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Plantar Fasciitis and Compression Socks

Plantar Fasciitis is an overuse injury of the foot that is associated with heel pain and severe foot cramping.  The pain is caused by the inflammation of the ligament that connects your heel bone to the ball of your foot. I suffered from it one summer but found a great deal of relief using compression socks.

I’ve tried a number of different strategies to promote the healing process:

  • Switching to Superfeet Carbon Insoles, which fit into the low-volume trail runners I use for hiking and backpacking.
  • Stretching the ligament that runs under my foot arch in the morning and when it cramps up later in the day. I pull on it with a strap or use my hands.
  • Stretching my calf muscles
  • Taking Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation when the pain flares up

All of these have definitely helped and resulted in a noticeable reduction in the intensity of the symptoms and associated pain over the past two months.

But my recovery accelerated dramatically when I started using a Compression Sock designed for Plantar Fasciitis. It’s basically a sock without toes, that applies strong compression under the ligament under my arch, raising it, and preventing it from cramping up. This helps to immobilize the ligament so the tears in it can heal faster and provides a significant amount of pain relief.

I was amazed at how quickly my heel pain disappeared when I first tried it. It took about a day for the effect to kick in, but my Plantar Fasciitis level has been greatly diminished, so much that I’m symptom-free most of the day when I’m wearing the compression sock.

You can try to replicate this “lift effect” using kinesio tape, by running a piece of tape perpendicular to your arch and pulling it up tight before you press the ends of the tape against your skin to lock it in place. But there’s less of a therapeutic arch lift than using a compression sock. My wife, who’s always used kinesio tape to treat her Plantar Fasciitis, borrowed one of my compression socks and switched to them immediately because they provide noticeably more lift to keep the ligament from cramping.

The compression sock is tight, so I wear it under my normal hiking socks. It’s very thin though and I don’t notice it inside the low-volume trail runners I wear for hiking and exercise. I wear the compression sock for 8-hour periods and take it off during the evening and night. While it is tight, it’d designed not to interfere with range of motion or blood flow, still, I like to give my feet a rest and rinse out the sock every evening since it does accumulate sweat from my socks. Hand wash it using a gentle soap like Woolite and air dry. I put them on damp when backpacking and it’s no big deal.

bitly compression socks sizing chart

It is important to get a snug fit, so don’t buy a larger size than you need. At about $11/pair, these Plantar Fasciitis therapeutic socks (made by Bitly) hold their compression very well over time and I haven’t noticed any loosening of the support they provide. When putting them on, make sure you avoid any folds in the fabric so that the sock is flush with your skin. You’ll quickly forget that they’re there, but the amount of pain relief you’ll experience if you have Plantar Fasciitis is quite noticeable.

Updated 2023.

Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased this product with his own funds.

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  1. I use a frozen soda bottle on the floor under my foot. good luck

  2. I was at a store that specializes in running shoes. They recommended a compression sock but they told me to use it at night when I sleep. It was $50.00 so I thought I would do some research on it. I am glad I saw this article, I am more than willing to try the socks for $16.00. Do you think there is any therapeutic benefits if a person uses it while sleeping on days they do not hike?

    • They were probably referring to a night sock like this, which is awkward, at best.

      The compression sock I review here is different and can be used when you’re active (ie. wearing shoes). There’s no reason you can’t wear them at night. My wife does, for example. They’ll have the same effect they have during the day, which is to stretch the ligament.

  3. Google: lacrosse ball foot exercises

  4. PF has really affected my backpacking this year. After a trip of just a few days, I need to immobilize for about a week before the pain goes away. I’ve been relegated to day hikes and riding my bike. I tried the Superfeet Carbons but they did not seem to work. Will try these socks, but was wondering if they caused reduced blood flow, which could lead to other problems?

    • I haven’t had any problems. If they feel too tight, try a different size. I also don’t use them continuously – only when hiking – and take them off to give my feet a break for about 50% of each day.

  5. When not on the trail wear a sleep splint. Also before you stretch heat the bottom of your foot with a hot wet wash cloth. After ice it.

  6. It might be worth visiting a podiatrist to get a prescription for some custom Orthotics. Not sure what the cost on that would be, I would imagine quite a bit more, but it could very well be worth the cost if a doctor that specializes in feet would be able to give you a good permanent solution that doesn’t require surgery. Just a thought! Gad to see that these are at least giving you some relief.

    • Not sure I believe in “permanent” solutions. Why would we need podiatrists if they existed? I haven’t had a case of PF for close to 10 years. No need to suffer with custom orthotics for 9.8 years just to avoid 2-3 months of inconvenience.

