I’ve been in denial for a long time and it could prevent me from hiking with my dog. The first step is admitting you have a problem. I have plantar fasciitis.
Two summers ago I made a terrible mistake. It was early in the hiking season and I was itching to get out. I finally had some time and motivation so I packed up everything, including my favorite hiking boots, and headed to a new-to-us trail with Gretel.
When I got to the trailhead, I realized my hiking shoes didn’t have my supportive insoles in them. In fact, they had NO insoles. I wasn’t about to call it a day and drive for 2 hours back home. I had been wearing my barefoot sandals a lot recently and thought, “How much different could hiking in boots with no insoles be?” It couldn’t be that bad.
We headed off down the trail and had a great hike. My feet felt fine… until I got back home.
They actually didn’t even feel bad that night, but over the next couple of days I developed a pain in my heels – the front part closest to the arch. Thinking I just bruised my feet on the hard footbed of the shoes, I ignored the pain and thought it would go away.
By the time a few weeks went by, I had developed a “tearing” pain in the arch of my foot. That’s the only way I can describe it. It felt like there was a non-stretchy rope attached from the heel to the ball of my foot. When I would get up in the morning, sometimes it would feel like this non-stretchy rope was being pulled apart and was tearing a little. This pain, too, was periodic at first.
I continued to hike all summer, my foot pain became more frequent, and I started to suspect I had plantar fasciitis IN BOTH FEET! I did some basic research. WebMD said, “The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.” Yep, that’s what was happening to me. Exactly.
I eventually decided to do something about it. Going to the doctor for a diagnosis was not one of them. I knew they would just tell me to stop hiking for a while and I don’t see that as an option for me. However, my acupuncturist said, “Oh, Jessica. Yes, you have plantar fasciitis. Very bad.” so I guess I WAS officially diagnosed.
I needed to find a way to manage my foot issue so I could continue to hike with Gretel.
How I’m Managing My Plantar Fasciitis So I Can Hike With My Dog
I’m probably still in denial and being less than smart about this issue. I don’t think I’m ignoring it though. Not exactly. I did what every person does nowadays – I Googled the heck out of it! Trends emerged and I started doing all of the recommended home treatments. I’m definitely hoping that, with management, it will get better or at least never get worse.
So, how am I managing my foot pain? What’s known to work for this kind of issue?
Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a few pennies if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, to help support this blog (and we really, really appreciate it!). Some are links to stuff I bought myself and some are to products I’ve received a discount on. I’m sharing all of the items below only because they have been the best way to manage my condition.
Tight calves, achilles tendons, and tendons in the feet are major contributors to plantar fasciitis so I’ve been stretching those. I do a lot of different stretches, including rolling my feet on a frozen water bottle. I also massage my feet with pain-relieving arnica cream. Most of what I do is recapped in this video:
Wearing only the best footwear
It’s very important to wear the right shoes. I no longer have the luxury of choosing shoes based on looks alone. I have medium-high arches so, first and foremost, they need to have great arch support. They also can’t be restrictive. They need to allow my toes to spread out naturally as I walk.
I’m wearing only my HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 5 running shoes when I’m walking the dogs on pavement or running errands. The midsoles are twice the thickness of other running shoes so they have excellent shock absorption. They have a low heel-to-toe drop (the difference in height from heel to toe of the shoe), which encourages a natural walking and running gait. The active foot frame offers excellent arch support.
I’m also wearing only supportive sandals and have replaced all of my dressier shoes with still-dressy-but-comfort-priority versions.
Not walking around the house barefoot
I’ve read that going barefoot BEFORE you have plantar faciitis can help prevent it but going sans-shoes if you are experiencing problems is not a good idea. That has been my experience too – it seems to hurt more after I walk around barefoot in the house for a while.
Instead, I’ve been wearing the HOKA ONE ONE ORA Recovery Slide. The sandals are basically just the cushy, oversized midsole from the HOKA running shoes strapped to the bottom of my feet (but without the restricting fabric of a full shoe). The sandals offer my foot enough support while allowing my feet to breathe and stretch out naturally.
Using super supportive insoles
I can’t and don’t want to replace all my hiking boots so I’m using super-supportive insoles. I’ve always used insoles in my shoes but my old standby was no longer good enough.
The key to finding the best insoles is finding the proper arch support for your feet combined with some cushioning. In my case, I have higher arches so I had to find insoles with, basically, the highest arch support I could find.
I tried several brands and styles to see what worked. For now, I have settled on Icebug FAT High Arch, Max Cushioning insoles (they also come in medium and low arch). The “FAT” means they have an extra layer of memory foam for more comfort and protection. The Double-Arc heel design cups the foot and reduces pressure on the plantar fascia. The part that makes my feet go “ahh” is something I haven’t seen in insoles before – a little “ArchFlexSystem®” bump right underneath the ball of my foot that helps my foot stretch out a little there.
I’ve had acupuncture treatments on my feet and that definitely helped. I’ve been seeing this really great Chinese doctor for years and he was able to significantly reduce my pain with 4 treatments.
I’ve also been using the My Pet Laser (cold laser) I got for Gretel on my own feet. Although that is considered “off label” or “unapproved use” use of it because it’s marketed for pets, it’s very, very similar to the version of the laser for humans. I’ve been using it daily and I have noticed less issues with my feet.
With all of these treatments and preventative measures, I do feel like I’ve successfully learned to manage my plantar fasciitis. It definitely hasn’t gone away but I am happy to settle for it not getting any worse. There is nothing more I like in this world than hiking with Gretel and I don’t want to have to stop.
Have you dealt with chronic foot pain? How did you handle it?