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What Are The Best Shoes For Plantar Fasciitis?

Ill-fitting footwear is the #1 cause of most foot and heel conditions including plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammer toes, and Achilles tendinopathy.

I also believe that ill-fitting footwear is the leading cause of ALL, yes, all, foot and ankle disorders including bunions, hammer toes, over-pronation, and Achilles tendinopathy.

In fact, if you don't address your footwear, you will never resolve this condition

You might be thinking, I don’t wear high heels anymore, or I gave up my narrow toe dress shoes or my converse.

But that’s not the type of footwear I’m referring to. I’m talking about the shoes that you might think are good for your feet could actually be causing your plantar fasciitis.

In this article, I will explain exactly what makes a healthy shoe, and what shoe brands could be helping or even causing your problem.

Why These Shoe Brands Are Not Recommended For Plantar Fasciitis

Many people when they first begin to have that excruciating morning foot or heel pain will do a quick google search and read a few articles. You will find hundreds of resources and suggestions for the “best shoes for plantar fasciitis. .

The most common suggestions are for brands like Hokas, New Balance, Brooks, Birkenstocks, and Oofos.

However, all of those brands have damaging features that could be keeping you from resolving your foot pain.

If you are relying on one of these brands to fix your feet, You will be disappointed with the result.

What Makes A Healthy Shoe?

I want to start with listing the necessary criteria in your shoes that will support your feet and plantar fasciitis. These features are consistent with functional, natural footwear that are made to accommodate the normal shape of our feet.

Here's the necessary criteria:

  • Wide Toe Box

  • Zero Heel-to-Toe Drop Sole (Flat Sole)

  • No Toe Spring (Upward Angle Of The Toe Box)

  • Thin, Flexible Sole

  • No Built-In Arch Support

  • No Thick, Cushiony Soles

Let's get into more detail regarding each of the necessary criteria for healthy footwear.

4 Criteria For Healthy Footwear

Our feet are inherently strong and do not need extra arch support, extra cushioning, or elevation of the heel. It seems that the less “technology” a shoe has, the better it is for the foot.

The more a shoe externally “supports” the feet, the less internal strength the the feet develop. The feet actually become dependent on "supportive" shoes with extra stabilizing features because they’ve become so weakened and deformed by the shape and technology built into the footwear.

When discussing foot health, the design of your footwear should include critical criteria. The following design features are foot-health-positive:

1.) A Wide Toe Box

The #1 most damaging feature is a narrow or tapered toe box. Again, I’m not referring to women’s high heels, this applies to men’s shoes, casual shoes and even running shoes.

When we cram our feet and toes into footwear with narrow toe boxes, our feet can not function normally, and overtime, begin to weaken and atrophy.

Our toes even begin to deform and shift inward. Many of you may have noticed how your big toe has started to angle inward. This causes so many problems.

Sadly, most ALL footwear narrows at the toe creating tremendous stress on our feet.

The intrinsic muscles of the foot, your arch muscles, which I like to call, the foot core, will basically shut down and your foot will lose its ability to absorb shock.

Can you see how that would be a problem?

To function optimally, the foot should spread and splay wide at the forefoot. If this action is interrupted, our feet get weak this leads to PF.

We want a shoe that is widest at the toe to encourage natural toe splay and spreading of the toes

Want to know how to test and see if your shoes are wide enough? Go to your closet and pick your favorite shoes or the ones you wear most often

Take the insole out of your shoes stand on it and if any part of your foot extends over the insert, then that shoe is contributing to your plantar fasciitis.

2.) Avoid Elevation Of The Heel

Elevation of the heel in footwear is one of the most damaging characteristics. Sadly, it's not just high heels and women's shoes. It is present in casual shoes, men's shoes, and even running shoes.

You would think that if most shoe designers added this feature there would be solid evidence to support the presence, but there is none.

Elevating the heel causes excessive stress on the forefoot because it places the foot in a downward angle. It also causes a chronic shortening of the heel cord (the Achilles tendon and calf muscles). So, it contributes to Achilles tendon issues

Zero Drop is The term used to describe a completely flat shoe from heel to toe. When a shoe has Zero drop, it distributes body weight evenly across the foot and encourages natural arch support.

3.) Avoid Heavily Cushioned Shoes

You may have noticed that one of the newest trends is to get these running shoes that have heavy cushioning. Brands such as Hokas and Oofos.

They may seem to be a good option because they look so comfy. However, the thicker the cushion is below your foot, the less your foot can move properly and it actually hinders your normal shock absorption which can lead to more injuries.

The amount of cushioning is referred to as stack height. I’m not opposed to some cushioning, but the excessive stack heights are unnecessary.

A running shoe with very thick cushioning is referred to as a "maximalist" running shoe. Maximalist running shoes have a stack height of 30mm or more.

Running shoe companies are convinced that you need a "maximalist" shoe to protect your feet and joints from impact, and offer anti-pronation correction.

However, a new study from Oregon State University has discovered that this concept could be unfounded.

The study involved 15 female runners. The researchers noted that the women almost uniformly landed harder in the maximalist shoes than the neutral pair.

They also pronated more, meaning that their ankles rolled inward slightly when they pushed off.

