Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Foot FAQ


Somebody suggested I try a shoe insert for my plantar fasciitis. What does this do to help?


The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that goes from the base of the heel to the base of each toe. It actually forms an arch the length of the foot and provides needed support during all weight-bearing activities. Plantar fasciitis may not be an accurate term to describe the underlying problem because "-itis" suggests inflammation. Our understanding and thinking about plantar fasciitis has changed over the years as new studies examine the tissue more closely. Instead of active inflammation, scientists report this condition is actually more of a degenerative problem. Off-the-shelf soft or semi-rigid shoe inserts, supportive shoes, and/or orthotics (molded plastic foot support) are all ways to support the arch and realign the ankle and foot. They have the potential to work because they take pressure off the fascia during weight-bearing activities. There may be several reasons why supportive shoe inserts or orthoses help reduce the pain of plantar fasciitis. First, just getting pressure off the plantar fascia and allowing it time to heal without repeated microtearing may be helpful. Second, having the insert in contact with the foot may reduce pain by changing sensory input to the brain. It is also possible that transferring the load and pressure during weight-bearing from the heel to the forefoot helps reduce the pull on the plantar fascia. Again, this could prevent trauma to the fascia allowing healing to take place. It's a simple and inexpensive way to treat early stages of heel pain. You'll know within a few hours to a few days if it is going to help you. If your symptoms are not improved or the symptoms come back quickly, you may need to see a specialist for an evaluation and more appropriate treatment. Custom made inserts (made to fit your foot) may be the next step. Michelle Drake, DPT, et al. The Short-Term Effects of Treating Plantar Fasciitis with a Temporary Custom Foot Orthosis and Stretching. In The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. April 2011. Vol. 41. No. 4. Pp. 221-231.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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