Best Hiking and Weatherproof Boots for Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
Hiking Boots for Heel Pain
I have experienced chronic heel pain due to plantar fasciitis for many years. The condition comes and goes, and sometimes it’s so bad that I can barely walk. But I also love to hike and go for long walks, so I have been on the search for a pair of boots thatcan both support and protect my feet during distance hikes, and cushion my heels so the pain is manageable. This article is about finding boots that do both.
Don't Let Heel Pain Keep You From Hiking!
One of the most common causes of heel pain is an inflammatory condition known as "plantar fasciitis." Plantar fasciitis is a nagging, painful condition caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thin band of connective tissue that runs under the heel. This tissue takes a beating from the point of the heel bone, and every step can aggravate the irritation and damage.
Unfortunately, the heel pain from plantar fasciitis can keep you from doing the things you love, expecially outdoor activities like hiking. Ironically, hiking and other calorie-burning body work helps you lose weight, which in turn lessens the pain in your heels, since the impact from each step is lower the less you weigh.
But if you have heel pain and love hiking, you do have options! This article is about hiking and all-weather boots that are designed with heel health in mind. Whether or not you have heel pain, these are high quality, affordable boots that will keep your feet both dry and feeling good.
Are There Hiking Boots for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain Relief?
The short answer is YES, and they're made by Nike. Manoa and Goadome boots have a special heel unit that's also used in many styles of Nike running shoes. These high-quality hiking boots are unusual in that they have a heel unit specifically designed to cushion the heel strike produced by walking and running.
Wearing these boots feels distinctly different from typical hiking boots. There's the usual support and protection of tough, top-level hiking boots, but there's an added sense of sole comfort that I haven't found in other hiking boots, despite years of searching.
Hiking boots are not typically designed to provide pain relief -- they are designed to provide ankle support and overall foot protection. Manoa boots do both, and that's why they have made it possible for me, a hiker rendered almost immobile by heel pain, to get up and out and finally enjoy being on the trail again.
Nike Manoa Hiking Boots
Fortunately, there are hiking boots that really make a difference and can actually allow your aching feet a chance to heal – Manoa hiking boots by Nike. These boots have an Air Max heel unit that cushions your heels in a way that no other shoe I have found can match. I have written extensively on plantar fasciitis and the Nike Air Max heel unit, and I draw heavily on my own experience, from my plantar fasciitis diagnosis to my search for a shoe that I could wear in comfort.
If you’re active, like me, you want to have options for you life and your health. Nike Manoa boots make it possible for people with heel pain to actually hike and take long outdoor walks. If you’re currently suffering through a bout of plantar fasciitis or other chronic heel and foot condition, this may sound impossible. But my own experience with the Air Max heel unit shows what’s possible if your have the right pair of shoes.
Plantar Fasciitis – My Diagnosis
At 45 years of age, I decided that I wanted to run a triathlon. My wife and friends were skeptical, since I was not an athlete and only in fairly good shape – I was definitely not one of those hard-body older men you see on billboards and pumping iron in the gym. But I was determined, and I trained religiously, and within a year I was ready for the big challenge. It helped that I listened to reason (and my wife), and had decided to run a “half triathlon,” which was a little more realistic for a noob like me. But it was still a pretty serious challenge – a mile swim, a 24 mile bike ride, and a six-mile run, with no rest in between. I figured just finishing would be my goal.
The big day came, and even though I did ‘t exactly leave a trail of scorched asphalt in my path, I did manage to finish, and ahead of a few people, too. It was absolutely exhilarating, and I recommend it to anyone who feels like they need a challenge in their lives and is in reasonable shape (but be sure to check in with your doctor before you get too far into your training!).
Near the end of my training for the triathlon, I was noticing a faint ache in the bottom of both heels while I was running. It was nothing serious, and at this point my knees hurt enough to cover up little pains like these. Then, about two weeks after the race, I went for a pretty ambitious run while on vacation in Wisconsin. This run was a little different from my training – the terrain was hllly, and my route had some challenging up-hill stretches that I attacked with my customary determination. During this run my heels started to hurt more than usual, but I finished and felt pretty good overall.
