Does walking barefoot help plantar fasciitis?

Ariana Purificati Fune

The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue structure that supports the foot arches and helps absorb shock upon impact. Repetitive impact and overuse of this structure lead to degeneration and pain known as plantar fasciitis. 

There has been speculation that walking barefoot can help with symptoms of plantar fasciitis, but is this true? We have read through the research to try and find some answers.

How does barefoot ambulation affect my feet?

Research has been done on the effects of barefoot walking and running on gait and biomechanics. Running barefoot has been shown to shift foot strike toward the front of the foot2. This allows for better shock absorption and avoids excess pressure on the heel. Proper shock absorption through the entire lower leg takes the pressure off of the plantar fascia, and has the potential to relieve pain. However, caution must be taken as this shift in running mechanics happens over time.
Similarly, long-term barefoot walking changes walking mechanics so that the forces are spread more evenly across the foot1. However, if you are used to wearing shoes, walking barefoot can increase the pressure in the heel and metatarsal regions, further aggravating the plantar fascia.

Should I walk barefoot?

Overall, there are different risks and rewards to walking barefoot. Walking and running barefoot have both been shown to improve foot and lower leg mechanics for better shock absorption. However, it is suggested that these changes happen over time, and will require long-term barefoot ambulation to reap the benefits. 

The best advice is to seek help from a physiotherapist or other health professional to figure out a personalized treatment plan. 

How do I help my plantar fasciitis?

Conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis includes scraping, stretching, massaging, and strengthening the soft tissues. Check out our other blog posts where we will guide you through each of these therapy techniques to help you find relief!

References 

  1. Franklin, S., Grey, M. J., Heneghan, N., Bowen, L., & Li, F.-X. (2015, June 3). Barefoot vs common footwear: A systematic review of the kinematic, kinetic and muscle activity differences during walking. Gait & Posture. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966636215004993?via%3Dihub 
  2. Perkins, K. P., Hanney, W. J., & Rothschild, C. E. (2014). The risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 6(6), 475–480. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738114546846 
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Ariana Purificati Fune

Ariana is a Certified Personal Trainer and holds a BSc in Kinesiology. She has a passion for making fitness inclusive and accessible to everyone.

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