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I’ve been a runner and running coach for the past 28 years, and if I know one thing for sure about being a runner, it’s that you will get injured. I’ve never met a runner who pushes their limits and hasn’t gotten injured at some point in their running career. (After all, if injuries were avoidable, wouldn’t professional runners with their access to the best coaches, physical therapists and doctors be able to escape the agony of injury?)
Among the most common lower leg running injuries that runners experience is plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The Mayo Clinic defines plantar fasciitis as the ”inflammation of a thick band of tissue (aka the plantar fascia) that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.” It’s characterized by a sharp pain in the heel or along the arch of your foot, which is usually most painful first thing in the morning.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Dr. Brian Eckenrode, Associate Professor and Director of the Running Injury Clinic at Arcadia University, says there are numerous reasons someone may develop plantar fasciitis. Dr. Eckenride explains that runners with plantar fasciitis should try to identify the cause of the issue in order to treat it. “Many times, runners exhibit deficits in motion and strength at the foot, ankle, knee, hip or lower back, any of which can affect the movement pattern of running,” he says.
He goes on to say that things like “overtraining — such as a sudden increase in mileage, intensity, or elevation of workouts — limited ankle dorsiflexion range of motion, both high and low arch height, high body mass index and work-related weight-bearing activities coupled with poor shock-absorbing footwear” are all potential causes of plantar fasciitis.
Can Wearing the Right Running Shoes Help?
While forced downtime due to injuries may not be completely avoidable, you can do a few things to reduce your chances. Actions such as stretching regularly, monitoring your training load and assuring you have proper footwear can go a long way to helping you stay healthy.
“Most of the time, runners have poor footwear on top of poor proprioception,” says Bob Otto, physical therapist at Climb On and Penn Therapy. “I always tell them that technology with running shoes is better than that of fashion sneakers or flats [even if they are some of the most comfortable flats for women],” Dr. Eckenride continues that, “controlling excessive motion of the foot and supporting the arch through appropriate footwear may benefit those with plantar fasciitis, and this should also carry over to footwear when not running as well. In addition to wearing a motion-control shoe, he also suggests that a custom or over-the-counter orthotic can help with the pain.
What to Look for in the Best Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
As with the best walking shoes for plantar fasciitis, comfort should be the number one factor when choosing running shoes for plantar fasciitis. Dr. Eckenride recommends that “motion-control or stability-type running shoes are often preferred for runners with severe to mild pronation, respectively,” and that “runners with plantar fasciitis should also consider the amount of heel drop in the construction of the shoe.” Heel drop (or offset) is considered the difference in height from the heel to the toe of the shoe. Traditional running shoes have a heel drop between seven to 10 millimeters or greater. “Given that limited ankle dorsiflexion motion is a risk factor for developing plantar fasciitis, runners may want to look for shoes with a higher heel drop (above seven millimeters), as this may help to accommodate for the lack of ankle dorsiflexion motion.”
And when it comes to shopping for the best running shoes to wear in winter, there are plenty of styles that will accommodate feet with plantar fasciitis, too.
As frustrating and painful as the issue can be, the best running shoes for plantar fasciitis, along with the proper treatment and a little patience, will have you on the road to recovery and pain-free strides soon enough.
Asics Gel-Kayano 28 Running Shoe
Paul Lang, senior merchandising manager of performance footwear, track and field at Asics recommends Asics’ Gel-Kayano 28 for runners with plantar fasciitis. Long thought of as the gold standard of stability shoes and one of the best Asics running shoes you can buy, “the Gel-Kayano is [Asics’] flagship protection model, offering a stable ride with Dynamic Duomax Technology along with gender-specific 3D Space Construction to help stabilize the foot,” Lang says. “A broad platform helps add additional guidance, while the FlyteFoam Blast midsole keeps the shoe light and energetic.”
Asics Gel-Kayano Lite 2 Running Shoe
Best for Speed
Another top Asics running shoe, Asics Gel-Kayano Lite 2 gives you the same traditional, stable ride seen in the Gel-Kayano 28, but in a lighter, slightly faster shoe. Scott Tantino, North Wales Running Company owner, recommends the Kayano Lite 2 for runners suffering from plantar fasciitis because “it wonderfully balances being ultra-protective while offering superb arch support,” adding that “the flex grooves under the forefoot allow the athlete to push off the ground with less pressure than many other stiffer shoes.”
