Winning The Battle Against Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain

Chatting my friend Tony yesterday the subject of conversation turned to feet _ he’d been reading my recent TGO piece. He asked how my heel pain (Plantar Fasciitis) was at the moment. Well, the good news is that this is has not really been a problem for twelve months now. A lot of experimenting and following tips given by readers here seems to have made a big difference. Tony suggested writing about it.

So, here we go. These are some of the things that I’ve done which seem to help!

Edited 31 Jan 17

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Scottish Track Surfaces — Is it Just Me?

An exchange with @trickygreen (in the comments section) has raised an issue that I have thought about writing about. Actually, the issue is a feature of my TGO Challenge Journal (which is now almost finished).

@trickygreen raises he wearing of trail shoes on the West Highland Way. Now, I have not walked the West Highland Way but I have done sections of it. I really dislike walking on this surface mainly because (own the sections I know) they are strewn with rather too large stones which are unpleasant and some times uncomfortable to walk on.

On this TGO Challenge I set out to create a route that minimised tarmac walking. I walked along a number of tracks that I have walked in the past. On more than a couple of times i found myself looking forward to a stretch of a walk only to find the track surface to be quite unpleasant.

I suppose a lot of these tracks have been improved or ’maintained’ to be better able to take heavy weight vehicles.

Is this just my imagination or route planning?

While I’m on the subject of feet, I’ve had a number of emails about the achilles/Plantar Fasciitis issue. There will be a bit of a focus on this in my TGO Journal (which is nearly finished) but ….

… the change inches back to the Inov-8’s has made a big difference. The Plantar pain has completely disappeared and I’ve been walking pain free all summer. Looking back, it seems that the the built up sole unit of the Brooks Cascardias were a bit of a disaster for me. On the Challenge the only really difficult day I had was the long road walk from Braemar to Ballater, where the achilles began to complain rather loudly. I shan’t be doing this stretch again (at least not for a while).

The 295’s have done well although I noticed last week that the sole on my left foot has collapsed inwards. I’m still hill walking with these shoes but my impressions that I won’t get as much life out of them as I did with the Terrocs. Those with more sensibly arranged feet might not have this kind of problem, but it is something to consider!

Dodgy Feet: Falling Arches, Over Pronation and Plantar Fasciitis

I’ve had a few emails recently about these feet conditions as a result of some of the pieces I’ve written about my own feet, and search for solutions. I’m not an expert at this, but this is what I now know! It might be useful!

Apparently, as we get older, 70% of us develop some kind of painful foot condition, often related to ‘Over Pronation’ which is the flattening of the feet or inward rolling of the feet when landing. You can see the often sometimes dramatically with wear and tear on you shoe soles. Pronation is important to the absorption of shock. Over pronation can cause stress, muscle fatigue and  whole host of other things.

Ophthalmic inserts and one solution to a lot of these foot conditions. You can have your feel measured by specialists who can supply you with bespoke inserts; I know a couple of people who simply couldn’t walk without these. Bespoke inserts can be expensive as they have to be replaced regularly. There are a number of commercially available inserts which aim to do something of a job and this is what I have been using.

For me Plantar Fasciitis has been very painful and almost debilitating over the last 12 months, partially the reason why there hasn’t been so much walking content here. After the TGO 15 Challenge I was in such a bad way that I basically rested the foot of the rest of the year!

This is a problem I get in my right foot, more precisely with the Achilles tendon on the heel. This can get sore, very sore. The inflamed heel is often very painful to the touch. Using inserts have made a difference.

I recently came across an exercise which gently stretches the Achilles and eases Plantar Fasciitis. As I hadn’t come across it before I thought I’d share it.

The idea is to find a step and to cling onto the step with your toes, leaving the rest of the foot dangling over the edge — hold on to some kind of rail or door handle. Straighten you legs, i.e., from your heel downwards. Hold the position and you will feel burn in your calf muscles. Hold the position as you would with many exercises. I can feel the strain in my Achilles. When you straighten up and walk properly again pain is often significantly relieved.

