depends. Shoes are a great addition to help control function along with the functional orthotics, shoes alone are unlikely to cure your plantar fasciitis problem for very long.”
Can Shoes Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
It is likely that wearing any shoes that don’t support your foot can contribute to plantar fasciitis. For example, research has found that defective running shoes may contribute to the condition. By causing the heel to tilt on the right side in one patient, the defective shoe appeared to lead to plantar fasciitis in the right foot while the left was healthy.
Heels, ballet flats, casual shoes without support, and any shoe without proper fit can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis. If you do feel it necessary to wear such shoes, be sure to use an insole to give your arch some aid.
While the right shoes can help with PF pain and healing, some medical experts believe that shoes can cause foot problems.
“Don’t wear them. Shoes change the way we land with each step, weakens our foot muscles, and causes the damage. More protection makes you worse. The data is clear. Everything else is just conjecture.
There are also many physicians who believe in the power of a well-fitted, supportive shoe. This is especially true if you already have a condition like plantar fasciitis. Shoes don’t just protect the feet, they also provide shock absorption and support to your arch while the ligament is given time to rest and recover. Ultimately, you and your physician should decide what shoe option works best for you based on your specific circumstances.
Shoes Are Just A Small Part Of The Treatment Plan
While the right shoes can do wonders for plantar fasciitis I- like many other health care professionals- still believe that physical therapy is the number one path to healing. Shoes can help with pain relief and protection while you are working on a PF treatment plan to address the root of the problem. Strengthening and stability are key.
Physical therapy stretches should target your lower leg and bottom of the foot, like the classic runner’s calf stretch to relieve a tight calf muscle, toe flex, or downward dog yoga pose to loosen up a tight Achilles tendon. Try to practice your exercises three to four times a week for the best results.
Shoes To Avoid If You Have Plantar Fasciitis
When you have plantar fasciitis, not just any shoe will do. You want something that will cushion your foot to best protect your injury and promote healing.
Minimalist shoes are considered “low drop” shoes since they have a very low heel-to-toe angle, or sometimes none at all.
- Minimalist shoes. This includes flip flops, ballet flats, boat shoes, and barefoot shoes. These types offer minimal stability, cushioning, and arch support, which puts extra stress on your plantar fascia and heel bone.
- High heels. These force your foot into an unnatural position which can cause long-term damage.
- Platform and wedge-style shoes. These have a rigid footbed that doesn’t provide cushioning and can affect the way you walk.
- Improperly fitted shoes. Shoes that aren’t the right size can cause more damage than aid, especially if they’re too tight. This includes shoes with incorrect arch support.
- Worn-out shoes. Shoes tend to act their age- as they get older they wear down and lose their support. Even if a pair of sneakers doesn’t look worn out they may be past their prime after about 250-300 miles of wear.
“The best shoe for someone suffering from plantar fasciitis will always have support. This way the plantar fascia ligament is supported. So forget about your flip-flops and even most sandals. Not forever, just until you’re feeling better. If you have a flat foot, you want to wear a stability or motion control running shoe.”
Best Footwear Options For Plantar Fasciitis
Today you can’t judge a particular shoe brand for its therapeutic foot benefits (or drawbacks). Many of the best brands offer a variety of styles to suit different needs and foot types. For example, popular brands like Skechers and Crocs have designed shoes for plantar fasciitis and other foot problems. Meanwhile, brands like Asics supply styles that suit different athletic needs, like a rubber outsole for running in rainy weather.
Since running and walking shoes are the absolute best for plantar fasciitis, we’ll go into more detail about how to choose the right ones. I’ve included some features to look for in sandals, too.
When it comes to repetitive strain injuries, what could be more repetitive than the act of running? That’s why PF is so common among runners. This is especially true if you are used to running on hard or uneven surfaces. And if you’re not wearing supportive plantar fasciitis shoes.
If you’ve been following proper treatment protocol it’s okay to go back to running about 3-7 days after a bout with plantar fasciitis. But make sure you have the right running shoe first.
“I prefer running shoes. Running shoes are structured with more cushion in the ball and heel areas, and have a more rigid heel counter – the best walking or cross-training shoes don’t hold a candle to the worst running shoes. If you can wear athletic shoes I would get a running shoe.”
Even if you’re not a runner or an athlete one thing everyone is bound to be doing at some point in the day is walking around. Walking is a great way to stay active when you have PF. It can help to keep your muscles loose and limber while aiding in healing circulation. You need a pair of shoes on your feet at all times, so walking shoes might be best for work or around the house.
