How I Hike With Plantar Fasciitis

If you love hiking, like I do, other than a mama black bear protecting her cubs, there’s nothing that can stop you in your tracks faster, than Plantar Fasciitis. It’s a pain in the heel. Here’s what I do to keep putting one foot in front of the other on my favorite Colorado hiking trails.


What it is:

Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. It usually affects runners, but not always. It is excruciating – like a hot poker being shoved up your heel. It’s worst in the morning, right when you get out of bed and after long periods of sitting. All of these problems are because the Plantar Fascia ligament that wraps around your heel, supports your arch, and extends to the ball of your foot is compromised in some way. I’ve read it’s because the ligament is inflamed and also because it’s damaged by tiny tears in the arch area. All I know is it HURTS!

How to hike with it:

The day before: A lot of literature says to rest your feet until you get better. I’m not sure what that means, sit on the couch for a month or more? I don’t think so. If possible though, I try to give my feet a little break the day before a hike – meaning I’m not doing something where I’m standing all day, but I’m still pretty much going about my daily business.

At night: I wear a PF night brace to keep my foot in a flexed position. This really helps and makes putting pressure on my feet in the morning much more tolerable. I use the Dorsel Fin. It’s comfortable and doesn’t bother me at all when I’m sleeping, although husband calls it my club foot.

Inserts: Part of the reason I have not seen a doctor for my PF is because I have a stupid high deductible. Orthodics are a common and expensive remedy. Instead, I use these heel cushioning inserts from the drug store in my hiking boots and running shoes. They cushion my heel and help support my arch. I realize these are not a substitute for custom orthodics, but they are a cost-conscious workaround.

On the drive to the trailhead: I smear a good amount of Aspercreme Pain Relieving Creme on my heel and foot. It’s hard to tell how much this helps, but it has an anti-inflammatory in it and I figure I can’t hurt.

At the trailhead: I do a few things:

  • Before I lace up my hiking boots, I slather on more Aspercreme, this time with Lidocaine. Lidocaine is a numbing agent and it really works. It takes a few minutes to kick in, but when it does I notice a big difference. I tuck this Aspercreme in my pack for later in the hike.
  • Next comes an ankle height compression sock like this one. I don’t know how much this helps the PF, but I like how it feels on my foot. Over this I put on my normal hiking socks.
  • Finally, before hitting the trail I take a burst of ibuprofen, four tablets or 200 milligrams to keep inflammation to a minimum.

American Lake 2

At the trail high point: Often the hikes we do end up at a water feature like a lake. High alpine lakes filled with snowmelt are basically an all-natural ice water bath for your feet. During lunch, I take off my boots and soak my heel and feet for as long as I can before they go numb. It’s fun and feels good. A little more Aspercreme with Lidocaine before heading back and I’m all set.

Back at the car: I take another burst of ibuprofin and ice my foot if needed with some ice from a ziplock a cooler I’ve packed with cold drinks for the ride home.

Other things to consider: A good pair of hiking boots will make a world of difference to your trail experience, especially if you’re afflicted with PF. Take time to find a pair that fit you perfectly. You may also want retractable hiking poles (these will be my next hiking-related purchase) to ease the impact of your footfalls, especially on the downhill.

Also, if you have PF, you should be stretching your calves and foot muscles several times a day, every single day. If you don’t have a dumb deductible like me, definitely go see a podiatrist. If that’s not an option, this low-tech routine has helped me to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I enjoy some of the gorgeous hiking trails, in, around and near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

I would love to hear what you do to soothe your PF so you can keep doing the activities you love. Leave me a comment and let me know.


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