Plantar fasciitis can get in the way of everyday activity.
When you feel that sharp pain in the bottom of your foot and heel sitting down is the only thing that seems to help. But many people who suffer from foot issues still want to be active.
Patients often ask me if it’s okay to go walking with plantar fasciitis.
Happily yes, walking is perfectly fine with plantar fasciitis. In fact, some find that walking makes their feet feel better since it stretches out the foot tissue. Walking is a great way to stay in shape when heel pain prevents you from doing much else. And for those vocational walkers who spend most of the workday on their feet, it’s simply something that can’t be avoided.
Here is the caveat: You must have the right shoes when you’re walking! Don’t even think about going barefoot. Many studies have found inadequate footwear to be a major contributing factor to plantar fasciitis. Good quality shoes will provide you with the right cushioning and arch support to lessen the stress on your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. Otherwise, you could be making the condition worse.
And here’s the other requirement: always make sure to get in a good foot, ankle, and calf stretch before and after walking.
Does Walking Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?
Plantar fasciitis happens when the plantar fascia ligament that connects to the heel bone stretches, tears, and becomes inflamed. You might feel inflammation and pain in the arch of your foot as well as stabbing heel pain. It’s often due to the stress and pressure of overuse and is especially common in people with flat feet. When your plantar Fasciitis acts up even standing can cause intense pain, so you’d think that walking would make the condition worse.
This isn’t necessarily true. In itself, the act of walking doesn’t make plantar Fasciitis worse. It’s the way you walk that makes the difference. This includes both the way you balance your weight on each foot and your walking habits.
Walking habits that can make plantar Fasciitis worse are:
- Walking barefoot
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or offer enough support
- Walking on hard surfaces
- Walking too fast or for a long time
Do I Always Need To Stretch Before Walking?
Yes! In fact, you should always stretch before doing any physical activity. And it wouldn’t hurt to do some simple stretches in the morning and at night before bed. When you sleep or sit for long periods the plantar fascia in your foot starts to grow tight. That’s why you may experience the most heel and arch pain in the morning when you take your first steps out of bed. You’ll experience less foot discomfort as the ligament has some time to “warm-up.”
The same concept is true before you go for a walk, whether it’s outdoors, on a track, or on a treadmill. Stretching will do more than reduce foot pain, it will also enhance your performance and reduce soreness afterward. Since everything is connected, be sure to stretch your ankle, groin, hamstring, and calf muscles as well.
Can I Wear Running Shoes For Walking?
Studies have shown that regularly wearing “poor shoes” can contribute to foot problems in the future, especially if you have a flat foot. Likewise, worn out, ill-fitting shoes only exacerbate plantar fasciitis symptoms. A comfortable pair of walking shoes is an invaluable investment for anyone with plantar fasciitis. Supportive shoes can also help with heel spur and osteoarthritis pain. Running shoes are sometimes recommended to plantar Fasciitis patients as well. So what’s the difference?
It will depend on how you’re wearing the shoes. Do you want shoes for brisk fitness walking? In this case, you might be able to get away with running shoes. Running shoes are more flexible, which may make them easier to move quickly in. And if you’re a runner they can do double duty. However, they don’t offer as much cushioning support as running shoes so you may experience more of an ache in your foot later.
If you want shoes for casual or workplace walking, shoes made especially for walking are the best bet. While they’re a bit heavier and less flexible than running shoes, they have more cushioning for your arch and heel, and are better for standing for long periods.
Is it Okay to Walk on the Treadmill With Plantar Fasciitis?
If you’re a fan of the treadmill, start out by taking it easy when plantar fasciitis symptoms appear. It’s an okay option if you slowly increase your activity over time. However, the treadmill is not the optimal choice with plantar Fasciitis.
That’s because when you exercise on a treadmill you’re taking more steps in a shorter period than you normally would. This can aggravate the injury. And while you may be burning more calories with the incline function, the extra biomechanical strain isn’t doing your plantar fascia any favors.
Walking outdoors is a great option for plantar fasciitis sufferers. The ground is more forgiving on overused feet, especially if you’re walking on grass or dirt trails. And the terrain variations can help strengthen stabilizing muscles in your foot and ankle. If possible opt for natural surfaces rather than hard asphalt or concrete to reduce impact.
Of course, walking outdoors isn’t always an option due to factors like the weather and your location. So if you do decide to hit the gym, try to focus on low-impact equipment like the elliptical, exercise bike, or rowing machine instead of the treadmill. With these machines, you don’t go through the entire range of motion that you would when running. This puts less pressure on your feet.
And as always, remember to warm up before, cool down after, and do rehab and stretching exercises.
Should I Limit Walking with Plantar Fasciitis?
I don’t recommend complete rest when plantar Fasciitis symptoms appear. While rest can certainly help reduce inflammation, that plantar fascia still needs to be stretched and worked to aid in the healing process. However, you don’t want to do anything to add extra strain to the bottom of your foot. Avoid running and stick to walking for about two weeks while you work on self-treatment.
Here are some tips to follow when you go walking that will cause the least stress on a foot injury:
- Make sure to stretch both before and after your walk.
- Wear proper shoes for walking
- Wear a supportive foot wrap, compression sleeve, or plantar fasciitis socks
- Use shoe inserts to provide extra arch support and cushioning.
- Avoid walking on hard surfaces.
- Ice your feet afterward. This will reduce the inflammation.
How Long Does it Take for Plantar Fasciitis to Go Away?
With self-treatment, most people with plantar Fasciitis recover within a year. Those who follow a strict treatment routine can recover in six weeks or less, depending on the severity of the condition.
Get back on your feet quicker with home remedies like:
- Physical therapy and plantar fascia exercises
- Self-massage of the plantar tendon with your hands, a foam roller, or tennis ball
- Icing the bottom of your foot at the end of the day
- Some people experience benefits from deep heat wraps
- Wearing a night splint
- Anti-inflammatory medications
If you continue to experience foot and heel pain when you walk it might be time to visit your doctor or physical therapist. A doctor might recommend other treatments such as formal physical therapy, steroid injection, ultrasound shockwave therapy, or even surgery.
Staying in shape is crucial. If you’re a chronic plantar fasciitis sufferer you can’t let foot and heel pain stop you from getting the exercise you need. Walking, stretching, strengthening are the best exercises for plantar Fasciitis. Invest in a good walking shoe now and your feet will thank you for it later.
The first steps to relieving your plantar fasciitis pain are as easy as taking a walk around the block. Just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll be on the road to recovery!