You could be putting some miles on these shoes, so make sure they adhere to all the rules of a good plantar fasciitis shoe, especially the comfort factor. Here’s are some of my top walking shoes for plantar fasciitis. Also read: Is Walking Good For Plantar Fasciitis.
While running or walking shoes are, hands down, the best shoes for plantar fasciitis there are times when a tennis shoe just isn’t appropriate. If you live in a sunny climate, are walking around by the pool, or are headed for a formal occasion, sandals may be a more tasteful- and more comfortable- pick. They’re also great for wearing around the house.
Strengthening your feet by walking barefoot or at the most with slide types of sandals is the best way to treat a condition of ligament overload.”
While regular off-the-rack flip flops are a definite no-no some sandals and slides will provide the proper cushioning, support, and comfort for someone with PF. Here are some of the best sandals for plantar fasciitis.
Like Dr. Narducci says, Vionic is a great option when you want a simple plantar fasciitis sandal at a good price. You can find a Vionic sandal in both men’s and women’s toe-post and slide styles that have great arch support and can help with overpronation. For fancier occasions or just for going out, Taos and Dansko offer women’s sandals in more attractive styles. And unlike your classic heels, these shoes won’t kill your feet.
Birkenstocks are another one of the best choices for plantar fasciitis. These may be worth the price if you’re looking for a comfortable sandal. Many styles offer firm yet cushioned footbeds with deep shock absorbing heel cups and wide toe boxes for amplified comfort. The Birkenstock Arizona with its memory foam footbed is my top pick for unisex sandals.
While shoes are crucial in improving plantar fasciitis, sometimes the best shoes alone may not offer enough support. Shoe inserts- also called insoles or orthotics- can help to give you that little extra boost of arch and heel support and cushioning that you need to truly relieve your plantar fasciitis pain. Not only will they enhance your PF shoes, but they can also be added to a less supportive pair.
“The secret to plantar fasciitis and avoiding surgery – which over 89% of patients can do, is to get functional orthotics. They must be hard enough to support your entire body, and control your foot function to work. Custom functional orthotics can be made to fit into most any shoes, including golf or cycling shoes, which tend to be more shallow and it is hard to fit off the shelf inserts into these styles of shoes.”
A shoe insole reduces stress on the plantar fascia band and helps to position your foot so that weight is more evenly distributed. Some shoes come with removable insoles, but they may not be enough. You can purchase over the counter orthotics in a store, online, from your podiatrist’s specialty stock, or have custom ones made. Here are some of the most recommended insoles for plantar fasciitis:
A good plantar fasciitis orthotic will have cushioning, heel support, and arch support. Some, like the ProFoot Plantar Fasciitis Insole, are made with gel which is great for reducing pain and putting an extra spring in your step. The Tread Labs insole family also offers great pain relief with options for any shoe type.
Doctor Recommended Shoe Brands For Plantar Fasciitis
Wearing supportive shoes is a pain-free and effortless way to fit plantar fasciitis treatment into your everyday life and achieve great results. These doctor- and podiatrist-recommended brands offer some of the best shoes for plantar fasciitis. With a design consistently centered around foot health, they find a balance between style and function.
In speaking with other physicians, podiatrists, and physical therapists there are some brands that frequently come up. In general, these brands rank at the top of the list for all people, but we like them especially because they offer features that encourage foot health and healing.
A top-rated orthopedic diabetic and orthotic footwear brand, Orthofeet specializes in pain-relieving footwear for people with foot problems for sensitive feet. These are comfortable and functional shoes that don’t have the unstylish look of a “therapeutic shoe.”
OOFOS specializes in sandals and casual shoes made for recovery. Made with proprietary OOFoam, they are built to absorb impact, provide cushioning and stability. Perfect for after an active day.
Asics are one of the most popular running shoes for people with PF. These shoes employ Trusstic System technology to make the shoes lighter, and have added more foam to the midsole to absorb shock during foot strike.
“Movement is medicine, I typically recommend a stable neutral or neutral shoe such as a Brooks Ghost or Asics Nimbus. When it comes to choosing a particular brand or model the evidence suggests that comfort equals greater shoe performance. So start with a neutral shoe and whatever feels best will be a great starting point for you.”