It is pretty easy to do this on the hills. Some mornings, when breaking camp, it takes me time for the heel to warm up but on other days the main is more pronounced. It is fairly easy to find a large stone, the side of a stream or other steep slope to do this exercise to — use walking poles out front for stability. If you are using a stream then obviously, take care not to fall in. No, I’m not saying anything!

I have been using inserts for a couple of years now, both in ordinary shoes and in training/trail shoes. I’ve been using Dr Feet insoles which are readily available from Amazon and the like. Like Superfeet you need to break them in slowly but they are a different kind of product to Superfeet — we are not talking about the same thing.

Recently I’ve started trying another brand, Pro 11 Wellbeing, as they sell a ‘Dual Shock’ system for running and walking. I’ve noticed that high impact surfaces such as tarmac and small chipping laden tracks are bad. So, I shall report back on these and have a look at whether they  are more effective. My pair cost less than £7.

It is claimed that the right insoles can help you with a lot of other walking related issues, bottom of the foot and heel pain, aching ankles and knees and so on. I’m not sure I can really comment on this. At the end of a long day in the hills — carrying a weight on my back — I just ache. I suspect this is an age thing 🙂

Review: Inov-8 Roclite 295














A pair of 295’s after 2 weeks on the TGO Challenge

I first discovered Inov-8 shoes through a piece that Cameron McNeish wrote in TGO Magazine. These shoes seemed to counter all of our received wisdom when it came to hiking shoes. I phoned Chris Townsend. What did he think? Chris gave them a raving review and I never looked back.

I used Inov-8 Terrocs through two iterations after which these shoes were sadly discontinued. By this time — as tends to be the case with shoes — the Inov-8 range had grown to a bewildering size. Now that the Terrocs had gone what should I do?

I had tried the Roclite range when they are introduced. There was much to like about them but the fit was far, far, too narrow for me. I have never been quite sure about the Mudclaws on all terrain and so after the demise of the Terroc I tried a while range of other shoes with very mixed results. I had a good look at the new Inov-8 range in Covent Garden and wasn’t impressed with the build quality. However, a new shoe had been introduced to the range, the Roclite 295 and critically these were available in a wider fit — the Standard Fit. Bob Cartwright used a pair of these on the 2015 Challenge and complained that they fell apart. To be fair to Inov-8 they replaced the pair and Bob had the impression that there had been a bad production batch — something that is not unknown to all gear manufacturers.

Just when I was beginning to despair about finding a decent replacement for the Terrocs Colin Ibbotson told me that he had bought a pair of 295s and that they seemed perfect, so much so that he ordered another 2 pairs (such are the demands of a long distance hiker). I bought a pair.

For a while I thought I would be set on another brand of shoe but they didn’t make it through a three day backpack in the spring. Despite only using this 295s for one short day walk I decided to take them with me on the Challenge. So, how did they fair?

I ordered a half size bigger than my shoe size and there certainly was a lot of space in them. This was certainly not the initial Roclite fit (which is now described as Precision  fit). I wondered whether they were too big. The first days of the Challenge were unusually hot and my feet certainly appreciated the extra space.

The bottom line was that the 295s performed superbly and I’m now back with Inov-8.

The 295s have a mesh upper which is reminiscent of the Terroc, however, this is a far more robust material. The shoe drains water try quickly and although not a scientific observation my feeling is that these are as good as the first generation Terrocs and maybe a bit better than the second generation Terroc.

The sole unit of the 295s is more robust than that on the Terroc and gives more cushioning. These shoes are unmistakably Inov-8 shoes but they are probably the most comfortable that I have used yet on a multi day trek.

Two weeks crossing Scottish heather moors and peat bogs tends to take its toll on trail shoes. Before setting off I adopted the same technique as I used to do with the Terrocs, I seam sealed the stitching on the shoe. In the photo at the top of the page you can see where I had sealed across the top of the shoe, an area with the Terrocs that was prone to developing a hole.

