Best Shoes for Heel Pain, According to Podiatrists
A supportive pair of shoes with arch support, cushioning, and stability can make a big difference when it comes to heel pain.
Your feet bear the brunt of your weight every time you stand up and move. And for every mile you walk, each foot endures 60 tons of stress. While that sounds like a lot, your feet are designed to handle it. Additional stress, though, can lead to pain and inflammation of the tissues, especially those around the heel. Heel pain is the most common issue that affects the foot and ankle regions.
If you try to power through the pain instead of treating it, it can spread beyond the heel to the bottom of your feet. Also it can lead to a chronic condition with additional symptoms.
Regardless of your occupation, physical fitness, or body type you could fall victim to heel pain. How can you prevent or reduce heel pain? The answer is simple, by wearing comfortable and supportive shoes.
Those who are active on their feet or stand for long periods are at a higher risk for heel pain, especially when wearing unsupportive footwear. Not to mention, physical activity from standing, walking, and running on hard surfaces often contributes to heel pain. Not only does heel pain affect your foot health, but it also contributes to other issues like knee, hip, and back pain.
What Is Heel Pain
Heel pain is a common foot and ankle problem. Pain may occur underneath the heel or behind it. Many conditions can cause pain in the heels, including:
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Achilles or flexor tendonitis/tendonosis.
- Bone spurs.
- Sever’s disease (mostly in children 8-14 years old).
- Stress fractures.
- Inflamed tendons.
It’s important to have a medical evaluation to help you determine the exact cause of your heel pain so that the proper treatment regimen can begin.
Heel pain can make it difficult to walk and participate in daily activities. Most painful heel conditions improve with nonsurgical treatments, but your body needs time to recover.
What Causes Heel Pain
There are several factors that can lead to heel pain after wearing the incorrect shoes for certain activities. Some of the most common causes are:
- Achilles tendinitis: The Achilles tendon is a fibrous tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It’s the body’s longest and strongest tendon. Runners and basketball players are more prone to Achilles tendinitis. This overuse injury inflames the tendon. Tendonitis causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the back of the heel.
- Bursitis: Bursitis occurs when fluid-filled sacs called bursae (plural of bursa) swell. These sacs cushion joints, allowing for fluid movement. You may have a tender, bruise-like feeling in the back of the heel. Bursitis typically occurs after you spend a lot of time on your feet.
- Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is by far the leading cause of heel pain. It occurs when the fascia, connective tissue that runs along the bottom (plantar surface) of the foot, tears or stretches. People who run and jump a lot are more likely to develop this painful condition. Treadmills and hard surfaces (such as concrete) for exercise or work are common irritants.
- Heel spurs: Chronic plantar fasciitis can cause a bony growth (heel spur) to form on the heel bone. Heel spurs aren’t usually painful, although some people have pain.
How to Choose the Best Shoes for Heel Pain
In many cases, simply buying a new pair of shoes can help alleviate heel pain, since heel pain tends to worsen as shoes wear out. The best shoes for heel pain will vary from person to person since different conditions can cause heel pain.
Athletes, for example, will require different shoes for heel pain than someone who walks regularly. Or they sits for long periods of time, and is overweight. Very often, people who experience heel pain require a shoe that is rigid enough to hold onto the foot without the foot having to strain to keep the shoe in place.
Here are the best features to look for in shoes to help improve heel pain:
There are studies that show that supporting the arch can reduce plantar heel pressure and also relieve strain on the plantar fascia,” says Dr. Langer. Arch support also helps prevent the arch from collapsing inward too much when you walk, a phenomenon called overpronation. (This can also contribute to bunions.)
The right arch support for your foot type is important, too. “Good arch support, and a shoe designed specifically for a pronator (flat arch), supinator (high arch), or neutral foot type is desirable,” Dr. Lefkowitz says.
“These will have a specific angulation built into the shoe in order to compensate for any abnormal foot function. This will, in turn, give relief of heel pain by supporting the plantar fascia and relieving the abnormal stretch and strain on the thick plantar fascia that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot.”
Cushioning, especially in the heel area, adds extra shock absorption and reduces the amount of pressure coming up into your feet when they hit the ground. This is especially helpful with a high-arched or rigid type of foot.
Stability features such as medial posts, dual-density midsoles, or shanks may be important for some people but not all.
If your shoes aren’t stable enough for your feet, adding a shoe insert called an orthotic may help. You can buy orthotics at the drugstore, or work with your doctor to get custom orthotics that are made specifically for your foot shape.
Firm Heel Counter
"The heel counter is the very back of the shoe that comes up around and behind your heel. Test its firmness by trying to press in on the very back of your shoe with your fingers. A good firmness will make this a challenge, while poor support will collapse without much effort," says Bruce A. Scudday, DPM.
Comfortable Toe Box
A toe box should wide and long enough for toes to rest comfortably without being scrunched together or pressed against the front or sides of the shoe. There should be about a half-inch of space between the front of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
A toe box that is too tight can not only cause problems at the front of your foot but affect your gait in such a way as to contribute to problems with heel pain and other areas.
So take some time to walk in a shoe before making a decision—the more time you can get, the better. Make sure the heel does not slip around and that every part of the shoe feels comfortable. If you feel that a shoe needs to be “broken in” before it becomes comfortable enough, then it is not a shoe you should be wearing.
Best Shoes for Heel Pain
Comfortable shoes with arch support, a deep heel cup, a firm heel counter, or heel support are a great choice for reducing foot pain associated with heel pain.
The best shoes for heel pain will align your feet to their natural position and evenly distribute your weight across your foot. Thus, reducing the pulling of your plantar fascia, which is a primary cause of heel pain.
Now that you understand the importance of wearing supportive shoes, below is a list of the best shoes for heel pain.
#1 Best Men's Walking Shoes for Heel Pain
This men's style features motion control, great for heel stability or keeping your heels in place. In addition, the midfoot cushioning keeps your heels supported while providing instant comfort.
Why we recommend their go-to shoe is that responsive cushioning and soft crash pads stacked above it work together to provide a touch of spring underfoot while cushioning each footfall. It also has a firm heel counter - TPU plate, which makes for great heel stability. With removable footbeds, it makes it easy to put in custom or over-the-counter orthotics.
The most important thing, it is great for heel pain as they help eliminate it with its solid arch support and shock absorption capabilities. The durable rubber outsoles offer shock absorption for your heels, feet, and knees on a variety of surfaces. Not to mention, their unique constructions support your whole foot – toes, arch, and heel.
#2 Best Women's Athletic Shoes with Arch Support for Plantar Fasciitis
Having a good pair of walking shoes can help to eliminate heel pain, and this pair checks all the boxes. They're designed to cradle the footbed and prevent your ankles from being overworked.
This ultra-cushioned sneaker from WALKHERO has a slightly thicker heel, giving the shoe an 8 mm drop (distance in height between the heel and forefoot). The back of the shoe is built to “hug” the heel and provide extra support and comfort, and the sock liner and mesh upper make the shoe breathable and flexible for the top of your feet.
Made with a foam insole and high-performance cushioning, it offers heel support that allows you to go the distance. The soles have a gender-friendly cushioning design, which supports the natural running mechanics of your feet, and the heel crash pad absorbs shock upon impact. Additional stability is offered in the firm plastic surrounding the midsole.
The shoe is breathable and thanks to its fabric lining promote good foot health.
When it comes to choosing a shoe for heel pain, your best bet is to talk with a specialist — either a podiatrist or physical therapist — and try on a lot of different styles.
While every shoe discussed in this article is designed to provide support and comfort, your goal is to find which one feels best on your feet.