The plantar fascia is a strong band on the bottom of the foot that joins the large heel bone to the toes, supports the internal muscles on the foot and assists propulsion and  walking abilities. 

Sore heels and the arch of your foot? Notice this when getting out of bed? It could be plantar fasciitis – these stretches and exercises are for you!

There are many factors that come into play when discussing the causes and risks of plantar fasciitis, for more information on this topic please click here

Strengthening and stretching the plantar fascia is great pain management for the structure and helps reduce further injury risk for the future. 

These stretches and exercises are most effective before you step out of bed in the morning or after a period of rest such as sitting on the couch or working at a desk. The reason behind the exercises is that it encourages blood flow and helps to clear inflammation. 

Plantar Fasciitis Stretches to Soothe Heel Pain

Plantar fascia stretch

This stretch is simple and effective! 

  • This stretch is best performed when seated
  • Rest the affected foot on the opposite knee
  • Pull the big toe back towards the front of your leg 
  • You can ensure you are doing this correctly if you can see or feel the muscle belly stand out of the bottom of your foot
  • Research tells us that this works best for 10 second holds at a time at 10 repetitions and minimum of 3 times a day

Toe stretches

Stretching the big toe where the plantar fascia inserts is another great way to target the affected area. Using a theraband/resistance band, a sock, tights or even a towel; place it under your big toe and pull back towards yourself. 

Hold for 30 seconds, push into the band for 5-10 seconds using your big toe and pull back again for another 30 seconds and you should feel even more of a stretch. Repeat this twice. 

Don’t forget about the other foot! Even though it may not be symptomatic, prevention is key for heel pain! 

Rolling stretches 

Giving your arches and bottom of your feet can release tension, toxins and inflammation. 

This can be done using many household items such as a tennis ball/massage ball, a foam roller, a hard water bottle, a rolling pin – anything really! 

Place the item under your feet and roll from your heels to your toes, make sure you move the ball over the whole surface of your foot. Try this seated first especially if the area is very sore and sensitive especially the heel pain. If you need more pressure, stand up and push more into the ground. 

Calf stretches

The calf muscle group is so important in the involvement of releasing the plantar fascia. 

  • Stand 1 big step back from the wall
  • Place one foot behind the other keeping your feet hip width apart
  • Slowly, ease into bending your front leg forward, trying to push the front knee towards the wall
  • Keep your back knee and leg straight and your back heel on the ground (this is where you should feel a big calf stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and release. Repeat three times.
  • Swap front and back legs and repeat 3 times

Towel curls

Using a towel or tea towel, place it on the ground with your toes on one edge of the material. Keeping your heel on the ground use your arch muscle to draw back the material towards your heel. Try to visualise your foot doming in the middle without clawing your toes too much. Another cue that you may find helpful is imaging the middle part of your foot is being lifted by a piece of string. Repeat this activity 5 times of drawing back the full tea towel length. 

Marble pickups

Playing with marbles a little bit differently to when you were a kid but it can still be fun! 

Place marbles over your floor (carpet is easier to start with) and try to pick them up with your toes and place them to one side or into a bucket. 

These exercises will warm up the tiny muscles in your toes and help with stability long term which will assist in stabilising your gait as well as taking some strain from your plantar fascia. 

Foot flexes

Using a resistance band place the material under the ball of your foot, loop it around so that you are holding the band in each hand. 

Straighten your knee and pull the band with your hands to feel a big stretch up the back of your calves, hold this for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. 

The strengthen the calf muscle group using the same equipment and same position push your foot downwards into the band and slowly control coming back up. Perform 3 sets of 8 and slowly increase as you get stronger and symptoms reduce. 

Some other tips and precautions

Footwear plays a key role in assisting the plantar fascia, reducing heel pain and plantar fasciitis, especially whilst it is inflamed. For some good footwear suggestions click here and for shoes to stay clear of click here

Other home remedies

The RICE method

Rest – Resting the affected area is so important in giving the structure a break from it’s overuse and allow it time to heal 

Ice – Icing the area when its extremely painful will give a numbing effect at the plantar surface of the feet

Compression – Applying a bandage to help with swelling, control of fluid, speed up healing and give support are all essential to the management of plantar fascial injuries

Elevation – Reduced swelling and bruising as it is encouraged to be filtered back to heart which will help relieve symptoms

Anti-inflammatory medication

Always seek advice from your pharmacist or GP regarding anti-inflammatories and any other medication you may be taking. 

Anti-inflammatories can be taken orally or applied topically directly to the plantar area, great to help relieve pain signals. 

Shoe inserts

There are many risk factors for plantar heel and arch pain, some of these involve your bone structure, gait and the way you run or walk and thus the muscles being over or under worked. This is where orthotics come in very handy read up on the benefits here

Medical treatments

Many medical treatments can be used to treat and target the plantar fascia. 

Rigid taping can be used to offload the plantar fascia, assist in function and reduce pain. 

Wearing a compression sleeve is one of the best ways to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and relieve foot pain. 

Shockwave treatment – this is an evidence based technique to aid the healing process for musculoskeletal injuries, particularly the plantar foot. Have a read on how it works here! 

In extreme cases a surgical opinion may be required, our podiatrists are able to assess your situation and talk you through these options if necessary. 

Conclusion

If your pain is impacting your daily life you should see a professional to assess contributing factors to your pain and seek medical advice.

A strengthening program can benefit everyone, especially if you are finding the above exercise too easy, come into the clinic for your exercise progressions and ensure they are in line with your life goals and activities.

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