Recommended Plantar Fasciitis Exercises

Here is a selection of plantar fasciitis exercises and stretches that are recommended by physicians:

Before Getting Out of Bed

1.    Lying on your back and using only the muscles of your legs and feet, flex your foot back as if to make the top of your foot touch your shin.  Shift direction and point your foot downward as if you were standing on the tips of your toes.

2.    Try to have a rolling pin, tennis ball, or similar round object near your bedside.  Sitting on the edge of your bed, place the tennis ball on the floor and rest your foot on top of it.  Applying gentle pressure at first, use your foot to roll the tennis ball in circles on the floor.  This exercise is good because it massages the plantar fascia ligament without applying too much pressure and risking further injury.  

During the Day

1.    Calf Stretch:  Stand in a natural, comfortable position facing a wall with your palms placed on the wall for support.  Extend the leg of the injured foot (we’ll go with the left) about a step behind where your right foot is.  Keep your left heel on the floor and bend your right knee slightly until you feel a stretch in the back of your left leg.

It is important that you stretch and hold for at least 5-10 seconds before changing legs or taking a break.  It is a natural tendency for individuals to “bounce” when they attempt stretches such as this, which can actually do more damage.  By increasing the flexibility and strength of the calf, this exercise helps the calf muscles alleviate some of the pressure placed on the heel during movement.

2.    Achilles Tendon Stretch:  For this stretch you will need to find an area with a modest, distinct change in height.  The best example to use would be the bottom stair of a staircase, preferably with a handrail.  Stand on the bottom stair with your toes on the stair and your heels hanging off of the edge.

By relaxing your leg muscles, allow your heel to drop down towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your calf.  Hold this stretch for 5-10 seconds before raising your heels back up to the level of the stair.  We advise that you have a support systems present (such as the handrail in this example) in the event that you should reach muscle failure.  This stretch will improve the strength and flexibility of the Achilles tendon, which is also a common source of pain for plantar fasciitis patients.

In the Evening

1.    Towel Stretch:  This is an exercise that is so easy you can do it while you watch the evening news.  Roll a towel lengthwise and hold it at the ends.  Next, take up a seated position with the affected leg stretched straight out in front of you.  Wrap the rolled towel around the arch of your foot with the loose ends extending towards your body.  Holding the ends of the towel, slowly pull back towards your body while keeping your knee locked out.

This stretch is designed to directly improve the flexibility of both the calf muscle and the plantar fascia ligament.  As such, it is a fundamental movement in any plantar fasciitis treatment plan.

2.    Marble Lifts:  Try this one out with the kids!  First, place an empty cup on the floor.  Next, spread a selection of small items such as marbles, pebbles, or pens and pencils out on the floor.  Choosing one at a time, try to use your toes to pick up the items and place them in the cup.  It may be frustrating at first, but this is an inexpensive method of stretching the plantar fascia ligament that is so much fun you won’t even realize you’re treating an injury.

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