How to heal plantar fasciitis quickly
Imagine the look you’d give someone walking barefoot outside. A few thoughts would cross your mind: Are they crazy? Could they be a hippie? Are they unable to afford shoes? At the end of the day, watching someone walking barefoot outdoors just feels wrong.
Wearing shoes is a must we’re told, and rightfully so. We learn how to tie our laces into bunny loops when we turn 3. By the time we hit school, we have a different pair of shoes for each type of occasion. Given their highly fashionable nature, people can spend thousands of dollars for Jordans, Guccis, or Yeezys nowadays.
However, what if I told you shoes can often be counterintuitive to your foot health? Or even your back health?
In fact, we have a laundry list of conditions, particularly plantar fasciitis related to poor foot wear choices. The problem lies shoes that are:
- Too heavy
- Too tight
- Too tall
And they all have one thing in common: They are NOT shaped or designed for the human foot. Want to know how to heal plantar fasciitis quickly? The shoes are the problem, and you’ll soon learn they are the solution too.
If you think I’m trying to scare you about your shoes, it’s because I am. I can’t believe that we haven’t changed the way we think about them. As a seasoned physiotherapist, it’s virtually impossible to find people who have feet that look similar to ones they were born with. I want you to take a good look at an infant’s feet the next chance you get. What do you see? Toes that spread a bit more outwards, not inwards. In fact, their feet look more like a pair of hands with the way they move. And like a good set of hands, their feet can freely interact with the environment.
The following are shoe types you definitely need to avoid if you want happy, healthy feet:
Shoes that Compress the Feet
Why do we allow our feet to compress in the first place? I blame fashion. As an individual with particularly flat and large feet, it’s nearly impossible to find shoes that fit. It doesn’t matter what brand or style I choose, I always feel like I’m strangling my feet every step I take.
I’ll hear the sorry excuse from people that I just need to “work” my feet into the new shoes. Knowing what I know now, I was shocked by how passive people are about this issue. In fact, they assume a nice and snug fit is even ideal for casual shoes.
Now before I go on bashing tight shoes, there is an instance when you want tighter fitting shoes. That’s for sports and athletics. Because you spend anywhere from 1-2 hours pushing your body to its limits, the goal is to have good support. However, we spend the majority of our day either sitting, standing, or simply walking. In these cases, we need something that will allow our feet to be, well, feet. The following is a way on how to heal plantar fasciitis quickly:
Minimalism is the approach I prefer and recommend. Ultimately, it comes down to allowing your feet to operate as naturally and freely as possible. The “less-is-more” approach is what will typically help the feet achieve this ability. Try looking for the following:
1) Space, allowing your toes to move freely.
Check right now if you can move your toes up and down without restriction.
2) Space between the edges of your foot and the inside of the shoe.
Your foot shouldn’t feel sandwiched at any point.
3) It also shouldn’t feel like something is digging into your ankle.
You shouldn’t be getting any blisters or even bruising along your Achilles tendon.
Shoes that Elevate the Feet
Put it this way, the more elevated your feet are from the floor, the less control you have over where you stand. Why? Because our feet (just like our hands) have a lot of tiny, intrinsic muscles that give us feedback about the surface we stand on. Ideally, shoe soles should be thin and pliable, allowing your feet to interact with anything they step on.
A simple visualization is stepping on a baseball. Your shoes should have enough flexibility to bend, allowing your foot to bend with it. When this happens, the muscles of your foot can receive more signals about their environment. A foot doing that is more adaptable, more stable, and stronger.
If feet don’t get the opportunity to move much, they’ll get extremely tight. So much so that they can develop conditions like plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. And if you’ve ever had one of these you know how painfully annoying they can be. That’s not to say shoes are the primary cause but they can definitely contribute.
Now if you ask me what the three worst types of shoes are, I would say: “high heels, high heels, and you guessed it, high heels.” Elevated heels put undue strain on the feet as well as the ankles. Over prolonged periods of time, this will also lead to calf tightness and cramping. Eventually, conditions like Achilles tendonitis can gradually develop “out of nowhere.”
The double whammy about high heels is that their tapering fit compresses your toes. This can lead bunions, boney bumps that emerge on the outside of your toe joints. This degeneration is caused by poorly fitted shoes. Want another way on how to heal plantar fasciitis quickly? Don’t use high heels ever again.
Shoes that Limit Ankle Movement
Lastly, you want to avoid shoes that block ankle movement. Those struggling most are my construction guys who wear big, tall, steel-toed boots. Not only are they on their feet all day, their ankles never budge. If that’s not bad enough, these shoes can also be very heavy.
I can’t tell people to stop wearing steel-toe boots since they are mandated at work, and for good reason. Their work environment puts their feet and toes at risk of getting crushed by heavy objects. However, finding the right boots is as simple as selecting ones that are low-cut and much lighter. Yes, this is possible – you just need to look. Changing steel-toe boots has been an effective strategy for a lot of my clients who must wear them at work.
Interestingly enough, these shoes can also lead to knee pain. Since the ankles can’t move much, the knees must take a larger responsibility in moving the legs. And as the saying goes:
In the same right, movement goes to the knees when it’s not available at the ankles. Keeping our ankles moving also keeps our knees happy.
A Few More Issues That May Promote Plantar Fasciitis Pain:
Shoes that are worn too much:
If you wear shoes for the majority of the day, you are depriving your feet the opportunity to move and work. I cannot stress how much we need our feet to move. Remember the huge amount of muscles we have in them? If you don’t need to wear shoes at any point during the day, see if you can take them off. You sure as heck don’t need them while you sit down.
Shoes that are worn out:
Check the bottom of your shoes. Notice a wearing-down pattern? You might even see specific areas where it happens more. I’ll often look at my clients shoes to determine how they distribute their pressure while walking. Additionally, it’s important to note that asymmetrical wearing patterns on shoes will affect how you use your feet.
My recommendation: take the next few minutes after reading this to look at your soles and determine if they are heavily worn out. If so, it might be time to get a new pair of shoes.
So, here’s how to heal plantar fasciitis quickly
Treat your foot with a bit more respect. Shoes make a huge difference with how your feet feel and last in the long run. Be very selective with what you allow on your feet. Don’t even look at shoes that compress your feet. Freedom to move and bend your toes and ankles should be the number one thing you look for, not fashion.
Avoiding shoes that are heavy can save you from constant foot, ankle, and knee fatigue. Lastly, use a minimalism approach to casual footwear. Less in the way of the foot is more in the way of its health.
Here’s one more life hack to promote better foot health: Find any excuse to walk around with your bare feet whenever possible and realistic. If you’re at home right now, don’t wear any socks or slippers – give your feet a bit of freedom.
Imagine how your hands would feel if they were in mittens (not gloves) the entire day. Something this simple can have a significant impact on decreasing or even preventing future foot & ankle problems.