We may have been helped this year with drier than usual conditions but at the end of the two weeks the shoes were pretty well intact. There was no hint of the shoes beginning to fall apart. At the end of the event I compared notes with Colin Ibbotson who hadn’t seam sealed. He seemed just as impressed with the robust nature of the shoes.

The sole unit of the Terroc was of a softer composition than that on the 295s. The Terroc unit always showed significant wear at the end of a two week trek. This wear was more than compensated for by the grip of the Terroc on a range of surfaces.

The 295s proved to be comfortable on grass, on steep slopes, on rocky tracks and on tarmac. At the end of two week the west on the sole is minimal as you can see below.














All in all I was very happy, indeed impressed, with the 295s. All in all I thought their performance was better than the original Terroc. This is the best trail shoe I have backpacked in yet.

The range of the Inov-8 is still bewildering in its size and complexity. There seem to be a number of other shoes in the range that might be suited to all terrain walking but Inov-8 claim that the 295 is their best all-terrain shoe; I certainly had no complaints.

The wider ‘Standard’ fit has made a big difference. I’m not quite sure though that is the same as the Terroc. Comparing notes with Chris Townsend at the end of the Challenge he told me that he’d tried the 295s last year and found them to be still too narrow. Like me, Chris has wide feet. I do wonder whether he had been trying out a Precision fit but on one foot I did sometimes think there wasn’t as much room as in the Terroc. But on balance these shoes were very, very comfortable.

So on grounds of good grip on all terrain, on comfort and on durability I have no hesitation in recommending these shoes.

Amongst the Challenge lightweight gear aficionados there were some new choices of shoes and brands this year. I’m going to see if I can get some of them to write a review for me to post here.

It is nice to know I’ve got Inov-8 back.

Footwear: The Search Goes On

So, the feet have been a bit of a problem over the last seven or eight months. Way back at the end of 2014 I started the search for some alternatives to the Inov-8 Terrocs.  I settled on Brooks Cascardia 10s.  They seemed to be quite comfortable. For the Challenge I bought a new pair of Cascardia 10s. I assumed these were just the new version of the Cascara other than a different boot.

Then everything seems fall apart.

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More on Brooks Cascardia Sizing

Updated 11 December 2014 — Ed.

The Cascardia Trail shoes arrived late this afternoon. So how’s the fit?

To recap I used the Brooks US site to check the comparison between size and fit of the Inov-8 Terocs and the Cascardias. The site seemed to suggest the sizing and fit was compatible. I then ordered these from Amazon who quote sizes in UK measurements.

I ordered my usual size 9 but thought about going to the bigger half size (these are available). I have two feet that are different sizes. One is probably a little bigger than the standard size and the other feels a little lighter. While I have wide feet I have narrow heels and up-sizing often leads me with shoes that are not tight enough at the rear. 

The Cascardias are very compatible with the Terrocs. The fit on my feet is right enough. These being trail shoes they will stretch a bit and so allowance has to be made for that. I often find one small toe struggles with new shoes;this was never a problem with the original Terrocs although more of an issue with the second generation. these gave me some problems using thick Smartwool socks at first but were fine when I switched to Teko lights. There should be no problem with X-Socks with the Cascardias. Overall, I would say that they were marginally more comfortable out of the box that the second generation Terrocs.

I understand the point about the soles now; they are nowhere near as aggressive as those on the Terrocs but they look as if they will do the job.

I hope to take them out onto the hills on Saturday. I shall report back.


I took Andy Walker’s comments below seriously and have spent more time with these shoes (before going onto the hill) and thinking about whether I needed to exchange these for a half size up.

My shoes are pretty similar to me now worn in Terrocs. I have one foot bigger than the other. One foot fits well and the other maybe could do with a tad more size. My problem is that as the sizes get bigger I loose grip around the heel and on multi day trips this is where I would get blisters,

There is no stress on toes with this fit. I have tried them with both X Socks and Teko merino socks and they feel OK. My main problem is with big toe space in my right shoe and thought I might want a bit more clearance there is no pressure or tightness here. In terms of feet expanding through heat there seems to be enough room for that (as feet don’t get longer).

