Plantar Fasciitis and Arch Supports…Just Say No !

Arch Supports…“JUST SAY NO !”

Almost every doctor or foot expert in the country will tell you to pick shoes that have “good arch support”.  However, a study performed in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed 35 years of research on footwear.  They concluded that there is no evidence whatsoever, that arch supports either treat or prevent injuries.  None.

They even contacted all the major shoe companies and asked for their research.  None replied.  What that means is, they either don’t have any research, or the research they have, shows their shoes don’t work.

The same goes for all the orthotics on the market.  Its all smoke and mirrors.  There is no evidence that these gadgets really help.  I have seen cases where arch supports have helped give short term relief of foot pain.  But, in the long run, the foot always gets weaker, stiffer and dependent on the supports.

From what I have observed over the last fifteen years in my office, arch supports actually make your whole body worse.  Arch supports tend to do the following:

  1. They make your body posture slump forward.
  2. Your breathing will be more restricted when wearing arch supports.
  3. Your gait will be more restricted.
  4. Your feet will tend to pound at the ground when you walk.
  5. Arch supports limit your ability to change directions, causing decreased sports performance.
  6. Your body will be more unstable when wearing arch supports.

You can test these things for yourself.  Do the following tests, first without shoes, then with arch supports or with high arch shoes on.

  1. Have someone stand in back of you and gently push on your shoulders. See if you are more stable with your shoes or without.
  2. Have someone look at your posture, how does it look ?
  3. Take a few deep breaths and see if you get restricted.
  4. Walk around a little. Do walk tall or do you slump over ?  Do you pound the floor ?
  5. Shuffle around a little and see how you change direction (move like playing tennis or shadowboxing) Is you ability to change direction better, the same or worse with the shoes on?

Some of these tests, you may not notice a difference.  But, for most, you will.  Sometimes it can be very dramatic.

What’s the best type of shoe ?  Time after time, when I have performed these tests with people, the best shoes turn out to be a flat, flexible shoe with a wide toe box.  A shoe with a small heel is good for most people, provided the back of the heel is the highest part of the shoe.

Vibram five finger shoes are the best by far, but they look weird and aren’t for everyone.  Lem’s shoes are great.  Just about any “minimalist” shoe is great as long as it doesn’t have a negative heel.   Flat tennis shoes like Van’s, Chuck Taylor’s or PF Flyers work out great. In my experience, New Balance are about 80-90% correct off the shelf and I recommend them to patients who run but don’t want minimalist shoes.  MUDD’s women’s shoes are perfect, I’ve never seen a bad shoe from them.  They have a nice size heel and women usually say they are the most comfortable shoe they own.

If you are hurting from plantar fasciitis, you may need to get treated before you make the switch to flat flexible shoes.  There are some great methods of treatment that your current physicians may not be aware of.  Look for an ABC certified practitioner near you at, or call our office at 262-293-3790, talk to Jennifer or Pat and set up a consultation with Dr. Paul Kramer.

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