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Foot Arch Stretches to Improve Pain

by Jessica Hegg July 14, 2021 0 Comments

Pain in the arch of the foot is a common symptom of many foot conditions; such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, fallen arches, high arches and even general wear and tear. Regardless of the cause, performing consistent foot arch stretches and exercises can make a big difference in managing AND relieving foot pain. Keep scrolling for a list of the best stretches and exercises (recommended by physical therapists) for arch pain.

What Exercise Do for Arch Pain 

There are a lot of great benefits to regularly exercising the foot, ankle and lower leg muscles. With the right attention to your feet, you will find arch pain much easier to manage or even prevent along with:

  • Increased blood flow to promote healing and reduce inflammation
  • Improved foot and ankle strength; aiding in proper joint mechanics
  • Better tolerance for daily activities
  • Restore balance to the foot, ankle and entire lower leg to reduce unnecessary strain
  • A great adjunct to other foot pain treatment options for maximizing recovery 
  • Boosting overall quality of life

More Ways to Treat Arch Pain

Best Stretches & Exercises for Foot Arch Pain

Stretching and strengthening the bottom of the foot, ankle and achilles tendon can help reduce stiffness all the way from your toes and the ball of your foot to the arch and heel. Start gently and keep the lower leg as relaxed as possible as you stretch.

You can always progress to a deeper stretch and range of motion, as long as it doesn’t aggravate your symptoms.

1. Seated Plantar Fascia Stretch

Pain in the plantar fascia, the thick ligament in the bottom of your foot, is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. Having a way to stretch this area can give you great relief. The key with stretching the plantar fascia is to get the toes involved.

  • Grab a stretch strap, towel, or belt and wrap it around the bottom of the toes near the ball of the foot
  • Alternatively, you can wrap the strap around the big toe only to get a deeper stretch. 
  • Lift the foot off the ground while keeping the knee relatively straight
  • Use your hands to pull on the strap ends and bring the toes back toward the shin
  • Continue pulling until you feel a stretch in the bottom of the foot, you will probably feel a stretch in the calf as well
  • Note: The toes should be extended back toward the shin as well
  • Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each foot 

If you’re having trouble coordinating this move, you can bring your foot in your lap and gently stretch the toes and ankle back with your hands. 

2. Seated Ankle Pumps

This simple exercise is great for getting the foot and ankle loosened up and moving. Particularly with plantar fasciitis, completing this before getting up in the morning can reduce common first step pain.

  • Sit on the edge of the bed with both feet flat on the floor
  • Lift your foot up toward your shin, as high as is comfortable, while keeping the heels on the ground
  • Hold for up to 2 seconds before returning your toes to the ground
  • Now, switch directions with your heels lifting off the ground and toes staying on the ground
  • Hold again for up to 2 second before returning to the starting position
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions, for 2-3 sets total

3. Standing Calf Stretch

A general calf stretch always feels good with foot and/or heel pain. This is because they tend to get tight with pain, swelling, or any change in the way we’re walking or standing. You can always add a strong stretch to the bottom of the foot when you get the toes into extension, a win-win.

  • Stand near a chair or wall for balance
  • Step into a lunge position with the foot you want to stretch in the back
  • Make sure both feet are pointing straight forward and flat on the floor
  • Keep the back knee straight as you shift your weight into your front knee and bend it
  • Continue to shift until you feel a stretch in the back of the calf
  • Make sure the back heel doesn’t lift off the ground (unless you want to extend the toes to get a stretch in the plantar fascia)
  • Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg

4. Calf Stretcher

Using a calf stretcher can help you achieve similar results and a deep stretch in the foot, back of calf, and even up into the hamstring. Gently rock back and fourth to feel the stretch, but be sure to use a standing support to keep your balance or try this stretch seated.

5. Tibialis Posterior Stretch

The tibialis posterior muscle can be a cause of foot arch pain due to its role in supporting the arch. Try this stretch to keep the muscle loose.

6. Resisted Plantar Flexion

Balanced strength of the lower leg is essential for tackling foot pain. This exercise addresses the calf muscles and deeper ankle muscles that help control the foot arch, such as the tibialis posterior.