    • If my feet were any flatter, I’d have webbing between the toes! I’ve also had bunion surgery on both feet. Custom orthotics have made a big difference for me, and they are also stiff enough that I can wear shoes with thinner soles without bruising my feet.

      I haven’t had a bad problem of PF since I got the orthotics but it was already somewhat at bay when I got the inserts. I did have a brief flareup a few months ago when I took my grandson on a band field trip to a water park. After walking barefoot on concrete all day, it started to feel like I had a knife blade stuck in my heel but I did much better once I got my shoes on. I also have nerve problems in that foot from sciatica and a motorcycle wipeout and sometimes it’s hard to tell which pain is which.

  7. I’ve found that orthotics or Superfeet are more effective when used in a boot with a super-stiff sole. Unfortunately, that means a heavy boot, but wearing a heavy boot is better than not being able to walk.
    One fairly light boot that has a stiff sole is an Asolo Neutron.

  8. Phillip,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with planters facia with us. Many of us have foot problems and that is the most important element to take care of regarding hiking. Many of us do not have bio metrically correct feet. It would be interesting to myself, and perhaps others, to hear from other long distance hikers, and podiatrists, that know what they are talking about, regarding how they prevent themselves from injury, strengthen ankle areas etc.
    After years of outside abuse my feet have finally given in, and I’m relatively young. Just a thought.
    I enjoy your website and refer to it often.
    Thank you

    • Have hope for your feet. I had almost given up on mine but after several trips to the podiatrist and some shots in both feet, I am able to at least take walks again – if I make sure I keep up on my stretching. I have had a Morton’s neuroma in both feet and severe plantar fasciitis in one. I’m going to order these compression socks to keep my feet from getting worse again. Don’t give up. A good podiatrist can get you back on your feet (sorry!) Also, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium and potassium.

  9. I had PF in my left foot most of last year. My doctor recommended calf stretching a few times every hour and that worked for me. But PF is sort of like having a second kidney stone: intense pain iis just lurking around the corner

  10. I was struck 10 or so years ago with PF in both feet at the same time. I finally used a shoe insert called healthatpain and it helped relieve the pain. It did take almost a year for the pain to go away totally. Now I always hike with green superfeet and I have not had anymore issues. Knock wood.

    • Jim,

      I ve read all the review for the HTP inserts. Ive been suffering with PF for 6 years- my life revolves around the pain in my feet and it is excruciating.

      I wore the HTP inserts for 2 days and had almost immediately- brought the pain on within the first 10 min – then without them- it almost seem to aggravate it more.

      Did you find the same???
      I know they’re to get worse….but 10 min and I’m on the floor, compared to 30 min which is how long it usually takes before it becomes very painful. Would love to hear your story.

  11. Hi Phillip – I suffered from very painful PF in my left foot which almost left me unable to walk. My podiatrist first recommended that I try a ‘Strassburg Sock’ to wear at night, which I did, but it didn’t help. Next up was a very painful series of cortisone injections coupled with wearing an air boot 24 hours a day for two weeks (except for showering). This also did not help. Finally, I decided to try taping it and seeing if that might help. I found several sports medicine resources on the web and some useful videos by actual sports medicine doctors (here’s one: . After some experimentation and practice, I managed to do it myself and wow, what a difference. My PF disappeared after about a month. Once it resolved, I decided to lose a significant amount of weight (about 50 lbs) and have not had any problems for over six years. Good luck to you – I hope you find something that works!

    • My wife used to use this exact kinesio taping method but found that the compression socks I use are much more effective at keeping the center of the foot stretched and elongated.

      I’m sure everyone’s experience is going to be a bit different though.

  12. I think I’ll try the compression sock. I might have developed PF after extensive hiking in Glacier NP this summer (and jogging a bit in my boots!). I get pain in my heel only, mostly just above the bottom, and below the Achilles. Could this be PF? I know that is where it attaches…

    And do you recommend trail runners vs. boots? That seems to be the trend nowadays. I have a pair for trail running and light hiking, but wear a sturdy boot for backpacking and longer hikes.

  13. I had Plantar Fasciitis problems about three years ago. Doctor made me try a huge heavy support boot and other tricks for about six months to no avail. Then I had an aggressive physical therapist explain that the tendon was mending while in a short state and I kept re-tearing it when I stretched it during hiking or running. Sounded like BS to me but I was frustrated and would try anything. The PT had me wear a Strassburg sock and a Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint every night keeping the tendon extended. When awake I set my watch alarm and stretched the tendon for five minutes every hour without fail. Theory being to make it repair in a long position. All my pain was gone in ten days and haven’t had a problem since. Probably still BS but thought I’d mention my experience. Sounds like your compression sock is doing much the same thing. Good Luck Philip.

