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Plantar Fasciitis: Best Exercises for Pain Relief

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 12, 2020

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that affects the bottom of the foot, mostly around the heel or the arch. When the ligament that connects your heel and toes (plantar fascia) becomes too tight, it can cause small tears and pain.

Another name for plantar fasciitis is heel spur pain, since most of the pain is under the heel. Most people who experience plantar fasciitis notice it in the morning when they first step out of bed or when they stand up after sitting for a while. Usually, the pain and discomfort subside after you start moving around.

Heel spur pain is a result of plantar fasciitis, but performing exercises that target this area can help relieve the pain. Exercises for plantar fasciitis, along with shoe inserts, resting, icing, and avoiding activities that make the pain worse usually help alleviate the discomfort and inflammation.

Exercises to Help Plantar Fasciitis

You can get pain relief for plantar fasciitis through stretches and exercises that strengthen this area of the foot. By loosening the plantar fascia ligament, you can help prevent further stress and inflammation that causes foot pain.

Toe Curls with a Towel

The first exercise for pain relief for plantar fasciitis you can try is toe curls with a towel.

Step 1: Put a small towel on the floor, and sit in a chair so that your feet are over the towel.

Step 2: Using your affected foot, scrunch your toes onto the towel and try to pull it toward you.

Step 3: Relax your toes and let the towel go. Repeat this motion 10 times, once or twice daily.

Gastrocnemius Stretch

One of the best stretches for plantar fasciitis is the gastrocnemius stretch. This stretch is very simple and can be done anywhere with a wall to support you.

Step 1: Stand facing the wall, place your hands on it, and stretch your affected leg back. Both of your feet should be planted on the ground facing the wall. Your unaffected leg should be bent at the knee.

Step 2: Lean toward the wall so that you feel a stretch in the calf muscle of your back leg.

Step 3: Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat it six times a day.

Tennis Ball Roll

For this exercise, you’ll need a tennis ball or another small ball of similar size. If you don’t have a ball handy, you can use a water bottle or other cylindrical object instead.

Step 1: Sit in a chair and place the ball under your affected foot.

Step 2: Roll the ball back and forth under the arch of your foot so that you can stretch out the plantar fascia ligament.

Step 3: Continue rolling for three to five minutes. You can do this stretch twice a day.

Toe Extension

The toe extension is one of the easiest stretches for plantar fasciitis since you can do it anywhere at any time.

Step 1: Sit on the floor or on a chair with the affected leg crossed over the unaffected leg.

Step 2: Hold your toes with your fingers of one hand and bend your toes and ankle up as far as you can. You want to feel a stretch in your calf and the arch of your foot.

Step 3: Use your free hand to massage the arch of your foot.

Step 4: Hold this for 10 seconds and then relax. Continue this pattern for two or three minutes, two to four times a day.

Plantar Fascia Stretch on a Step

For this stretch, you need to stand somewhere with a step.

Step 1: Stand on a step and keep your unaffected foot flat. Slide the affected foot back until the ball of the foot is resting on the edge of the step.

Step 2: Lower the heel of the affected foot down toward the floor until you feel a stretch in the calf and the arch of the foot.

Step 3: Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. You can repeat this exercise four to six times a day.

Safety Considerations

These exercises are for pain relief for plantar fasciitis and should not cause you further pain. If any of the exercises for plantar fasciitis are causing you more pain or discomfort, you should stop and talk to your doctor.

To help with pain and inflammation, you can ice your foot after stretching. You can also take an ibuprofen or naproxen 30 minutes before exercise, to help ensure you get the most pain relief from these healthy stretches.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Loyola Medicine: “Best Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis.”

Royal Berkshire NHS: “Advice and exercises for patients with plantar fasciitis.”

UConn Health: “Three Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis.”

University of Michigan: “Plantar Fasciitis: Exercises to Relieve Pain.”

Washington UniversityPhysicians: “Plantar Fasciitis Exercises.”

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