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Stretches & Exercises for Heel Pain

Stretching heels on a yoga mat

Heel pain is a common problem, especially among runners or anyone who walks or stands for long periods of time. While the treatments for heel pain vary depending on the exact source of your heel pain, the pain is often a result of overexertion or extra stress and impacts.

If your heel pain is due to plantar fasciitis (and this is the most common culprit!) stretching and exercising your plantar fascia regularly can help. If you run or do other high-impact exercises, switching to something like swimming or cycling may also reduce stress on the plantar fascia and make it easier for your body to heal.

In addition to modifying your routine, try incorporating some of these stretches and exercises.

If you’ve been sitting or lying down, try stretching your foot by flexing it up and down 10 times before moving to a standing position. Heel pain is often the most intense first thing in the morning or with your first steps after prolonged inactivity, so making it a habit to stretch before standing can help!

You can also stretch your plantar fascia with a toe stretch. This involves sitting in a chair with your ankles extended in front of you. With one heel touching the floor, use your hand to pull your big toe toward you and away from the floor. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds and repeat several times a day.

Another option is the towel stretch, where you sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and place a rolled up towel around the ball of your foot with one end of the towel in each of your hands. Keep your knee straight and pull the towel gently toward you.

Physical therapy session, stretching out leg muscles

A standing stretch involves putting both hands flat against a wall with one leg extended straight and with the heel down, bending at the knee with the other leg. Move your hips forward, stretching your calf muscles and holding for about 30 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat, and do several repetitions a few times a day.

You can also stand near a wall or counter to support yourself, then rise up onto your toes before lowering your heels back to the floor. Perform these heel raises until your feet get tired.

Another popular exercise involves taking a rolling pin or frozen water bottle and putting it on the floor in front of your seat. Sit in the chair and gently roll the bottom of your foot along the object for two or three minutes.

foot using a rolling massage ball

To help strengthen your arches, sit in a chair with a towel on the floor in front of you and use your toes to pick up the towel and pull it toward you.