Flip Flops for Plantar Fasciitis: Are They Effective?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that frequently finds its way into our office. Aside from the common questions such as, “Why did this happen?” or “How long will it take to heal?”, a good percentage of our patients want to know what type of footwear can be both preventative and can also alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. As the weather is getting warmer, many of our patients ask about wearing flip flops for plantar fasciitis. Before hopping into that, let’s dive into what the condition is.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition characterized by inflammation and pain in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes and provides support to the arch of the foot. If the plantar fascia is excessively strained or stretched, tiny tears can develop in the tissue. This can lead to inflammation and pain, particularly in the heel area.
How is it diagnosed?
As previously mentioned, the most common area of pain usually begins in the heel, particularly toward the front of the heel on the bottom of your foot. Pain can also span across the entire bottom of your foot toward your toes. These symptoms are usually worse in the morning upon getting out of bed, but also can be after the first few steps following prolonged rest. Many patients describe these symptoms as stabbing and/or burning.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Several factors can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis, including:
- Overuse or repetitive stress: Activities that involve repetitive impact on the feet, such as running, jumping, or prolonged standing, can strain the plantar fascia and lead to inflammation.
- Foot mechanics: Flat feet, high arches, or abnormal foot mechanics that cause an uneven distribution of weight can put excessive stress on the plantar fascia.
- Obesity: Carrying excess weight can increase the strain on the plantar fascia.
- Improper footwear: Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support or poor cushioning can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
- Tight calf muscles: Tightness in the calf muscles can limit ankle flexibility and increase the strain on the plantar fascia.
Are flip flops for plantar fasciitis a good solution?
Typically, I do not recommend wearing flip flops as the primary footwear for plantar fasciitis. Flip flops generally lack the necessary arch support, cushioning, and stability that are beneficial for individuals with plantar fasciitis. They usually have a flat, thin sole, which can put additional stress on the plantar fascia and aggravate the symptoms. Wearing flip flops may lead to increased foot pronation (rolling inward) and strain on the heel and arch, exacerbating the condition. When looking at footwear, you should be making sure that they have good arch support, stability, and adequate cushioning.
It should be noted that there are some newer flip flops out there that are doing a much better job in considering these factors. If you are looking for flip flops for plantar fasciitis, brands such as Oofos and Hoka are doing a great job with incorporating arch support into their footwear. You can find both of these brands at your local running gear store, Pace Yourself Run Company.
Other forms of management
Management of plantar fasciitis uses a combination of tools aimed at reducing pain, inflammation, and acceleration of healing. Here are some of the things that we do eliminate pain from plantar fasciitis:
- Shockwave Therapy: This machine produces high energy sound waves that penetrate deep into the tissues. This is used to stimulate blood flow to the tissues which can help accelerate healing. Additionally, in some cases in which there is thickening of the plantar fascia (which leads to irritation), it can help to decrease the density of the tissue, as well as break down scar tissue. Some studies have found it to be 70-80% effective for plantar fasciitis.
- Soft Tissue Services: We approach the plantar fascia and surrounding muscles of the ankle with various techniques, such as instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, cupping, dry needling to help accelerate the healing process.
- Biomechanical Assessment of the Ankle: Typically, we check to make sure the ankle joint is moving properly, primarily in dorsiflexion/plantarflexion. We can do adjustments on the ankle as needed to help with overall mobility which will equate to reduced stress on the plantar fascia.
- Footwear assessment: This involves general assessment of your arches; in which case we can determine what footwear works for you. While flip flops for plantar fasciitis may not be the primary choice, there are some great options out there to help keep your feet cool during the hot summer months as well as post-run or workout.
Summing It Up
While there are plenty of great open-toed options on the market, using flip flops for plantar fasciitis is not the lone answer to helping reduce pain. They are, however, a great addition to normal everyday footwear if they incorporate things such as arch support, stability, and adequate cushioning. If you take into consideration some of the factors above in addition to some management from a properly licensed medical professional, you’ll be able to knock the issue out pretty quickly and get back to doing the things you love to do.