  14. The sock has greatly improved my quality of life. Wish I had found it sooner, one sock for $19 after tax has already paid for itself in the amount of tape I would have used in the same time frame since I’ve had the sock Great article, I’ve shared it with my friends who suffer this painful and debilitating ailment.

  15. I had to abandon my attempted 2016 AT thru hike after 450 due to plantar fasciitis. I’ve had it on and off for over 15 years. I’ve done every possible treatment – stretching, orthotics, OJ can, marbles, steroid injections, physical therapy, night splints, compression devices for the day, etc. I was being treated by a podiatrist. Upon returning home, I went to my primary care physician who suggested I go to an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in foot and ankle problems. He has a very good reputation in the area. When I first saw him, he said that he’d likely have a variety of treatment options but wanted to get an MRI. After the MRI, my option was limited to surgery. The point of all of this is that if you’ve been having recurrent plantar fasciitis for years, it is very likely that you could possibly be beyond the OJ and compression socks phase. If you are only getting x-rays of your feet, you plantar fascia is not being visualized. You need an MRI to evaluate the degree of disease in the fascia.

    My orthopedic surgeon said that the vast majority of people do not need surgery for PF. He also said that I had one of the most diseased fascia he’d ever seen.

    Do yourself a favor and just seek the best medical care you can get. I wish I had done this prior to my AT thru hike attempt.

  16. Look at NY TImes Well column about plantar fasciitis stretching using a towel and step and a backpack of books. Works well and the method has evidence supporting its use. Interesting to hear about the socks.

  17. When mine flared up again, I read that never going barefoot on hard surfaces would help. I keep a pair of Crocs by my bed to slip on when getting up. I also replaced my running shoes (I don’t run but use them for daily wear). They looked fine but the cushioning was shot.

  18. The worst case of PF that I had was years ago, but I certainly remember it as it took 4 months of exercise and stretches, plus orthotic inserts to go away. I swear by Aetrex (used to be Lynco) orthotic sport inserts with a metatarsal pad. I have had both feet reconstructed, so I am very particular about my inserts. I found super feet to be too stiff for me. My orthopedic surgeon recommended Aetrex inserts years ago and they work for me. I never walk on cold or hard floors if I can help it and put on supportive Teva sandals when I get out of bed. I have used open-toed foot compression sleeves, but the don’t do much for me. A lot of experimentation and trial and error will yield what suits the PF sufferer best. I am afraid to say that this is what comes with getting a bit older, but that’s life. And it’s not so bad to slow down anyway. Life is not a race up a mountain, and taking time to stop and enjoy the mountain, lake, desert, whatever, will only enhance life and possibly slow down any impending PF.

    • I might add that although I tried open-toed compression sleeve socks, I prefer a thick wool and acrylic light compression hiking sock that is made by Thirty48. Yes, that is the name. Wicked cushy over the ankle socks. Meant for hiking, etc. They also make more aggressive over the calf compression socks. None of these are close-toed.

  19. I am a physical therapist (retd) and have had plantar fasciitis for years. seems to stem from slightly bandy celtic legs . I suffered greatly as a child with severe cramps in my feet and calves. My right foot collapsed one day after a particularly stupid testosterone driven exercise session about thirty years ago and quite simply it hasnt been right since. I now have to wear orthotics to get any sort of relief. I dont like this because of the muscle weakness that comes with prolonged use. even sitting here typing this I am in pain. I have tried many approaches over the years with little success. Interestingly I noticed a guy the other day walking around a ferry I was on in his bare feet ; he actually had muscular feet!! something I had never seen before. I am now considering doing very gentle strengthening exercises ;with appropriate recovery time, to see if that would make an improvement. This goes somewhat against the advice of my last podiatrist who insists orthotics are the only answer.

    Something I would take on the trail is an industrial strength painkiller Something like Kapake with 30mg codeine because if a foot collapses weightbearing will be impossible unless mega analgesia is taken

  20. On your advice I bought a pair last week. Have had PF on and off in both feet while training for a 70.3 Ironman. Just did a full practice course yesterday and had the least foot pain I’ve ever had and even less today! As my feet swelled it definitely got tighter and needed to be readjusted (actually causing some numbness). A pull up on the sock and redo of the laces and I was fine. This was amazing.

    • I did four days of backpacking this past weekend and only had mild heel pain on day 4 while wearing the sock. I do think my PF is clearing up finally, but I attribute the rapid acceleration of healing to the compression socks. Pretty amazing. Glad you’re having success with them too.