Another big name in running shoes, Brooks shoes are known to have a nice comfortable fit and well cushioned midsoles. They offer shoes in various levels of support with GuideRails technology that provides extra stability.
The goal of the Vionic brand is to offer stylish, attractive shoes that are also comfortable and supportive. Vionic employs high-quality, breathable materials and Vio-Motion arch support technology. They offer choices in any style from sandals to sneakers.
New Balance offers various styles of high-quality running and walking shoes for people who are looking for anything from motion control, to lightweight shoes, to stability shoes. Another plus for New Balance is that they offer shoes in a variety of widths and foot shapes.
The Saucony brand is committed to design and innovation that will help runners to perform their best. Many of their styles are great for PF because they offer extra cushioning to absorb impact.
Taos specializes in comfortable and stylish shoes for women. Including shoes, sneakers, sandals, and boots, Taos offers supportive footwear that can be worn all day long.
This American Podiatric Medical Association-Awarded shoe brand is committed to offering comfort shoes that promote foot health. Built for all-day comfort, many of their shoe styles are made to accommodate orthotics. Find shoes, boots, and sandals in many attractive designs.
While Skechers have long been a popular brand for their unique style, they now offer shoes designed with foot conditions in mind. You can find many lightweight styles that offer great arch support and extra cushioning for a comfortable wear.
How To Shop For Plantar Fasciitis Shoes
When you shop for plantar fasciitis shoes, consider what you want the shoes for- work, the gym, relaxing at home. In general, I recommend athletic shoes for plantar fasciitis. However, you can find good shoes of almost any type (other than high heels).
“In choosing shoes for plantar fasciitis, look for comfortable shoes with a cushioned sole and a decent heel lift. If you’re relatively flat-footed, look for good arch support, maybe even an off-the-shelf insole to add that extra arch support.”
Good shoes to ease your plantar fasciitis pain can be expensive, so you want to make sure you get it right the first time. But when you go shopping- online or in the store- you might be faced with a lot of unfamiliar shoe terminology. Let’s go over some of the basic parts of a shoe so you can make a better-informed decision at purchase time. This will also help you to understand what to look for in a good shoe later on in the article.
- Upper. This is the top part of the shoe that completely covers the upper part of the foot.
- Lining. A thin layer of material that is usually sewn into the inside of the upper to add support and comfort.
- Tongue. In shoes with laces (or velcro closures) this is the flexible strip of material that protects the top of the foot and disperses pressure.
- Toe box. This is the part at the very front of the shoe that should completely cover and protect the toes.
- Heel. This is located at the rear bottom part of the shoe. It’s job is to support and raise the back of the shoe.
- Heel Counter. This is the piece of stiff material added to the heel to add sturdiness and lock the foot in place. It may be on the outside of the shoe or enclosed in the upper.
- Heel Drop or Heel-to-Toe Drop. This measurement tells you the difference between the height of the heel and the ball of the foot on a shoe. Subtract the height of the ball from the height of the heel to determine the heel/toe drop. (We’ll discuss this more later.)
“Most patients suffering from plantar fasciitis will say they rarely walk barefoot because it is painful and intolerable. This low heel drop increases strain through the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Shoes with a higher heel drop (6 mm or higher) allow for more relaxation of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, which is more comfortable.”“
- Sole. This is the bottom part of the shoe that makes contact with the ground and provides durability. It can be a single or multiple layers and usually consists of three parts:
- Insole (Footbed). This is the first layer of the sole that is in direct contact with the foot. Often made with shock-absorbing materials, it’s job is to cradle the foot.
- Midsole. Between the insole and outsole, this optional layer adds extra shock absorption, cushioning, and heel support.
- Outsole. This is the outermost layer of the sole that comes in contact with the ground. Ideal outsoles should be durable and provide ample friction.
- Shank. A thin piece of material between the insole and outsole that adds rigidity and structure to the shoe.
- Ride Liner. On some running shoes, this is the extra layer of cushioning material added between the midsole and foot for extra comfort.
Evaluating Shoe Build
You want a shoe that bends and provides resistance. In general, a good shoe will bend at the toe, not at the midsole. Flexibility helps protect the feet and can also help with pain relief.
While buying on Amazon is almost always cheaper, there’s no substitute for going into the store and getting your hands on a pair of shoes. This way you can evaluate the build and comfort yourself.
According to Dr. Hale, there’s three tests you can do.
“We suggest a motion control shoe to reduce the force on the fascia and firm heel counter. Make sure the shoe does not bend in half. Also, an insole that is tight to the arch such as OTC Footchair Insole.”