Under Armour Hovr Guardian 2 Running Shoe
Best Hybird Running/Gym Shoe for Plantar Fasciitis
Complete with a supportive upper, stable platform and medial post to prevent overpronation, the Under Armour Hovr Guardian 2 has everything someone dealing with plantar fasciitis needs. Plus, it offers an extremely comfortable fit. Underfoot, you’ll find Under Armour’s best midsole Hovr for a cushioned, yet responsive ride. For the techy runner, there’s a Bluetooth chip embedded in the sole that connects to MapMyRun to track running metrics and give coaching support to make you a better runner.
Topo Ultrafly 3 Running Shoe
Best for Runners with Wide Feet
“For a customer who is more of a midfoot striker and is experiencing plantar fasciitis, we often will bring out the Topo Ultrafly 3,” Tantino says. “It has wonderful cushioning, a natural fit in the forefoot and superb support for the plantar. It allows the toes to relax on impact and splay during push-off, putting less pressure on the plantar.”
Mizuno Waveknit Rider 25 Running Shoe
Best for Runners with High Arches
“When it comes to high, stiff-arched runners with plantar fasciitis, we often recommend the Mizuno Waveknit Rider 25 for its forefoot flexibility, heel cushion and ability to propel the runner off the ground with the Enerzy cushioning material,” Tantino says. In addition, the steep 12 millimeter heel drop is ideal for those with Achilles tendon tightness or limited ankle dorsiflexion motion.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoe
Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 proves that support and softness can coexist. It features Brooks softest midsole foam, DNA Loft, for a smooth, cushioned ride. To add stability and support for your heel, knee and hips through your stride, Brooks uses Guiderail technology, two firm pieces of plastic placed along the outside of your heel to eliminate excess movement.
Adidas Solarglide ST 4
Most Comfortable Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
Adidas’ Boost midsole is undoubtedly one of the most cushioned, energy-returning midsoles on the market, making its running shoes some of the best around. The problem for runners suffering from plantar fasciitis is that the Boost is inherently unstable. Enter the Adidas Solarglide ST 4: a stable running shoe that features a Boost midsole. To increase stability, there’s firm, supportive plastic along the arch of the shoe and a stable frame that supports your foot through the gait. The achilles split soft back makes these one of best running shoes for plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
La Sportiva Akyra Trail Running Shoe
Best Mountain Running Shoe
The La Sportiva Akyra is one of the most supportive and stable trail running shoes you can buy. With a very firm underfoot feeling, it’s best suited for rocky terrain where protection and grip are essential. While it may have a stiff nature, it’s a tank — aka one of the most durable trail shoes on the market. Between its stable platform and 9 millimeter drop, it’s an excellent option for rugged trail and mountain runs and can also double as a hiking shoe.
Nike React Infinity Flyknit 2 Running Shoe
Best Arch Support
The wide forefoot, supportive arch and 8 millimeter heel drop make the Nike React Infinity Flyknit 2 one of the best Nike running shoes for those needing stability, such as runners with plantar fasciitis. Underfoot, the Nike React midsole delivers a softer experience than most shoes we’d recommend for runners with plantar fasciitis. So if you favor a more cushioned shoe, these are for you. And, the comfortable knit upper with Flywire technology securely wraps the foot.
Hoka Arahi 5 Running Shoe
Best For Heavy Runners
Hoka is known for its thick-soled, cushioned running shoes, and the Arahi is no exception. Classified as a tried-and-true stability shoe, the Arahi 5 earns The American Podiatric Medical Association’s (APMA’s) stamp of approval for promoting good foot health. It features Hoka’s signature J-Frame(TM) technology for a stable ride designed to prevent overpronation without being too aggressive.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 Running Shoe
Tick off mile after mile in style and comfort in this premium stability workhorse. New Balance’s Fresh Foam 860v11 combines the responsive cushioning of Fresh Foam with pronation control from a medial post that’s not too overbearing (unlike most versions in other running shoes that create a firm and unpleasant ride). For a reliable daily trainer to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, look no further.
Dynafit Ultra 100 Running Shoe
Best Trail Running Shoe for Plantar Fasciitis
Dynafit is the best kept secret among trail runners. This German company, which predominately manufactures ski gear, makes some of the best technical mountain and trail running shoes. Dynafit’s Ultra 100 is its maximum cushioned long distance trail running shoe. The thick sole and wide underfoot platform give the Ultra 100 a stable ride, while the insole design offers up some the best arch support of any trail running shoe. If you’re looking for a maximum cushioned trail runner that isn’t overly mushy while you manage your plantar fasciitis, the Ultra 100 is one of the best trail running shoes for plantar fasciitis.