Plantar fasciitis is a common and unpleasant cause of a lot of foot pain in runners. If you’ve ever found yourself experiencing stabbing pains in your heels, especially in the morning, you may be suffering from PF.
While you can treat this condition with common pain relievers, the best strategy long-term is to prevent flare-ups, which begs the question: are cushioned shoes good for plantar fasciitis?
Essentially, plantar fasciitis is heel pain caused by stress to the tissue band (the fascia) that connects the heel bone to the toes. The problem is more common in runners and people who are obese. On a basic level, this suggests that physical impact plays a role in the condition developing.
Cushioned running shoes can be an effective preventative strategy for reducing the stress of physical impact on the foot while walking or running.
Cushioning in running shoes is designed to absorb shock, which — theoretically — dissipates some of the stress that would otherwise go on the foot, joints, and muscles of the individual wearing the footwear.
That said, it’s not as simple as saying all cushioned running shoes are good for plantar fasciitis. Not all pairs of shoes are created equal, and the amount of cushioning in a running shoe design will influence the overall efficacy of preventing PF flare-ups.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue band along the bottom of the foot gets injured. This ligament, known as the plantar fascia, is just under the skin and supports the foot arch. Its primary function is to absorb the strain placed on the foot through activity (like standing or playing sports).
Plantar fasciitis is not well understood; however, the general belief is that high stress can cause tears or other damage to the plantar fascia, which leads to inflammation. Being a runner, wearing the wrong shoe, or being overweight can put more stress on the feet, increasing the risk of PF. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury.
The body sends out inflammatory cells to the site to address the issue, whether repairing damaged tissue or fighting off foreign infection. The side effect of this process is that the individual experiences symptoms like swelling, redness, and pain.
The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain near the base of the heel. Unlike other foot pain during activity, PF is often most pronounced when you wake up in the morning and first get out of bed or after periods of inactivity (like sitting at a desk for long periods). For a plantar fasciitis sufferer, the pain is greater after the activity, not during.
Don’t confuse plantar fasciitis with heel spurs, though the two conditions are often linked. A heel spur is a build-up of calcium on the heel, often caused by wearing ill-fitting or damaged shoes, running on hard surfaces, or other high-stress activities that put pressure on the back half of the foot. A heel spur results from damage to the plantar fascia and the membrane that covers the heel.
How To Best Treat And Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
In the short term, plantar fasciitis is treated with the same strategies used to address other forms of inflammation.
Icing the affected areas, stretching, and avoiding high-impact activity are recommended. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen will temporarily reduce some of the symptoms since that medication addresses inflammation; acetaminophen is less effective because it has no anti-inflammatory properties.
Several physical therapies can treat plantar fasciitis, and if this is a recurring problem, it would be wise to seek treatment from a qualified Physical Therapist.
Your doctor or therapist is the best person to recommend a treatment regime. Most likely, this plan involves stretching the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon. In addition to learning various stretches, you may need to use medical devices like night splints (which help stretch your feet in your sleep), or a custom orthotic (additional arch support you put in your shoes).
You may even benefit from applying athletic taping to the foot.
While there are multiple strategies for reducing the risk of developing foot inflammation (i.e., stretching exercises, maintaining a healthy weight, etc.), one of the best ways to prevent plantar fasciitis is to reduce the stress placed on your feet.
You can best accomplish this by wearing properly fitted running shoes that address your specific needs.
Running shoe cushioning is the amount of shock absorption a pair offers.
When running, every time your foot hits the ground, it lands with a force roughly equal to four times your body weight. That is a lot of pressure to put on your feet, joints, and muscles!
Running shoe cushioning reduces the impact by absorbing some of the physical vibrations that would otherwise be absorbed naturally by your body.
There are different styles of running shoe cushioning for different needs and preferences. There are also different approaches to cushioning. For example, some of the best sneakers feature heels filled with “gel” that specifically reduces the impact on the joints when running, while other pairs may focus on a flexible midsole that offers a more natural-feeling cushioning.
Some running shoes may have optional inserts to customize how soft the shoes feel.
How Running Shoe Cushioning Can Help With Plantar Fasciitis
Because plantar fasciitis results from stress and strain put on the fascia, running shoe cushioning is good for plantar fasciitis — at least, generally speaking.
Properly fitted running shoes in good condition will offer noticeable relief when running. The shock absorption takes the stress off the foot, reducing the risk of tears and other injuries to the plantar fascia. Make sure you change your running shoes regularly to maintain adequate support.
There are other factors to consider as well. If you have any gait issues, you need to address that with your shoes. If you have serious arch problems, you may still require a premium orthotic insole on top of cushioning.
How often you run and where you run are also factors to consider. For example, if you want to run outside on uneven terrain, you may need trail running shoes.
Are Cushioned Shoes Better For Running? The Pros And Cons
It feels great to step into a pair of super plush shoes — but are cushioned shoes better for running? There are pros and cons to running shoe cushioning.
Pros of Cushioned Running Shoes
For the most part, cushioning in running shoes offers a more comfortable run. Some users love the cloud-like feeling of lush, deeply cushioned shoes. The Hoka One One Clifton is famous for its high level of cushioning, often described as highly comfortable and marshmallow-like. This Hoka shoe is very effective for reducing strain.
For anyone who has issues while running — whether that be a history of injury, having flat feet, or being a heavy runner — cushioning offers a reliable way to reduce some of the stress of running on hard, flat surfaces like asphalt.
Cushioned running shoes also come in a variety of styles, which means that individuals have many options to find the perfect fit. The high-quality ON Running Cloudswift Sneakers offer a top-of-the-line compromise between comfort, support, and traction, while the WHITIN Men’s Max Cushioned Running Shoes offer a more budget-friendly cushioned shoe that still allows for natural flexibility and stability. Ultimately, what works for you will come down to your individual preferences and needs.
Cons of Cushioned Running Shoes
Running shoe cushioning offers more shock absorption, which reduces the stress on one’s joints. However, like most things in life, it’s never that simple.
While highly cushioned running shoes may feel more comfortable, they don’t all offer the required support to prevent injury.
That super-plush feeling can come at the cost of a heavier shoe weight or less bounce, both of which might have a detrimental effect on overall performance and speed. These hoes can also encourage a gait that puts a lot of pressure on the heels, which obviously, is a habit to get out of if you suffer from plantar fasciitis.
One study published in 2018 found that the highly-cushioned running shoes may cause an increase in leg stiffness. In other words, the cushioning in the shoe subtly discourages the user from naturally absorbing force through unconscious means: bending the knees. Essentially, the study finds that much like too-little padding, too much padding increases impacts.
Another downside to cushioning in running shoes is that it can reduce the natural feel of running. This is mainly a personal preference — although, in outdoor situations, this may lead to a higher risk of injury. Trail running shoes often have less cushioning and more structure, making them more effective for running on uneven, rocky terrain.
Are Cushioned Shoes Good For Plantar Fasciitis?
If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, investigating your footwear is a good first step in solving the issue.
Cushioned running shoes are not a perfect solution — especially the highly cushioned varieties — but wearing them is a proven method for reducing foot strain versus wearing other non-cushioned footwear.
There are various types of cushioning on the market, too, meaning that there are options for every runner — regardless of your level of fitness, age, or body type. Ultimately, it comes down to finding the footwear that works best for you.
Plantar fasciitis does not go away on its own. It discourages activity, but being sedentary is not helpful to the condition. In the short term, there are various strategies for relieving the pain. But for a long-term solution, you must address the underlying cause.
Getting the right pair of shoes is essential for long-term comfort, whether you’re looking for a running shoe, walking shoe, hiking shoe, or dress shoe.