Finding the Right Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common injury that causes pain and inflammation in the heel and bottom of the foot. It occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes, becomes irritated and inflamed. This causes stabbing pain that is usually worst with the first steps in the morning or after long periods of rest. For runners, plantar fasciitis can be especially problematic and lead to reduced training and performance. Choosing proper running shoes is one important way to manage and prevent plantar fasciitis pain. Here’s what you need to know about finding the best running shoes if you have plantar fasciitis:

Table of Contents

Cushioning and Shock Absorption

One of the main goals with plantar fasciitis shoes is cushioning and shock absorption in the heel. The repetitive pounding from running can worsen inflammation and pain, so shoes that soften impact are key. Look for running shoes with good rearfoot or heel cushioning using materials like EVA foam or gel inserts. A thick padded sole will help disperse pressure and reduce stress on the plantar fascia. Also consider getting orthotics or inserts, which provide additional cushioning and arch support.

Arch Support

Lack of arch support is a common cause of plantar fasciitis to begin with. When the arches of the feet flatten out too much, it stretches and pulls on the plantar fascia, leading to inflammation. Therefore, running shoes that provide good arch reinforcement are recommended. Seek out shoes with a contoured arch shape, raised midsole, and firm heel counter to prevent excessive pronation or inward rolling of the foot. Stability shoes that prevent overpronation can also be helpful for plantar fasciitis.


While cushioning and support are important, the shoes should still have enough flexibility to allow natural foot movement as you run. Look for a flexible Forefoot sole design that can bend with your foot mechanics through each stride. The flexibility should work in conjunction with stability features to reduce strain on the plantar fascia while still providing comfort. A rocker design with a rounded or curved sole is also recommended as it mimics the natural shape and motion of the foot.

Heel and Toe Drop

The heel to toe drop of running shoes refers to the difference in height between the heel cushioning and the toe area. For plantar fasciitis, a lower heel drop around 4-8mm is often preferable because it puts less strain on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Minimalist zero-drop shoes may not provide enough cushioning for heel strike runners with plantar fasciitis. A lower but not completely flat drop helps encourage a more natural foot strike while still giving cushioning and shock absorption in the heel.

Motion Control

For runners who severely overpronate, motion control shoes are constructed to minimize excess foot movement and provide correctional support. This helps significantly for plantar fasciitis by supporting the arches and preventing the foot from flattening. Look for stiffer stability features like dual density midsoles, straight last shapes, and medial or rearfoot control elements that prevent rolling inwards. Motion control shoes tend to be more rigid but can help stop overstretching of the plantar fascia.

Wide and Spacious Toe Box

A roomy toe box allows your toes to spread out naturally when running, which helps reduce pressure on the plantar fascia. Brands like Altra specifically design shoes with a FootShape toe box that allows toes to relax and move. A wide toe box also prevents squeezing or irritation of bunions, which commonly accompany plantar fasciitis. Just make sure the midfoot and heel are still sufficiently snug for needed support.

Weight and Responsiveness

The weight of the shoe influences running efficiency and recovery. Heavier shoes can actually increase impact on the plantar fascia overtime. Newer technologies allow for lightweight yet supportive frames, which help reduce fatigue and discomfort for your feet. A more responsive feel also helps optimize smooth transitions throughout the gait cycle. Look for lightweight materials in the upper, springy foam or plates in the midsole, and some rigidity around the arch.

Reduce and Rotate

It’s best not to run through pain with plantar fasciitis. Switch between multiple pairs of running shoes from day to day to avoid wearing down supportive features. Retiring shoes after 250-500 miles also helps maintain protective cushioning and function. Limiting running on hard or uneven surfaces can also prevent aggravation of plantar fasciitis while healing. Slowly ramp up mileage and avoid sudden increases in intensity or distance.


Custom orthotics are a common treatment prescribed by podiatrists for plantar fasciitis. They provide customized arch support and help correct overpronation. Orthotics can be fitted to work with your running shoes by removing the original insole and replacing it with the device. There are also over-the-counter inserts which offer additional cushioning and support. However, custom orthotics are often more effective for tailored foot issues.

Stretching and Massage

Proper stretching, massage, and myofascial release help keep the plantar fascia flexible rather than rigid and tight. Activities like yoga, using a tennis ball, and trigger point therapy reduce tension in the feet. Regular calf stretching and plantar fascia stretches before and after running can prevent and manage symptoms. Proper warm-ups and cool-downs give the soft tissues time to transition between rest and motion. Massaging the arch and heel areas improves circulation and can also accelerate recovery.

Men’s vs. Women’s Running Shoes

While many features required in running shoes to manage plantar fasciitis will be the same for men and women, there can be some significant differences based on the average differences in foot shapes and running biomechanics. Women typically have narrower heels compared to men, and their shoes are designed with that in mind. Furthermore, shoe models can differ in weight, midsole materials, and structural support variations according to the gender-specific data. As a result, it’s important to try on different shoe brands and models to get the optimal fit.

Certain shoe models have been highly praised for their ability to relieve the symptoms associated with plantar fasciitis. For instance, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS series, Asics Gel-Kayano series, and New Balance 990 series are touted as the top runnings shoes due to their focus on stability, cushioning, and robust midsole support. However, it is highly recommended to try on shoes in a store to get personalized advice based on your specific foot shape and stride characteristics.

Running Technique and Form

The manner in which you run (your running form) can contribute to the stress on your foot, and consequently, it can either cause or aggravate existing plantar fasciitis. Runners who overstride – thereby landing heavily on their heel – may exacerbate the condition. Working on running technique and transitioning to a midfoot or forefoot landing style can help reduce the impact on the heel, leading to less strain on the plantar fascia. Seek advice from running experts or coaches for an assessment of your running technique and guidance for improvement.

By incorporating these strategies alongside appropriate footwear selection, runners with plantar fasciitis can continue to engage in their favorite activity while managing and alleviating their symptoms effectively.


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