The next day, my life changed. Up and out of bed, I immediately noticed a pain in my heels that’s a little hard to describe – like a sharp ache that make every step hurt. I couldn’t walk without a little hobble, and as the day went on it got worse. “Oh well,” I thought. “A couple of days and it’ll get better.” Only it didn’t. It actually got worse. Some days I could literally barely walk. I hobbled in to see my doctor, and she was quick with a diagnosis – plantar fasciitis. I was doomed to months of heel pain, and unable to run or train as well. I felt like an idiot for running those hills.
Nike Goadome Hiking Boots
Nike Goadome Boots
Goadome boots aren't exactly hiking boots -- the pair I own seem designed for snow and rain more than steep hiking trails. Still, they would serve nicely on an easy-to-medium rated trail, and will protect your feet and ankles reasonably well. My Goadome boots are lightweight but tough, and they have an excellent lug tread that keeps me upright even when the walk is slick and icy. If Manoa hiking boots aren't for you, then Goadome boot might be the lighter, less-rugged look you need.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition that is the result of the repeated impact of your heel bone on a thin band of connective tissue on the bottom of your foot. It's a nagging, chronic condition that tends to stick around for a long time and resist most forms of treatment. The heel bone has a pointed bottom, and too much running or even walking can make that pointed bone inflict damage on the tissues under your heel. The pain from this condition gets worse with the repeated heel strikes from running or hiking. Not surprisingly, plantar fasciitis due to running, walking, and even hiking is a growing problem among amateur athletes. As us baby boomers start getting up there, strapping on the running shoes or hiking boots and hitting the trails in the hopes of losing a few pounds means that we're asking for trouble.
Weight Gain and Plantar Fasciitis
Being overweight wasn't the cause of my heel pain, but plenty of other people get plantar fasciitis simply by gaining weight. It’s no mystery why added weight would cause trouble in your heels – if you eat a lot, you'll probably gain weight, and the part of your body that suffers the most from all that added weight your feet. Every "foot strike," which is the term that describes how your foot hits the ground when you walk or run, impacts that band of connective tissue under your foot. This cause of plantar fasciitis can be alleviated simply by losing weight.
How to Tell If You’re Losing Fat and Not Muscle
If you’re a little overweight and your heels hurt, you might get serious relief by losing a few pounds. I lost about seven pounds in my attempts to alleviate my heel pain, and I couldn’t have done it without this really cool body composition scale. These little units are also known as “smart scales,” and they work on the principle that knowledge is power. A smart scale tells you how much of your body is fat, water, or muscle. When you lose weight, you never really know which of these you’re losing. A high quality, affordable body composition scale lets you track the amount of actual fat you’re losing. Since we want to lose fat and keep muscle, this is really important! And once your body weight starts to drop, your heels will be under less pressure from every step that you take. One of the new, advanced scales like this EatSmart Precision Body Fat Scale can tell you what you need to know about your weight.
The First Nike Shoes Were Made in a Garage With a Waffle Iron
Yes, that’s right – the guys who started Nike began with foam rubber and a waffle iron. They went into the garage and “cooked” the foam in the waffle iron, making a very primitive version of the running shoe that we all know today. Before they did that, the only running or athletic shoes had flat soles – like Chuck Taylors and other Converse brands. Nike created an entire new world of athletic shoe, a “waffle” sole that morphed into a world-wide phenomenon that has changed the lives of millions upon millions of people. The man who invented the Nike shoe, Bll Bowerman, was having waffles for breakfast when he had an epiphany:
"As one of the waffles came out, [Bill] said, 'You know, by turning it upside down to where the waffle part would come in contact with the track, I think that might work.' So he got up from the table and went tearing into his lab and got two cans of whatever it is you pour together to make the urethane, and poured them into the waffle iron."
The waffle iron may have never the same, but there's no question that the shoe world was changed forever.