1. Heel Counter Test
Squeeze the heel of the shoe with your thumb and finger. You should not be able to squeeze them together.
You want a rigid heel counter. This will minimize your heel rolling and give you extra support.
2. Torsional Stability Test
Grab each end of the shoe and twist it around. The more difficult it is to twist, the more torsionally stable the shoe.
Higher torsional stability minimizes pronation that can lead to foot and toe pain.
3. Front Toe Flex Test
Hold the shoe heel firmly with one hand. With the other hand, push your palm against the front toe.
Make sure the shoe flexing point is where your toe normally bends, not in the middle of the shoe.
Choosing The Right Fit
Whether it’s a top-rated brand or just your go-to favorite, when you shop for plantar fasciitis shoes pay attention to each item listed below:
- Lifestyle. The same shoes won’t work for every occasion. If you know that you need to be wearing shoes for your plantar fasciitis most of the time, be sure to choose a few varieties to cover work, athletics, and every day.
- Ample arch support. A pair of shoes with prominent arches supports the entire foot. An arch also reduces overpronation, which reduces tension on the plantar fascia ligament. Be careful to choose the right arch height for your foot
- Heel support. It should come as no surprise that shoes with a deep heel cup to protect and gently support the heel bone are essential.
- Good fit. Figure out if your feet are wide or narrow and then look for a shoe that meets your specific needs. Make sure you have plenty of toe room, especially if you also have toe issues.
- Cushioning. Look for a shoe with bouncy cushioning and a contoured footbed. Not only is this most comfortable, but it reduces the impact when your heel hits the ground. Make sure the shoe provides enough cushioning to support your weight.
- Maximum comfort. While all the right shoe components are important, at the end of the day comfort will be your most important factor. Sometimes shoes need to be broken in, but within a week or two new shoes should feel good on your feet.
- Orthotics. Custom orthotic support can go a long way to improving foot health. If you have custom needs look for shoes with removable insoles.
“There are 3 general types of arches: low/flat arch, normal arch, and high arch. The key is finding the shoe that best supports your arch.”
Top 5 Men’s Shoes
While females are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, it’s just as important for men to take care of their foot health with the right shoes. Having a pair of comfortable shoes for every aspect of your life can greatly relieve plantar fasciitis symptoms. This includes athletic sneakers, dress shoes, work shoes, and sandals if you’re the outdoorsy type. Supportive shoes can be found in all styles, as well as orthotic inserts to fit into each.
Contrary to what some believe, men’s shoes aren’t just a larger version of women’s. They are designed differently due to the difference in foot shape, body weight, and the way men and women stand and walk. While men’s shoes may have a slightly different toe box and arch shape, all good plantar fasciitis shoes should share the same characteristics that we will get into more later in this guide. For now, check out some of the top men’s shoes for plantar fasciitis:
Best Overall: New Balance Men's Mx608v4
- Dual-density collar and padded mesh tongue for comfort
- Pull-tab at heel makes these shoes easy to put on
- Breathable textile lining and EVA footbed
- IMEVA midsole with 10 mm drop
Best For Running: ASICS Men’s GT-2000 7
- Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Technology Cushioning System - Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.
- I.G.S (Impact Guidance System) Technology - ASICS design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
- Guidance Line Midsole Technology - Vertical flex groove decouples the tooling along the line of progression for enhanced gait efficiency.
- AHAR Outsole - Acronym for ASICS High Abrasion Rubber. Placed in critical areas of the outsole for exceptional durability.
- Guidance Trusstic System Technology - This Trusstic System Technology integrates Guidance Line construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity.
Best Dress Shoes: Vionic Men’s Bowery Bruno Oxford
- Concealed orthotic support
- Multiple colors available
- odiatrist-designed footbed
Best For Walking: Brooks Men's Addiction Walker Walking Shoes
- Full-grain leather or velvety nubuck uppers for durability and comfort
- HydroFlow technology to absorb shock
- MoGo midsole provides a soft and stable cushion
- Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar allows for progressive pronation control
Best Sandals: OluKai Men's Ohana
- OUTSOLE Non-marking rubber outsole with a coral reef lug design for added grip.
- FOOTBED Anatomical compression-molded; EVA midsole with ICEVA drop-in footbed for personalized fit.
