Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to toes) becomes inflamed after excessive stretching or overuse.
Heel pain is a common result of plantar fasciitis, as irritation turns into inflammation or swelling. To prevent heel pain and additional symptoms, and to regain mobility, podiatrists recommend doing exercises to control the condition and to strengthen the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis exercises are proven to be successful in dealing with the symptoms of the condition, but certain exercises—such as running, jumping, or excessive pounding of the foot—can worsen the condition.
The exercises described below should never cause pain, but rather a pulling feeling. It’s recommended you try to do these exercises two or three times per day, and not in one sitting. Below are some exercises you can learn to stretch the arch of your foot.
Common exercises that relieve symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
Achilles Tendon Stretch: While standing on a step (such as on a staircase), slowly lower your heel over the edge of the step as you relax your calf muscles. Hold for about fifteen to twenty seconds, then tighten your calf muscle to bring your heel back up to the level of the step. Repeat four times. Items you’ll need: a staircase
Calf Stretch: While standing against a wall with your back to it, lean forward with one knee straight and your heel on the ground. Place the other leg in front on you with the knee bent. Push your hips towards the wall for ten seconds to stretch the calf muscle and heel cord. You should be able to feel the calf muscle stretching. Doctors recommend repeating this exercise twenty times for each foot. Items You’ll Need: a wall.
Hamstring Stretch: Extend one leg in front of you with that foot flexed (toes pointed up while the heel is pointed at the ground—also known as dorsiflexon movement). While bending your other knee, lean back slightly. Your pelvis should be tilted forward. Keep your upper body upright and hold the stretch for ten to twenty seconds. Switch sides and repeat. You should be able to feel your hamstring stretching all the way up your calf and thigh. Items you’ll need: A wall to help you balance.
Plantar Fascia Stretch: While seated, cross your legs at the knee with the affected foot on top of the other foot. Grab the toes of the affected foot and pull them towards you slowly with your hand on the plantar fascia. Hold this position for ten seconds and repeat twenty times. Items you’ll need: a chair.
Towel Stretch: This exercise requires you to place a small towel on the floor in front of you. While sitting on a chair, place your feet flat on the towel. Keep your heel on the ground and use your toes to pull the towel towards you little by little. Many doctors suggest that you begin doing this exercise with a lightweight towel and move up to using a heavier towel as the foot becomes stronger. Items you’ll need: A chair and towel.
Foot Flexing: This exercise is recommended before getting out of bed, when the pain of plantar fasciitis is most commonly felt. This exercise involves flexing your foot up and down ten times before standing, slowly and with one foot in the air, one foot at a time. Items you’ll need: none.
Pencil Pick-Up: This exercise requires you to place a pencil on the ground in front of you while you are seated in a chair. Using your toes, pick the pencil up and hold it for a few seconds at a time. Repeat this exercise ten times. Many people also use items such as marbles to do this exercise. Items you’ll need: a chair and a pencil or marble.
Toe Walking: You should do this exercise slowly at first. Stand on your tip-toes and walk ten to fifteen steps at a time. Once you get good at doing this, increase your distance from to twenty to twenty-five steps, and more as you get stronger. Items you’ll need: none.
Rolling Stretch: At first this exercise should be done while seated, either on a chair or on the edge of your bed. While seated, use the arch of one foot to roll a tennis ball or rolling pin back and forth ten times, then switch feet and repeat. Once you have practiced this awhile, begin doing it while standing up. Items you’ll need: a chair and a ball or circular item that you can roll under your foot.
Rotational Hamstring Stretch: While standing with your weight on your left foot, place your right heel on a table that is level with your waist. Facing forward, rotate your left foot outward about forty-five degrees, keeping your weight on your left foot. Lean forward with your shoulders until you feel a pull in the hamstring of your right leg (leg on table).
While keeping your right hamstring tight, simultaneously rotate your right knee clockwise, then counter-clockwise twenty times. Try your best to stay relaxed during the entire process. Once you are finished, remove your right leg and rest it for a moment.
When you are ready again, place your right leg back onto the table, but this time keep the left foot rotated inward approximately ten degrees and do twenty more repetitions (clockwise and counter-clockwise). Repeat with your left leg on the table. Items you’ll need: a table that is waist height.
Tri-Plane Achilles Stretch: Stand with your left foot six to ten inches in front of your right foot. Shift most of your weight onto your left leg and bend your left knee. Make sure your left foot remains flat on the ground; your right foot should only have the toes on the ground.
Move your left foot slowly to the left while trying to point the knee in a somewhat lateral direction. Bring your knee back to a straight position and then move it to the right. You should be able to feel a side-to-side pull in your left Achilles tendon.
When you return your knee from the right, straighten it out again. You have completed one rep. Do twenty reps, change feet, and do twenty more. Items you’ll need: none, unless you need a wall or chair nearby for balancing purposes.
Rotational Plantar Fascia Stretch: You will need to be barefoot for this exercise. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your left foot two or three inches ahead of your right foot. Make sure the toes of your left foot come into contact with a wall, so the toes are in a dorsiflexion position.
Your heel and the sole of your left foot should be on the ground, with your toes on the wall and your left knee bent slightly. Keep your weight evenly distributed. Slowly rotate your left foot to the inside, then slowly rotate your left foot to the outside, shifting the weight to the outside of your foot. Repeat this movement fifteen times before switching feet and repeat. Items you’ll need: a wall.
Talking To Your Doctor About Plantar Fasciitis Exercises
If you do not understand one of the exercises above, ask your doctor to demonstrate it for you. Here are some questions to ask your doctor about plantar fasciitis exercises:
- Which of the exercises listed above would benefit me most?
- Should I be seeking physical therapy?
- How often should I perform normal exercises such as running?
- Are there any other exercises that might help my condition?
To learn more about additional treatment options and symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis.