If pain from plantar fasciitis is holding you back, you aren’t alone. Plantar fasciitis is the most common source of heel pain in the United States, and it’s estimated 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis at some point in their lives...Learn more
Treating plantar fasciitis often begins with conservative treatments, many of which you can do at home. There are ways to reduce pain and swelling from plantar fasciitis, and resting is an important part of the puzzle. But treating plantar fasciitis also depends on stretching the plantar fascia and strengthening the surrounding muscles.
Preparing for physical activity
When you stretch or exercise your plantar fascia you make it stronger and more flexible, both of which can make you less likely to suffer from the wear and tear that leads to heel pain.
In general, stretching and warming up before exercise, a hike or playing sports will make you less likely to injure or inflame your plantar fascia or other muscles, tendons and ligaments in your body. Regardless of whether you have plantar fasciitis pain now, a good warm up routine has a lot of benefits! You can also take a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or Aleve before or after exercising.
Exercises for relieving plantar fasciitis
Because plantar fasciitis pain is usually the most intense when you first get out of bed or when you stand from a long period of inactivity, doing some stretches before rising can help!
While still in bed, try flexing your foot up and down 10 times. Extend your foot and point your toes up, then point your feet and toes downward while keeping your leg extended. This stretches your foot, including the plantar fascia.
You can also try massaging the soles of your feet before getting out of bed to help relieve some of the stiffness and inflammation in your plantar fascia.
Other stretches can be done after you wake up and from a seated position.
A toe stretch involves sitting in a chair with one leg extended so your heel touches the floor. Reach down and grasp your big toe and pull it upward and back toward yourself—toward your ankle but away from the floor. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat a few times a day. A toe stretch strengthens and stretches the bottom of your foot.
Another option is thetowel stretch, where you sit on the floor with both legs extended on the floor in front of you. Then take a rolled up towel and rest it beneath the ball of your foot while holding the opposite ends of the towel in each of your hands. Keep your knee straight and pull the towel toward you, holding that stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat a handful of times each day.
One good way to stretch your plantar fascia and calves is to stand facing a wall with both hands flat against the wall. Keep one knee bent with your foot flat on the floor, and extend the other leg back to rest flat on the floor with your leg straight. As you move forward, you’ll feel the stretch in your back calf intensify. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs and do the other side. Repeat this stretch several times a day.
A stair stretch is another good way to strengthen your calves and stretch your plantar fascia. Simply stand on a step with your toes on the step and your heels hanging in the air. You may want to use a wall or rail to keep your balance! Dip your heels down and relax your calf muscles to stretch the bottom of your foot and your calf. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then raise your heels back up to be level with the step. Repeat the stretch a handful of times each day.
You can also strengthen your plantar fascia by grasping items with your toes. In a towel curl you sit in a chair with a towel or rag on the floor in front of you, then use your toes to bunch up the towel and pull it toward you. You can add weight to the end of the towel to increase the intensity of the exercise if needed. A marble pickup is a similar idea, but instead you sit in a chair or on your couch with marbles and a cup on the floor in front of you. Lift the marbles with your toes and drop them in the cup.