Here are the main points from the study:

  • Runners in “maximalist” cushioned running shoes hit the ground harder, and pronate more than runners in neutral shoes.

  • The super stacked soles of the maximalist shoes also affect balance. The higher the stack, the more unstable.

  • The researchers also noted that extra layers of foam could limit road feel, which is our bodies’ sense of where the ground is and alter biomechanics.

Read the full article posted in the New York Times, "Super Cushioned Running Shoes Are All The Rage, But Aren't Foolproof".

My conclusion is that extra padding and squishy shoes do not promote natural foot movement, and can create long term damage to your feet.

4.) Avoid Rigid, Inflexible Footwear

Our feet are designed to function and move freely as we walk and run. Our footwear should allow this motion to occur.

When our shoes have rigid soles, our feet can move fully and this can lead to weakness of our foot muscles.

5.) Avoid Built-In Arch Supports

Another damaging feature is built-in arch supports and anti-pronation technology. I’m sure you have seen shoes with this feature like Birkenstocks and Chacos and running shoes with added arch support.

These supports prevent your normal pronation. Pronation is not a bad thing, It is a necessary action.

This feature doesn’t allow your feet to work on it’s own and only further weakens your feet

The less “technology” a shoe has, the better it is for the foot. The more a shoe externally “supports” the feet, the less internal strength the feet develop.

The feet actually become dependent on "supportive" shoes and orthotics.

6.) Avoid Toe Spring

Toe spring is a toe-deforming shoe feature present in most shoes, especially running shoes. Toe spring is an upward angle of the shoe’s toe box. The current industry standard for toe spring for most types of footwear is 15 degrees.

It shortens the muscles from the top of the foot (toe extensor muscles) all the way up the front of the leg along the shin bones and can lead to shin splints.

Toe spring is essentially a rocker and rolls your foot forward during your walking and running gaits. It immobilizes your toes in an unnatural position for an extended time. .

This feature create mechanical problems in our feet and lower legs.

Our foot is designed to be flat and to adapt to the different terrain under foot. When stuck in a shoe for a long period of time. the foot will get lazy or develop unnaturally bad habits.

So, to put it simply, toe spring is a feature that is not needed in footwear and in my opinion is actually quite dangerous to foot and gait health.

How To Transition To Natural Footwear

My solution to this footwear epidemic is to remove the cause of your problem by removing traditional footwear.

Transition to natural, functional footwear that are made to accommodate the normal shape of our feet.

The transition from normal footwear to minimalist should be gradual to avoid injury. You wouldn’t run a marathon without increasing your mileage slowly, right?

A smooth transition is important to avoid soreness. Listen to your body and consider slowly moving to functional footwear.

Wear your new barefoot shoes for short periods of time and then gradually increase wear-time as your foot adapts.

The functional footwear I wear and recommend are Altras, Xero Shoes, Flux Footwear, and VivoBarefoot Shoes (use code PFdoc10) for 10% off Vivo.

They offer all the aforementioned features that help restore your feet back to their natural shape, form and function.

Can I Treat Plantar Fasciitis At Home?

As a chiropractor and foot specialist, I often see patients with plantar fasciitis after they’ve tried everything. Cortisone shots, night splints, ineffective stretching, and rolling on a frozen water bottle are a few of their failed remedies.

If you’re wondering how to treat plantar fasciitis at home, I want to share a few insights that have worked for my patients. The solution for most of my patients is through addressing multiple factors.

  • Improving limited ankle mobility and dorsiflexion

  • Strengthening weak intrinsic foot muscles

  • Strengthening weak calf, soleus, and peroneal muscles

  • Switching to natural, functional footwear

  • Wearing toe separators

Rarely is there a quick fix for PF. Identifying areas of weakness in the foot and ankle and restoring proper foot function is the most important piece of the puzzle.

I have created a step-by-step comprehensive guide on how to resolve Plantar Fasciitis at Home. Take a look at my FREE GUIDE here.


Dealing with the pain of plantar fasciitis can be life changing--but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. By arming yourself with knowledge and taking charge of your healing, you can get back to the activities you love and feel like yourself again.

If you have additional questions about heel pain and plantar fasciitis, don’t hesitate to reach out. I'm here to help get you back on your feet--literally.

One of the most IMPORTANT things you can do to fix your feet is to learn as much as you can about the condition and how to prevent recurrence. Follow Dr. Angela's social media pages for daily tips on footwear, exercises, and prevention on Facebook & Instagram!

Best of Health,

🦶 Dr. Angela

I have also written extensively on the topic of Plantar Fasciitis. Take a look at these other related blog posts:

3 Main Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Can Orthotics Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?

Are Flip-Flops Bad For Your Feet?

Why Should I Wear Toe Spacers?

Can I Still Exercise with Plantar Fasciitis?

Dos & Don'ts of Plantar Fasciitis

Can Stretching Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse?

Hi, I'm Dr. Angela Walk

I have been involved in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years as a wellness physician, sports chiropractor, and foot health coach.

I have written extensively for health publications and I am keenly aware of trends and new developments. I embrace an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices.

By working to inform readers of the options available to them, I hope to improve your health and quality of life.

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