top of page

Effective Stretching Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis Relief

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition characterized by heel pain caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. It affects more than 50 percent of Americans, with runners and pregnant women being particularly susceptible. The good news is that there are effective stretching exercises that can help alleviate the pain and promote healing.

In this article, we will explore various stretching solutions recommended by experts to relieve plantar fasciitis. We will discuss exercises that target the calves and plantar fascia, both in seated and standing positions. Additionally, we will provide tips and precautions to ensure a safe and effective recovery.

man sitting with his ankle wrapped

Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Before we look at the stretching exercises, let's understand the basics of plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thin ligament that supports the arch of the foot. Repetitive motion from activities like running or step aerobics, as well as added pressure from weight gain, can cause damage or microscopic tearing of the plantar fascia away from its insertion on the heel, leading to inflammation and pain.

Pregnant women often experience plantar fasciitis due to the extra weight on the ligament. It's essential to address the pain and take steps to relieve it, allowing for a resumption of physical activities.

Stretching Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis Relief

Taut muscles in the feet and calves can worsen plantar fasciitis pain. Stretching exercises can help soothe the pain and prevent further discomfort. Let's explore some effective stretching exercises recommended by fitness experts. It is most important to remember that the fascia is damaged because it couldn’t support the sudden increase in stress and applying the same or greater stress (your full body weight) to the fascia during stretching will prevent the gradual repair and possible worsen the condition.

Stretching the Calves

The calves play a crucial role in plantar fasciitis. By stretching the calves, you can train the muscle to absorb more force and thus alleviate the pressure on the plantar fascia. Here's a simple exercise to stretch your calves:

  • Sit with the in front of the body and the knee locked by contracting the quadriceps muscles.

  • Pull your foot back with anterior foot and ankle muscles.

  • Using your hands or a strap, assist with the hands.

  • Keep your knee straight and your heel on the ground.

  • Hold the stretch for 2 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.

  • Reverse the position of your legs and repeat the exercise.

  • Perform 1-2 sets first thing in the morning, before and after activity.

This stretch primarily targets the gastrocnemius muscle in your calves.

Next we will target the larger of the two calf muscles, the soleus.

  • Sit with the knee flexed to a 90 degree angle, heel on the floor, and lift the foot with the ankle/foot dorsal flexor muscles.

  • Place hands under the ball of the foot.

  • Provide gentle assisting stretch with the hands.

  • Brace chest on the knee for greater leverage and stability of movement.

  • Hold the stretch for 2 second, repeating 10 times for up to 2 sets.

Seated Stretching Exercises

In addition to calf stretches, there are several seated stretching exercises that can provide relief from plantar fasciitis. Here are three effective exercises that you can incorporate into your routine:

1. Foot Rolling

While seated, roll your foot back and forth over a tennis ball that will give in if you apply too much pressure over your heel where you do NOT want to create more inflammation. Foot rolling helps stretch and massage the plantar fascia, promoting blood flow and reducing inflammation if done correctly.

2. Big Toe Stretch

Cross one leg over the other and grab your big toe. Gently pull it towards you while contracting the big toe extensor and hold the stretch for 2 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times. The big toe stretch targets the muscles and fascia in the arch of the foot, providing relief and flexibility.

3. Tissue Traction

Sitting with one foot crossed over the knee. Use a flat contact of your index and middle fingers. Slide along the arch from the big toe to the heel with dorsiflexing the foot and extending the toe. Repeat this traction technique along the bottom of the foot 10 times.

Tips and Precautions for Plantar Fasciitis Relief

To effectively manage and recover from plantar fasciitis, it's important to follow certain tips and precautions. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind:

1. Ease Up and wear a night splint

Give your feet a break from activities that put stress on the plantar fascia. In order for the tissue to respond properly and strengthen you must refrain from performing the same activity that caused the damage.

Depending on individual healing rates, it's generally recommended to take about two weeks off from running or any high-impact exercises. Inflammation is actually a signal telling the body to go to that area and heal damaged tissue. Pain at the insertion point on the heel will be addressed by the body laying down thin strands of fibrous tissue to create cross-bridging (healing of micro tears in the fascia). If the foot is pointed at night, the tissue heals in a shortened position and re-tears the moment a person stands up from their bed and walks.

If you feel pain the first few steps in the a.m. you MUST wear a night splint to facilitate healing of tissue in a lengthened position that will not be undone upon standing, thus having a cumulative healing effect.

2. Start Slowly

Once the pain subsides and you're ready to resume physical activities, start slowly while having your soft tissue specialist teach you how to properly tape your foot with a rigid cloth tape (Leukotape) in a specific Low-Dye technique designed your your problem alone.

Begin with short runs. Gradually increase the distance and intensity. Remember to pause to stretch your calves and perform other recommended exercises.

3. Wear Supportive Shoes

Proper footwear is crucial for preventing and managing plantar fasciitis. Invest in arch supports from your local running store. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons emphasizes the importance of proper fit and support to avoid heel pain and other running-related injuries. Replace your shoes as needed to ensure ongoing support and protection for your feet.

Plantar fasciitis can be a bothersome condition, but with the right stretching exercises and precautions, you can find relief and promote healing. Incorporate the stretching exercises mentioned in this article, focusing on the calves and the plantar fascia. Remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and wear appropriate footwear. By following these guidelines, you can effectively manage plantar fasciitis and get back to your active lifestyle. Being an athlete that is driven to go the extra mile may be your biggest hurdle. Take care of your feet, and they will support you every step of the way.

Contact Performance Care Stretch Clinic for personalized advice and guidance tailored to your specific needs.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page