- VEGAN FRIENDLY Our vegan friendly footwear offers the durability, traction and support you expect from OluKai while using 100% high-quality synthetic materials, 0% animal products.
- WATER READY Lightweight, quick-drying, breathable and durable materials built for in and around water.
Additional Choices for Men
Top 5 Women’s Shoes
As with men, the best shoes for women with plantar fasciitis will share the same common features. While you may be tempted to try out a smaller size of the top-rated men’s athletic sneakers, purchasing a shoe that is designed specifically for ladies will work best. That’s because a women’s shoe will provide more arch support in all the correct places that lines up just right.
Women are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis, and that’s mainly due to the type of shoes they wear. All doctors- even the stylish ones- will agree that wearing high heeled dress shoes is bad for your feet. They can cause a myriad of problems in the long run, including bunions and calluses, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis (Achilles tendonitis), and Morton’s neuroma, any of which could require surgery to fix. If you have to wear heels, doctors recommend nothing higher than a 2” heel.
Whether you’re going to hit the gym or a spend a day in the office, here are some of the top women’s shoes for plantar fasciitis in any style:
Best Overall: Orthofeet Best Plantar Fasciitis Shoes
- Orthotic support to alleviate heel pain
- Air-cushioned sole facilitates foot motion
- Soft upper eliminates pressure points
- Air pockets in sole add spring to your step
Best For Running: HOKA ONE ONE Womens Clifton 6
Best Dress Shoes: Vionic Noble Laurie
- Lightweight, flexible EVA midsole
- Absorbs shock, reducing stress on feet, ankles and knees
- Deep heel cup and enhanced forefoot contour
Best For Walking: New Balance Women’s 928 V3 Walking Shoe
- Leather upper
- Removable polyurethane footbeds
- Rubber outsole
Best Sandals: Dansko Women’s Sophie Sandal
- Patent or leather uppers
- Dual adjustable buckled straps for a custom and secure fit
- Dri-lex lined sandal to wick away moisture keeping feet cool and fresh
- Pillow-soft footbed cushions every step and offers proper support
- 1 inch platform with 2 inch heel on a shock absorbing, flexible Sausalito outsole
Additional Choices for Women
Meet The Medical Expert Contributors
Wow, what a massive guide on plantar faciitis shoes. I would not have been able to pull this all together without the help from the following experts:
- Dr. Andrew Schneider: a podiatrist in Houston, TX and plantar fasciitis expert at Tanglewood Foot Specialists.
- Barbara J. Aung, DPM, DABPM, CWS, CPMA, CSFAC: a podiatrist in Tuscon, AZ at Aung Foot Health Clinic.
- Brian J. Donohue, DO: Board-certified Family and Sports Medicine Physician at AMITA Health.
- Craig Plumridge: Sports Podiatrist & Director at Pro Feet Podiatry.
- Dr. Douglas S. Hale, DPM: Specialist in biomechanics/orthotics and reconstructive foot and ankle surgery at the Foot Ankle Center Of Washington.
- Dr. Dusty Narducci, MD: Board-certified Family and Sports Medicine Physician at USF Health. Follow Dr. Narducci on Twitter.
- Dr. Lance Silverman, MD: Board-certified member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Founder of Silverman Ankle & Foot.
- Paul T. Marciano, D.P.M., M.S.: Podiatrist at Academy Foot and Ankle Specialists.
Thank you so much for your contribution!
Treating Plantar Fasciitis With Footwear
When you’ve found a good pair of shoes for plantar fasciitis you’ll know it. The beneficial effects can be immediate when you stand up and find that the pressure on your heel and arch is relieved.
Remember, it matters that you have shoes that support and cushion your heel, so pick shoes for every area of your life that can give you the support that you need, including plantar fasciitis insoles to provide arch support for non-therapeutic footwear.
If you invest in some of the best shoes for plantar fasciitis and follow a strict treatment plan you can expect to see plantar fasciitis relief in just weeks. Treatment should include RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) for the affected foot, stretching, and OTC medications to relieve pain when needed. 97% of people who consistently follow an at-home treatment routine will recover fully within six months, 18 at the most.
If your plantar fasciitis does not go away after 6-12 months of home remedies and nonsurgical treatment, it may be time to talk to your doctor about pursuing a more aggressive solution like a corticosteroid injection, shock wave therapy, or surgery to repair the plantar ligament.
I hope this expert medical advice has helped put you on the path to phenomenal footwear that brings quick relief for your plantar fasciitis pain!