On balance I will stick with the UK size. It is a balance though and should you order these I think you have to prepared to experiment and move up half a size. I need a new pair of trainers and so will stick with these whatever.

I think I am going to be OK with the size, but I will report back!

TGO Gear: What To Do With the Feet Now Terrocs Have Vanished?

My only real bit of gear dilemma to deal with at the moment is what to put on my feet! After the best part of 10 years Inov-8 have killed-off my favourite trail shoe, the Terroc 330.

A couple of years ago the Terroc was ‘improved’. A new design was a little more robust, had a bit more cushioning in the sole and was pretty comfortable. What I liked about both Terroc models were that they were reasonably wide fitting, as I have awkward feet. Inov8’s Roclite range were just too narrow for me. I bought a few pairs of the latest 330s when I realised they were to be discontinued but I’m now down to the last pair.

One of the great things about the internet is that you can instantly take advantage of the experiences of others and this morning I’ve received a lot of recommendation. Inov8’s range (since being bought out by a North American outfit) has become more and more bewildering. Back in the day the company recognised that hill walkers were going for their shoes and they included this category on their website.  These days their site is nowhere near as helpful.

So, you’ll see how pleased I was to find an alternative that boasts just about one of the most helpful websites I’ve found so far.

Keith Foskett (and a few others) recommended a new trail shoe, well at least new to me. This is the Cascadia 9 shoe from Brooks. These shoes are now available in the UK but — if you are at all interested — I urge you to gave a look at the Brooks website and not just that of resellers.

The Cascardia 9 looks promising from the start but the web page is incredibly helpful. A little bubble with ‘What’s my Size?’ takes you to a really helpful interactive display. Using this display you can input the brand and model of a shoe that you have traditionally liked. I inputed Inov8 and then Terroc 330 and got a read out that told me what the corresponding size was for the Cascadia 9. The interactive tells me that this is a good fit in terms of size, comfort and — most importantly — width. I was able to order with confidence.

These look promising and I have ordered a pair. I shall report back!

Well done Brooks in helping customers make informed decisions. You’d almost think they have Inov8 owners in mind when they devised this. But, surely not?

Hiking with Fallen Arches/Flat Feet

Young readers beware. Regardless of how fit you are the older you get the more things tend to simply stop working properly! Occasionally I’ve written here about health related issues and I’m glad I had. My piece on back pain ended up in me being recommended the most useful book on the subject I’ve come across. I was able to share the book with others and I know from feedback it has helped others as well.

So, to feet. I’ve always had problems with fallen arches especially with my left foot. This has simply meant that walking on this foot can be quite painful. The problem has got worse and on the recent TGO coast-to-coast walk it became so painful that I decided it was time for action. I was surprised to find a solution that was simple and reasonably cheap!

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Challenge Preparation: Looking After Feet

Last night I was sitting in a hotel room reading Andrew Skurka’s blog. I saw a post he had written about foot care and it reminded me that I haven’t made my annual post about this yet.

Some new Challengers will be hiking in trail shoes and taking the advice that it is best to let you feet get wet while wearing shoes that dry out easily – and that usually means no Gore Tex lining. Anyhow, some key pointers!

  • Wear good, light and breathable socks. Smart wool and Teko are good for merino wool (with Teko having the edge I think) and X-Socks which are my preferred socks for coping it’s wet.
  • Always carry a spare pair or two. Dry socks at the end of the day is a real luxury.
  • If the weather permits give your feet a rest during the day, take off you shoes and give your feet access to some air.
  • Use barrier foot creams. I use Gerwol creams which you can get from or from some High Street shops. There are two to condiser. The Extra cream is used as a barrier at the beginning of the day. I helps protect the feet and – I swear – my feet feel colder without it. The refreshing balm is applied at night in camp, is heavy on lanolin, and really pampers your feet.
  • If you can rinse your socks out at it do so, it’s not necessary but is more pleasant.
  • Don’t worry about putting on wet socks in the morning – you soon get over the shock!
  • Carry a small tube of athlete’s foot cream. You might not need it but I find a good application at the first signs of itching keeps any problem away. This can also be used to treat the beginnings of other fungal infections: this may seem odd but if you need it you will be grateful of it!

