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Plantar Fasciitis: A Hiker’s Guide to Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis Pain Zones
Plantar Fasciitis Pain Zones

Plantar Fasciitis is a very common and painful foot condition experienced by many hikers. I know, I’ve had it. It is an overuse injury often caused by hiking or running and presents itself as chronic heel pain. This pain is caused by the inflammation of the ligament that connects your heel bone to the ball of your foot.

I’ve found that the best way to cure plantar fasciitis is to simply stop hiking for an extended period of time, like over the winter, AND to get a pair of boots with better arch and heel support. While it is possible to reduce the pain temporarily through stretching, applying ice packs, and taking anti-inflammatory medications, you need to give your body time to heal and take steps to prevent a recurrence.

Step 1: You should stop hiking, possibly for a few months. Check with your doctor if you have any questions, but rest is best.

Step 2: Find someone at an outdoor retailer who really knows how to fit a pair of hiking boots or trail shoes, including more advanced lacing techniques. REI provides select members of their staff with this training, so you might want to try there. Call first. These people are worth a drive. Next, get some new boots or trail shoes that cup your heel very snuggly and replace the factory footbed with an after-market one from Superfeet. Most factory footbeds that come with boots are a complete joke. Superfeet has different models with different degrees of firmness and arch support so you will need to experiment. It’s also possible that you may need custom orthotics, particularly if your arch has fallen. Next, go hike about 50 miles to break in your shoes and the footbeds.

Step 3: If you can, lose some weight: either body weight or pack weight. It will help reduce the stress on your feet.

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  1. Does anyone remember “earth shoes” that had the heel lower than the front of the shoe. Seems like that would naturally stretch out the achilles and calf muscles. I’ve had PF a couple times and tried many insoles. Can’t say if one was better than another. How do you know if you have a high arch? At one point, Midwest Mountaineering in Mpls, MN would make a mold of your foot for an insert.

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