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Best Stretches and Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis

by Patty Weasler, RN August 23, 2019 0 Comments

Plantar fasciitis pain results from inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs from the toes to the heel, and can make it difficult to stay mobile. It is most often caused by micro-traumas, which build-up on the ligament over time and eventually lead to foot pain, stiffness, and swelling. Finding the right plantar fasciitis stretches and exercise can help make the foot more flexible and less susceptible to these injuries. See our guide below for more information and help on getting started on your own stretching exercises.

Morning Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis

The best stretches and exercises for plantar fasciitis focus on the calf muscles, lower leg, achilles tendon, and arches, as these ligaments are all connected to the plantar fascia.

When combined with the right stretching tools, along with other home remedies, it’s possible to repair damaged tissue and reduce the risk of worsening already painful symptoms. Learn how to perform these foot and calf stretches and start relieving your plantar fasciitis heel pain.

Foot Stretches

Towel Stretch

With just a towel or stretch strap, it’s easy to get an effective plantar fasciitis stretch in minutes. Start by sitting on the ground with your legs ahead, separated slightly. Place your towel or strap under the ball of your foot and hold the ends firmly in each hand. Pull while keeping knees straight for 15 to 30 seconds.

Toe Extension Stretch

Start this toe stretch by sitting in a chair, with your leg straight and one of your heels planted firmly on the floor. Use your hand to gently pull your big toe back until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and switch feet.

Heel Drop Stretch

Find a step ladder or lower stair for this plantar fasciitis exercise. Start with the bottom of your foot on the step, leaving the arch and heel of the foot hanging off. Then, dip the heel of your foot down slightly, while bracing yourself with your hands. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and switch feet.

Rolling Stretch

With the help of a frozen water bottle, tennis ball, foam roller, or massage ball you can work your plantar fascia directly and loosen up foot muscles. Start by sitting tall on a chair with your roller on the floor. Then, place your roller under the arch of the foot and rull back and forth, from the ball of the foot all the way to the heel. Roll for two minutes and switch feet.

Arch Extension and Contraction

Using a wall for stability, raise your heel off the floor and hold for five seconds. Then, slowly lift one foot off the floor and bend backwards, gently pressing the tops of your toes against the floor and curving the arch of your foot inward for five seconds. Slowly switch to the other foot and repeat.

Calf Stretches

Standing Calf Stretch

This simple exercise only requires an open wall and a few minutes to get a good calf, heel, and plantar fascia stretch. Start with your toes about two feet from the wall and place your hands on the wall at about eye level. Step forward with one leg, keeping the heel of the other leg firmly on the floor. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of the calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Wall Calf Stretch

Start this stretch the same way as the standing calf stretch, toes two feet from the wall and hands flat against the wall at eye level. Then, place your heel on the floor near, and the ball of your foot on the wall. Straighten your leg until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Calf Stretcher

Using a calf stretcher makes makes it easy to work all of the major muscles in your foot with a single piece of equipment. Simply place your weight on the stretcher and rock back and forth to stretch your calf, achilles tendon, and plantar fascia in a single motion. You can use two at once for double the effectiveness, just remember to brace yourself with a chair or wall.

Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis

Once foot muscles are loosened up, plantar fascia exercises are a good way to build strength to reduce painful symptoms in the foot, keeping the ligaments pliable and more resilient to inflammation in the future. Over time, you can increase the intensity of your workout, building a strong plantar fascia that can stand up to regular use.

Try these plantar fascia exercises to for a safe and effective pain relief.

Toe Curls With Towel

If you still have your towel handy, try this workout. Start by sitting in a chair with a hand towel beneath your feet. Scrunch the towel with your toes, curling the foot as much as possible and gathering the towel under your foot. Then release and extend the foot, pushing the towel away from you. For an extra challenge, put a hand weight or other heavy object on the end of the towel.

Marble Pick Ups

Use regular marbles or stones to exercise your foot muscles with this unique exercise. Start in a comfortable chair with a cup and six marbles on the floor in front of you. Pick up the marbles one by one between your toes and place them in the cup.

Heel Raises

Heel raises can be an effective way to work the plantar fascia with the help of a foam balance pad. Begin with the ball of your foot positioned on the edge of the balance pad, with you arch and heel hanging off the edge. Using a chair or wall to steady yourself, raise yourself up using just your foot and ankle. Start with 3 sets of 12 repetitions, and for an extra challenge place a rolled towel under your big toe.

Arch Raises

For a gentle plantar fascia exercise that requires no equipment, try arch raises. The goal is to keep your toes and heel firmly on the floor while flexing the arch muscles. Start by tightening the muscles on the bottom of the foot as though you are going to turn the foot over. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each foot.

Plantar Compression

Try this exercise to work trigger points located on the plantar fasciia. Place a massage ball under the arch of your foot and apply pressure. Then, lift your toes up and back down to stretch the plantar fascia. Roll the ball a bit further down the length of the arch and repeat, until the entire surface of the plantar fascia has been exercised. 

When to Perform Stretches & Exercises

Perform stretches before exercises to loosen the plantar fascia ligaments and aim for 2 to 3 times per day. Try to mix them up and do different variations each time, you do not have to do all of them at once.

Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Exercising your foot immediately after incurring an injury can cause further damage to the tissue. Wait until the initial swelling has subsided.
  • Use massage techniques to help warm up the ligaments prior to performing stretches.
  • Stretch before a trip to the gym or long jog to warm-up the plantar fascia, increase flexibility, and boost circulation
  • Plantar fasciitis symptoms tend to worsen overnight so doing stretches in the morning before taking your first steps can be beneficial.
  • Try stretching your feet overnight with a night splint or stretch sock to reduce plantar fasciitis pain in the morning. These splints hold your foot at a 90 degree angle to ensure the tissue that runs down your calf and attaches to the Achilles tendon stays stretched and pliable.

Manage Symptoms with Plantar Fasciitis Stretches and Exercises

The best exercise and stretch routine is one that is tailored to your needs. Choose the perfect combination from the list above for a healthy plantar fascia and a range of other benefits including improved flexibility, boosted circulation, enhanced arch support, foot endurance and more. Supplement with the right stretching aids, and you’ll be able to manage plantar fasciitis symptoms with ease.

Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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