Plantar fasciitis can cause pain and tension around your heel and calf. But with these 6 doctor-recommended stretching and strengthening exercises, you can find some relief and improvement of symptoms over time.
Aim to do each exercise 2-3 times a day, but not necessarily all at once.
6 best plantar fasciitis stretches and exercises
The following exercises are not only effective but also easy to perform at home on a daily basis. If you aren’t sure about how to perform them correctly, ask your doctor or physical therapist.
1. Toe stretch
- Sit on the floor and keep your leg extended.
- With the help of your hand on the affected side, pull your big toe on the affected foot towards you.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
2. Towel stretch
- Sit on the floor or a chair holding a folded towel under the ball of your affected foot.
- Keeping your back and knees straight, try pulling the feet towards your with the help of the towel.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
3. Calf stretch
- Stand facing a wall with your back straight and arms extended on the wall.
- Bring your affected leg backward, a step away from the unaffected leg.
- With the heel of the back leg on the floor, bend your front knee so that you feel a stretch in the back leg.
- Keeping your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg.
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
A slight variation in the exercise involves bending your back knee a little and then performing the exercise. However, your back heel should be still on the floor. This will stretch a different set of muscles in the back leg.
4. Towel curl
- Sit in a chair and place a small towel on the floor.
- Curl the towel towards you using only your toes on the affected foot.
- Release the towel by pushing the towel away from you.
5. Tennis ball roll
- In a sitting position, roll a tennis ball under your affected foot using the arch of your foot.
- As your condition improves, perform the same exercise in a standing position.
6. Marble pickups
- Put 10-20 marbles and a bowl on the floor.
- Sit in a chair in front of the marbles, keeping your feet on the floor.
- Using the toes of your affected foot, try to pick up one marble at a time and place it in the bowl, doing this until all the marbles are in the bowl.
How do doctors diagnose plantar fasciitis?
To diagnose plantar fasciitis, your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination of your foot. They check for tenderness in any location on your feet.
Usually, no tests are necessary for diagnosing plantar fasciitis. However, an X-ray of the affected foot may be ordered if your doctor wants to:
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Most people notice improvement of plantar fasciitis within a year of practicing the following at home remedies:
- Wearing well-cushioned shoes when walking (never walk barefoot)
- Avoiding wearing sandals without built-in arch support
- Using shoe inserts, arch supports, or customized foot orthotics (your doctor may recommend seeing a podiatrist to learn about which insoles to use)
- Using a night splint when sleeping to provide constant passive stretching of the related Achilles tendon and plantar fascia (Achilles tendon attach the calf muscles to the heels, and plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes)
- Massaging the area
- Applying ice on the affected area 3-4times a day for 10-15 minutes
- Avoiding prolonged standing
- Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Losing weight, if overweight
- Using crutches to limit the strain on your feet
Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend:
- Cortisone (steroid) injections
- Physical therapy
- Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
If after 12 months you experience no relief from symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery that involves either lengthening the calf muscles or cutting and releasing the plantar fascia.
Michigan Medicine. Plantar Fasciitis: Exercises to Relieve Pain. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tr5853
Young CC. Plantar Fasciitis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/86143-overview
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