  • Grab a medium level resistance band and sit in a chair
  • Place the band around the ball of the foot and hold both ends with your hands
  • With your entire foot lifted off the ground and knee relatively straight, push the midfoot down into the band as if pushing on a gas pedal
  • Move as far as is comfortable, pointing your toes if possible
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly (and with control) returning to the starting position
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets

When this exercise becomes too easy, you can increase repetitions or resistance. Then, when you feel comfortable and have adequate ankle control you can try standing heel raises too.

7. Toe Scrunches

This is one of many options for strengthening the little muscles within the foot that naturally provide arch support. These muscles can be surprisingly hard to coordinate at first, so start slowly and focus on good form without cramping.

  • Sit in a chair with a hand towel flat on the floor and under the feet
  • Lift the toes up toward the ceiling before reaching them forward
  • Place the toes on the towel and then scrunch them back, attempting to bring the front of the towel closer to you
  • Repeat this move continuously for up to 15 repetitions or until the front of the towel is under your toes
  • Make sure to keep both heels touching the ground, except to adjust the towel as needed
  • Continue for 2-3 sets total

Additional options for addressing toe strength and the arch of your foot include marble pickup, walking in sand, and drawing the alphabet with your toes.

8. Toe Flexion and Extension

    This exercise is similar to ankle pumps, but with the toes. The goal again is to promote circulation, toe range of motion and general strength. It’s also a good exercise to complete before getting up in the morning.

    • Long sit in your bed or on the floor
    • Let your feet relax in a neutral position with your toes pointing up toward the ceiling
    • Bring the toes back as far as is comfortable (into extension) and hold for 1-2 seconds
    • Return your toes to the starting position
    • Then, bend (curl) your toes as far as you can and hold again for 1-2 seconds
    • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total
    • Keep your ankle neutral throughout, focusing only on toe movement

    9. Foot Massage

    Massaging the foot before or after stretching and strengthening exercises is always a good idea. It warms up the area, boosts blood flow, and reduces the risk of onset of pain later on. There are a few simple ways to massage the arch of the foot.

    Self Massage Tips & Tools

    Using Your Hands

    • To massage the foot with no tools, simply sit in a chair and bring your foot onto the opposite knee so that can easily reach it with your hands
    • Wrap your hands around each side of the foot so that both of your thumbs are resting on the bottom and center of the foot
    • Make circular motions with your thumbs along the bottom of the foot
    • Move slowly back and forth between the heel and ball of the foot
    • Choose a pressure that you can tolerate without an increase in pain or muscle guarding
    • Continue for 3-5 minutes as needed

    Using Massage Tool

    • Grab a massage ball or massage cylinder, if you don’t have these try a lacrosse ball or a frozen water bottle
    • Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor
    • Place your massage tool of choice under the bottom of your foot
    • Apply pressure that is tolerable 
    • Slowly roll back and forth between the heel and ball of the foot
    • Continue for up to 5 minutes for relief
    • For further therapeutic effects, try freezing your massage set first

    With each of these exercises, the most important factor is your arch control. You should be able to keep your foot in an optimal position, without the arch collapsing, while completing any of these exercises. This will help promote better control and reduce onset of pain and injury.

    What Exercises Make Arch Pain Worse

    The biggest contributor to foot arch pain is weight bearing activity, particularly when high impact. This is why all our recommended exercises are performed in non-weight bearing positions. Ultimately, what you are able to tolerate will depend on fitness level and coordination. Common exercises you should avoid with foot pain include:

    • Jumping or other plyometric moves; such as burpees
    • High impact sports (i.e. soccer and basketball)
    • Running or jogging (especially on hard surfaces)
    • Dancing or other cardio aerobics

    These aggravating exercises aren’t completely off the table when it comes to your foot recovery. However, you may want to take some time to rest from these.

    Arch Pain When Running? Check Out This Guide Here

    Maximizing Your Exercise Routine

    Having a regular foot exercise program is essential for managing and preventing unnecessary symptoms. These exercises are a great place to start as long as they don’t aggravate your foot pain. In most cases, this routine will make you feel gradually better within a matter of days or week.

    If you aren’t sure where to start, you might consider scheduling a round of physical therapy. They can help address any underlying alignment, biomechanical, or coordination issues. If your symptoms don’t seem to be improving or getting worse, make sure you get in touch with a trusted medical professional, such as a physical therapist, podiatrist, or orthopedic doctor, for further medical advice.

    Sources:

    https://heelthatpain.com/worst-exercises-plantar-fasciitis/

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320964

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    Jessica Hegg
    Jessica Hegg

    Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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