I would put foot care in the essential category rather than the optional extra category.


Review: Back Sufferers’ Bible, Sarah Key

Discussion about back problems crops up on these pages quite regularly, and not just because of my recent back problems. Over the years the issue of back pain has come up in discussions about walking poles, in posts and threads that look at the Alexander Technique and so on. The threads on these posts are usually quite lengthy. As TGO vetter Pete Goddard said to me recently there are few of us hikers that don’t have back problems from time to time as we get older.

In one recent thread Colin Griffiths recommended Sarah Keay’s Back Sufferers’ Bible and encouraged me to go and buy it off Amazon. After a couple of weeks reading I can see why Colin thinks so highly of this book. Look at the reviews on Amazon (and there are a lot of them) you can see that Colin is not alone in thinking a great deal of this book.

Getting your first really bad back is not just painful, it’s quite a perplexing and confusing experience. One of the problems is that most people you talk to have had back problems, or have a family member who has. You hear all kinds of different ‘expert views’ about how back pain is caused and even more views on how to combat it. We’re often into real urban myth territory here.

Finding a knowledgable source of information is quite hard, not to say pretty expensive at times. The first time this happened to me I realised that I needed to find a new GP — mine had recently died. I decided to register with a practice nearer to where I now lived. They insisted that I had a full medical before they admitted me onto the books. By the time they got around to realising I wasn’t going to be too much trouble and arranging an appointment the back was on the mend. So I never went. Subsequent bouts of back problems were milder and I kind of knew then how it worked. I know a lot of people who have had similar experiences. There is just a lot we don’t know.

Take exercise. It’s pretty obvious that exercise is important, especially after the back has seized up and you’re trying to get some movement back into it. But which exercises? Is there a problem in over-doing it? Could you create more damage this way?

Sarah Key takes a very practical approach to the whole problem. the book looks at different kinds of back problem and explains clearly and simply what is going on, where the problems may have come from and how you can combat them. Her message is that even where there is degeneration of the back sensible care and exercise can regenerate bad backs. When you read the text it is quite obvious which bit applies to you. The pain she describes, and the phases that you go through, are so obviously the ones you have experienced yourself that it gives you confidence in the text.

There is a lot of technical stuff here but it is presented clearly and without too much drama or padding. It is a book that I find myself dipping in and out of. Each time I do this I learn a lot.

The focus here is on self treatment, the book is sub-titled ‘How you CAN treat your own back!’ I’m not normally a fan of self help guides, often finding them verging on mumbo jumbo; but there’s no such problem here. If your looking for a detailed explanation of what is going on with your back you’ll probably find it here.

I’ve not spent hours (yet) reading the more medical bits. I’ve been more interested in the exercises that are provided in the book. Key features specific exercises in each section that deals with a specific complaint; she tells you which are the best techniques to use. However, at the rear of the book all of the exercises are bought together. It is quite easy to experiment with the different exercises that are laid out here.

More specifically, Key talks about the problems with exercise as well as the benefits. However, there is encouragement to be bolder than you might otherwise. Take really serious bending like touching the toes and to- swing exercises. Key recognises that many people worry about these but she makes it clear that these exercises have really great benefits if you can deal with them.

To cut a long story short I’ve settled on four or five exercises over the last couple of weeks, including some of the more drastic stretching exercises that I’d been worrying about. I find just a short time with these every morning — and I mean no more than 10 minutes — makes a really big difference. I don’t start the day stiff but with more mobility in my back than I’ve often had when I’ve been OK! Now I find myself quickly running through some of them during the day whenever I feel a little stiffer.

This book has genuinely made a difference to me and I’ve hardly begun to explore the vast part of its content. If you’re struggling with occasional or regular back problems then it’s going to worth your while shelling out the £6 for this. And despite the forward from Prince Charles this really is a no nonsense and straightforward volume.

Thanks Colin!

Four stars!