hiking feet with plantar fasciitis

Hiking With Plantar Fasciitis: A Cure

In This Guide
  • Do You Actually Have Plantar Fasciitis?
  • What Plantar Fasciitis and How to Treat It
  • Hiking With Plantar Fasciitis
  • Best Hiking Boots For Plantar Fasciitis

As a hiker, runner, and walker, I have struggled with plantar fasciitis many times over the years. The traditional advice wasn’t working for me. And “not walking” for a few months is just not practical in any way. So I went beyond the traditional treatment and wisdom and started exploring alternatives. And the good news is that I finally cured my plantar fasciitis. I haven’t had plantar fasciitis in years after following the guidelines in this article.

I’m by no means a medical professional, just a guy who spends a lot of time on my feet. I’m simply sharing my experience in the hopes that it will work for you too.

Is your heel pain a plantar fasciitis symptom?

In general, plantar fasciitis a really intense pain on your heel when you walk, and it’s worse when you first wake up.

These are the typical symptoms that would suggest your heel pain is plantar fasciitis:

Generally you are susceptible if you:

When I first got plantar fasciitis, I thought I had broken my foot, which I’ve also done when running (albeit when I was very overweight). The difference is that when I broke my foot, I experienced a sharp, white-hot pain when my foot came down from a stride. Plantar fasciitis, when you first get it, starts as a subtle pain, if anything. The real kick is about 1 hour after you’ve pushed yourself and when you wake up the morning after.

Okay, I think I have this, what is plantar fasciitis?

Welcome to a painful world. In a nutshell, you’ve overworked the shock absorber for your foot (your arch). In general, this happens because your feet are too weak and/or your muscles are too tight.

diagram of plantar fasciitis
The anatomy of pain. The plantar fascia that attach the bottom of your foot to your back leg muscles have torn.

Your leg’s shock absorber goes from the arch of your foot, through your Achilles tendon, and up your calf and hamstring. Here’s another diagram to explain.

Plantar Fasciiits3
Photo: Neurology Update

Walking on your forefoot activates the natural shock absorbing system in your legs, which is mainly your hamstrings, but requires your arch and hamstrings to be strong enough to take the shock over and over again. When people walk more or shift their ground contact forward (like in minimal running), they strain the system.

And when you push that shock absorbing system too much, your plantar fascia can tear. The plantar fascia connects the shock absorbing system to your foot bones. And that’s where the pain is. Once you’ve torn your plantar fascia and you continue to step down on it, you further inflame and agitate it.

Maybe you’re thinking “well, I’ll just walk on my heels.” That would work, except that it leads to shin splints. Another fun one.

So what do you do? You need to stop, heal, and strengthen your shock absorbing system.

My Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

rolling foot on golf ball
The solutions that worked best turned out to be the simplest (and cheapest) ones.

After lots of doctors visits and trying all different types of cures, these are the ones that worked. They all involved stretching and strengthening my shock absorber system. And unfortunately, some rest. But with some hiking shoes for plantar fasciitis I was able to get some hiking in (more later).

There are a million products out there advertising a cure for plantar fasciitis, but these simple ones worked the best.

I’ll mention the boot that you wear at night, because you’ll probably see it around if you’ve been trying to figure this all out. What it does it basically force a gentle hamstring stretch. If you want to give it a try, it can’t hurt. It didn’t work as well as the other options for me though.

The Arch Support Myth

Some doctors told me that I needed more arch support, but that was actually why I got plantar fasciitis. By wearing heavily padded running shoes (which felt great), my feet and shock absorber muscles didn’t have to work, and got weak. Then when I hiked with boots that didn’t have all that cushioning, my feet had to work overtime.

If you want to strengthen your feet and avoid plantar fasciitis on your hikes, you should get a shoe without any arch support for your day-to-day life. The stronger your feet are the better. Do this after you’ve fully recovered from you plantar fasciitis though. I have some good picks later in the article.

Hiking With Plantar Fasciitis

If you absolutely must hike with plantar fasciitis, here’s the move. First, realize that you are just hurting yourself more. You will have to rest longer when your hike is over.

But sometimes you just have to hike, I get it. You’re going to want to support your arches as much as possible while you have plantar fasciitis.  When you hike, try to come down closer to your heel. Again, it’s not healthy, but if you have to make a hike, this is the way to get through the day.

Reducing the weight that you’re carrying and the distance that you’re traveling will help too.

This is not the long term solution though (more on that coming…).

Best Hiking Boots For Plantar Fasciitis

If you must hike with plantar fasciitis, go with a lot of cushion. If you’re an experienced hiker, you probably know that many traditional hiking boots have a flat sole, with no cushion. So here are the options:

  1. Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP (for women and men) – Most hiking boots don’t have much, if any, arch support, but these Merrell’s do. This model offers contoured footbeds with zonal arch and heel support, so they end up feeling like comfortable sneakers. They also are great hiking boots in their own right. You don’t have to break them in at all, they’re good to go out of the box.
  2. Superfeet Green Insoles – Okay, this isn’t a boot, but most folks already have boots that have flat soles. So if that’s you, save your money and just get a pair of these great insoles.
  3. Any Oboz hiking boots or hiking shoes are great choices. Oboz is known for making comfortable shoes, and the hiking options are no different.
  4. Hoka Trail Running Shoes (for women and men) have a ton of cushioning and support, but offer less protection than a hiking boot. If you don’t need as much protection, they’re a great choice. If anything, they’re great for everyday usage.

If you need something for off the trail, get Crocs.  Yea, I know they look funny. But they’re super comfortable and come in not so crazy styles so you don’t look like a 4 year old.

How do I never, ever ever, get this again?

 

sanuk pick pocket
I like these Sanuk Pick Pocket shoes for casual use. In addition to being really comfortable, the sole is a flat sandal sole, which strengthens your feet, which is what you need to do.

Once you’ve fully recovered, you have to build your foot strength up and get more flexible.

When you’re better, get a good pair of hiking boots that keep your feet strong and protected. You can see what I use on my gear page.

See the Gear I Use


Cover photo MissyLeone