Millions of people have experienced plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue of the ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot and causes intense heel pain. While some populations are at higher risk than others for developing plantar fasciitis -- like runners or overweight people -- unsupportive shoes can put you at risk or aggravate the issue.
Shoe inserts can reduce plantar fasciitis pain or even prevent the condition from developing altogether. With proper foot care, 90% of plantar fasciitis cases heal within six months. We're here to help you understand the role inserts play and know what you need to consider when purchasing a pair in our shopping guide. We've also included our top picks for inserts; our favorite GREEN insoles from Superfeet have deep heel cups for extra cushioning in that sensitive area.
Considerations when choosing plantar fasciitis inserts
What are inserts?
Technically, anything placed inside your shoe is an insert. "Inserts" and "insoles" are often used interchangeably. The difference is that inserts usually focus on support whereas insoles provide more cushioning. When it comes to plantar fasciitis, both qualities are helpful. Some inserts are specifically designed to treat plantar fasciitis. Others address different foot issues, but people with plantar fasciitis can still benefit from wearing them.
Types of inserts
This type of insert is shorter than your shoe and designed to support your arches, whether low or high. While lack of arch support adds to plantar fasciitis, using only this type of support won't heal it.
Otherwise known as heel liners or heel cups, this type of insert provides extra cushioning in the heel. While heel pads help alleviate heel pain, they alone won't relieve plantar fasciitis.
This type of insert is full length and rigid, unlike the other insert types. Whether over-the-counter or prescribed by a podiatrist, they are designed to target specific foot issues like plantar fasciitis.
Support: Arch support is essential in preventing further aggravation to the inflamed plantar fascia. However, everyone's feet are different. You want to select an insert with arch support that makes complete and firm contact, so it relieves pressure on the heel. People with high arches require inserts with high arches. People with low arches or flat feet require fully rigid support. People whose feet are flat only when weight is applied require cushioned arch support.
In addition, metatarsal arch support provides an east-west arch at the ball of your foot, which helps plantar fasciitis sufferers who are on their feet all day.
Heel cup: In addition to arch support, quality plantar fasciitis inserts have deep heel cups to take the pressure off the inflamed tissue there. They help stabilize your feet and keep them aligned with your knees, ankles, and hips, which can reverse plantar fasciitis and prevent flare-ups.
Cushioning: Don't expect plantar fasciitis inserts to be as comfortable as insoles. You can expect some padding to prevent further inflammation and to stabilize the area. Inserts with moderate cushioning are ideal.
Plantar fasciitis insert prices
Plantar fasciitis inserts range in price from $10 to $100. Budget-priced inserts are between $10 to $20 and may not support people with high arches or be rigid enough for those with flat feet. Mid-priced inserts range from $20 to $40 and offer more sizing options and better fits. The highest quality plantar fasciitis inserts start at $40 and can go up to $100. They provide contoured comfort that helps you through a flare-up and prevents future ones.
Q. Can plantar fasciitis heal over time?
A. The majority of flare-ups can resolve over six months' time if proper measures are taken. This includes wearing the right inserts, stretching your feet, and icing them. You also need to cease whatever activity is causing the repetitive stress on the ligament until it heals. Intervening early increases your chances of resolving it -- ignoring these measures can lead to chronic heel pain.
Q. Is there anyone who shouldn't use plantar fasciitis inserts?
A. If you suffer from diabetes or other circulation problems, consult a doctor before purchasing inserts. Inserts that don't fit correctly can put diabetics at risk of foot infections or ulcers.
Plantar fasciitis inserts we recommend
Best of the best: Superfeet Green Heritage Insoles
Our take: A top-selling insole with arch support and deep heel cups.
What we like: Bacteria and odor control coating. Arch heights color-coded to match your arch level. Stabilizing shape.
What we dislike: Takes some wear to break them in.
Best bang for your buck: Dr. Scholl's Pain Relief Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis
Our take: An orthotic from a trusted brand that saves money and offers reliable plantar fasciitis relief.
What we like: Inexpensive. Shock-guard technology offers both comfort and support. Money-back guarantee.
What we dislike: For consumers with high arches, support may be lacking.
Our take: Podiatrist-designed orthotics that fit like a glove.
What we like: True-to-size custom fit. Comfort and support relieve pain. Flexible, supportive inner core.
What we dislike: On the pricey side. Requires a break-in period.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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