Plantar fasciitis, a term used in medicine to refer to the inflammation of the plantar fascia, is a regular cause of heel pain in runners.
There are many reasons why you may suffer from it: weakened foot muscles, overweight, tight calves, low arches, faulty footwear, excessive hill workouts, and undue stress from exercises especially from running activities — just to name a few.
Stretching exercises can relieve your pain and make the tissues more flexible simply by toughening and reducing tension on the ligaments that support the foot arch.
My name is Louie Luc and I’m a runner, marathoner, and an ultrarunner. During my running life I’ve discussed this condition with some of the most popular athletes, top running bloggers and best doctors.
Together, we’ve discovered and tested some simple exercises that have been scientifically proven to naturally relieve the pain, strengthen the damaged tissue and hasten up your recovery process.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of best exercises to treat your plantar fasciitis. And they’re easy to follow too!
Calf Stretching Exercises
Do you feel severe heel pain in the morning? I bet your first few steps out of bed are full of excruciating pains. That’s the result of the contraction of your plantar fascia when you’re lying down.
When your calf tissues are tight, they drag on the heel bone stiffening your plantar fascia and making it predisposed to be injured.
Calf stretching exercises before you get up can help minimize the pain.
Towel / Belt Stretch Exercise
- Take a towel or a belt and coil it around the bottom of your foot.
- Keep your leg straight and softly pull towards your body until you sense a stretch in your lower leg.
- Maintain the position for 30 seconds.
- Redo the entire exercise 5 times before stepping out of bed.
You can also do toe stretches or stretch your foot by bending it up and down for about 10 times prior to getting out of bed.
Extra tips: Another thing that minimizes heel pain during those first steps in the morning is going to bed with a night splint on. Night splint clutches the foot and ankle in a position that ensures that your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are not overly stretched.
Massaging the ball of your foot crosswise the girth of the plantar fascia before your first step is also a recommended exercise.
Putting on shoes once you get out of the bed, the use of good sandals, athletic shoes, and comfy shoes with good curve are also a great help.
Plantar Fascia Stretching Exercises
Apart from stretching the calf, it is also essential to stretch the plantar fascia to loosen up the irritated tissues.
One of the ways is to draw the foot and toes up with your hands until you experience a stretch between the ball of your foot and your heel. Leave the stretched toes and foot in that position for roughly 30 seconds and repeat the exercise five times.
It’s important to do this three times a day, but you may need some restraint to be able to stick to the routine until the pain is completely gone.
Plantar fascia exercises can also be done by rolling the foot over a round object like a ball, weights slab, rolling pin, a can of bottled water or a soup can. All you need to do is spin the foot repetitively over the object with increasing downwards force.
Doing the exercise with an object that was cooled in the freezer gives you a better result a therapeutic at the same time.
Repeat the exercise ten times every morning until the pain begins to fade away.
A Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery’s study reports that sitting in a four figure position and pulling your big toe back for 10 seconds is more efficient than conventional plantar fasciitis treatments. Results show that repetitive stretching exercises for about 30 times a day drastically produce better effects.
Lower Leg & Step Stretching Exercises
Stretching your lower leg muscles is an essential step to recovery. Your lower leg is made up of two main muscles that are attached to your heel. Here’s how to do it:
- Lean on a wall and glide one leg back thrusting the heel downward and towards the ground.
- Maintain the position and when you feel a gentle stretch in your lower leg, cleave to the position and wait for 30 seconds.
- After those 30 seconds are up, bend your knees until you feel a deeper stretch in the lower part of your leg.
- Maintain the stretch for another 30 seconds and repeat the exercise until you’ve completed it three times with each leg.
Step stretching exercises are done to additionally improve the stretch on your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Ensure that there is something to cling to before you start.
- Stand on one step with your toes and push the heels towards your back and cautiously lower your heels beneath the step height until you sense a stretch.
- Maintain that position for 15-20 seconds.
- You need to do the exercise first with your knee straight and again with your knee bent to ensure that the two muscles are equally stretched. Do these until you feel a mild stretch but try not to overstretch your muscles
Rolling Pin or Tennis Ball Stretching Exercises
This kind of exercises is done with the use of a rolling pin or tennis ball.
In a sitting position, roll the rolling pin or tennis ball with the arch of your foot.
The exercise reduces the effects of plantar fasciitis. You should feel a pulling effect while doing the stretching exercise. It is not supposed to cause you any pain when done properly.
The best effect is obtained when you also do each of the following stretching exercises: toe stretch, towel stretch, calf stretch, plantar fascia and calf stretch two or three times daily, but not concurrently.
You may try to do the exercises in a standing position if you can.
Toe Stretch & Plantar Massage Exercises
Here’s how you do the toe stretch exercise:
- Sit down and stretch the leg with your heel on the floor.
- Use your hand and tow on your big toe in upward and downward directions.
- Pull the big toe towards your ankle and in an opposite direction from the floor.
- Maintain the position for not less than 15 to 30 seconds and go over the exercise 2 to 4 times in a row, many times per day.
A Final Word
Instead of going under surgery or using medications that can cause further deterioration of your connective tissues, this kind of exercises are easier and healthier options for you.
To get rid of your plantar fasciitis completely, you need to be persistent with your stretching exercises until your plantar fascia is properly stretched and unable to add any further strain on your heel insertion.
As a runner with plantar fasciitis you ought to avoid making preliminary contact with the ground through your middle or front foot. Both landing patterns considerably heighten the pressure on your plantar fascia.
Warm up properly and do stretching exercises before sports to make your plantar fascia more elastic to lessen its exposure to harm and irritation. When you’re back home, ice your heel to alleviate soreness and swelling.
Hope you liked my tips and exercises.
Let’s kick this dreadful condition to the curb once and for all!
— Louie Luc
Louie Luc found freedom when he started running again after his 30th birthday. He later became a runner, marathoner and an ultrarunner. You can follow his running, nutrition and healthy lifestyle tips and stories on his personal blog.