  21. I had plantar fasciitis that started halfway along the John Muir Trail in 2012. The pain developed into heel pain, then the other foot started up in sympathy. I was off long distance hiking for 1.5 yrs, and instead I enjoyed a lot of packrafting.
    I did the ball under the foot exercises, and a lot of calf stretching, and changed my gait to a higher cadence and turned my feet in a little, to reduce heel strike. I finally got rid of the pain by applying Volarol gel to the heels, and have had no trouble since, and did the 500 ml walk across the Pyrenees this year.

  22. Simple question. After my last couple day hikes, I’ve started to feel the tell tale signs of PF. NEVER had an issue with it before, but hey, I’m not as young as I used to be (but I’m not that old as I feel!) After measuring my arch…I come in at an even 10″, so I fall right in the middle of M and L. Would you suggest going smaller for more compression, or larger to minimize risk of constriction?

    Keep up the awesome help Phil!

  23. Phillip, thanks. Igot the Bitly socks and they work ok but I never really got any relief till I found my new shoes – Stinson 3 trail running shoe by Hoka One One.

    I was in Austin to attend the US Grand Prix when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to walk the long distances required. I went down to the REI store there and when I started explaining my problem to the clerk, I didn’t get more than the word “plantar” out of my mouth, when she spun on her heel and reached for this shoe.

    I tried it on and it’s unlike any other shoe I’ve ever worn, no joke. I ended up walking about 6 miles that day pain free. I still have bad days but not when I wear my Hoka Stinson 3. Just thought you’d like to know…

  24. I suffer from PF also, I purchased Gravity Defyer shoes and so far my problem is solved for the most part. Still hurt first thing in AM but after I put these shoes on I am fine. Good Luck.

  25. While many of us suffer from PF-like symptoms and signs, it’s not always PF. This is a condition that is often mis(over)-diagnosed and mis-treated.

    An ultrasound of the heel and arch should show a local thickening of the plantar fascia, which indicates inflammation. If there is no thickening, it may be plantar fasciosis, Baxter’s nerve entrapment (or nerve entrapment in the lower back/hips), flexor digitorum brevis muscle injury, or a number of other foot disorders or injuries that can cause similar symptoms and signs as PF. The plantar mid-foot is referred to as “the zone of confusion” by medical professional for a good reason.

    In some cases, a compression sock or stiff orthotic could aggravate the underlying injury! So getting the condition properly diagnosed is the first step. Second, resting the foot by stopping to hike for a couple of weeks or months is the best conservative treatment along with rehab/physio exercises/stretches. Third, switching to the right footwear is often overlooked: as close to zero-drop as possible; roomy toe box that allows the big toe to extend straight; and as little toe spring as possible. Lastly, avoid compression socks in the long term (increased risk of developing a blood clot). Do not wear them at night for PF! Instead use a dedicated medical brace/bootie that holds the foot in a rest position during sleep and unloads the plantar foot.

    Happy trails!

    PS, don’t automatically trust whatever your podiatrist throws at you. See one with a good reputation, and get a second opinion if you can from an orthopedic specialist or sports medicine doctor.

    • I agree but I’ve ignored all of your advice and it fixed my PF problems and eliminated any recurrence. Compression socks rock. Not the ones prescribed by doctors, but over the counter ones, which are weaker.

    • I was diagnosed with PF nearly 20 years ago. Podiatrist prescribed an orthotic insert ($400 in 1998 dollars) and stretches. I performed the stretches religiously and wore the insert. Pain was gone in a week or so. I wore the insert for a few years, but stopped eventually because. I’ve been pain free until about 6 months ago. Now that I’m in my 50s and my kids are older, I started walking/running for exercise. My calves have been tight for years, so I’m guessing the added strain of 3-4 miles of walking, slowly ramping up to running is what brought back the PF symptoms. I bought the Cramer Dorsal Night Splint (it’s not one of the big boots; it’s a plastic brace that attaches to the front of your leg with velcro straps; much less cumbersome to sleep in than the big boots) and started doing the stretches I did years ago. After 2 nights in the splint, the morning pain getting out of bed was greatly reduced (I can actually stand up and walk right away rather than having to stretch first). I’ve been able to manage the pain pretty well with the stretching and the splint, but I’m in process of buying compression socks to add to the mix since I’ve had great results using compression knee sleeves for knee pain, so I really appreciate the review on the Bitly compression sock. Thank you Philip.

      P.S. – I’m debating between the Bitly, the ZaTech, and the CopperJoint compression socks.

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