We’ve been delving further into some foot health issues in our blogs these last few weeks and this week we are hoping to shed some light on how plantar fasciitis and foot pain can be affected by your shoes. Specifically, we’d like to investigate if a wide toe box, minimalist shoe can help plantar fasciitis. What is plantar fascia (what is a fascia and what is it planting, anyway?!) and how does your footwear affect it? Read on to find out!
(**Disclaimer: While we at SOM do have a PHD (Positive Happy Dedication) in Sneakerology, we are not podiatrists or physical therapists! We are presenting information we have found helpful and insightful, but as with anything, your mileage may vary!)
Your plantar fascia is a piece of connective tissue that connects the heel of your foot with your toes. It is the main supportive structure for the arch of your foot and is under constant stress, because it is designed to be! When you add extra strain to a muscle that is already under constant tension, small rips or tears can occur. Commonly described as a burning or stabbing pain which is more common first thing in the morning or after long periods of sitting, plantar fasciitis is one of the leading causes of heel pain in the United States.
Plantar fasciitis can affect anyone, and sometimes the causes are unknown, but certain activities or other factors can cause the muscle to become irritated or inflamed; these include: occupations that keep you on your feet, exercise (specifically running), having flat feet or higher than normal arches, being overweight and/or being over 40 years old. That’s the bad news! The good news is that, according to many sources, planters fasciitis can be helped or prevented with proper footwear.
There is some conjecture about what, in fact, is occurring when someone is experiencing plantar fasciitis. For decades, this condition has been treated as an inflammation, and therapies have been based on reduction of inflammation and pain (NSAID medication for pain and icing the affected foot). Research in the past two decades has caused some doctors to reclassify the condition as a degenerative or necrotic process, where the muscles and ligaments are not just in pain, they are dying due to lack of blood flow. (source: https://www.correcttoes.com/foot-help/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Treatment-of-Plantar-Fasciosis_Dr-McClanahan-and-Ingram.pdf) The unfortunate truth is that overbuilt shoes with thick soles and too much padding actually make your feet and leg muscles weaker (think: lazy), change the biomechanics of your gait and can lead to injuries. While there is lots of discussion still to be had about the barefoot lifestyle, one thing cannot be disputed: you were not born with shoes on your feet!
Dr. Ray McClannahan at www.correcttoes.com postulates (see the article referenced above) that standard footwear, with a raised heel, tapered toe box, and “toe spring” (where the toe of the shoe curves up) hold the foot in a position that restricts blood flow and increases stress on the muscles on the bottom of the foot, which can lead to plantar fasciitis. Conversely, a wide toe box, zero drop shoe with a flexible sole can help strengthen feet and allow them to function naturally, as intended.
If you are experiencing plantar fasciitis pain, thinking that barefoot inspired shoes will “fix” the problem may not be the case! Some of the articles we reviewed while preparing this blog actually recommended the opposite: support the arch, cushion the sole and heel as much as possible, invest in supportive orthotics, etc.. The underlying concept most of these articles and doctors came back to, however, was that once the pain subsides you need to do something about the underlying CAUSE of the pain, or else you will be treating the EFFECTS forever! Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so if you are worried about foot pain, making the move to minimalist shoes can help strengthen your feet and calves, let your toes stretch out and have room to play, and put you back in touch with your original Sense of Motion that you were born with: all of this is possible in a zero drop minimalist shoe!
In closing, while we are not doctors, we are SUPER passionate about helping people increase the quality of their lives from the toes up! If we can help anyone find relief from foot pain with barefoot style shoes or help educate people about the foot health benefits of minimalist footwear, then we will go home happy! Thank you for reading about the correlation between wide toe box minimalist shoes and plantar fasciitis. We hope you learned something! So long for now!