How to Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

Four Foot Stretches and Massage for Plantar Fasciitis

Intrinsic Stretch for Plantar Fascia
Intrinsic Stretch for Plantar Fascia. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Pain in your heel and foot from plantar fasciitis can make walking and exercise difficult and the condition takes weeks to heal. But once your pain and swelling have begun to subside, your doctor may recommend stretching to help in your recovery. A study has shown that orthopedic surgeons prefer plantar fascia-specific stretching (PFSS) as the next step in recovery.

These stretches can be performed during recovery and also continued once you have recovered to  prevent recurrence of plantar fasciitis and heel spur.

Intrinsic Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

This plantar fascia stretch targets the plantar fascia itself. It's an easy stretch that will only take about 5 minutes to do. Perform this static stretch three times a day. 

You will need a chair to sit in. You may want to use a towel to pull the foot towards you, especially if you have difficulty with reaching your toe while sitting.

Steps:

  1. Sit in a chair or the edge of a bed.
  2. Place the palm of your hand over the toes and ball of your foot.
  3. Keeping the leg steady, pull the foot towards you so that the bottom of the foot is stretched. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds and release.
  4. Repeat five times at each session. It is recommended that you do this session three times a day.
  5. Alternate Method for Plantar Fascia Stretch 1: Sit with a foot on opposite knee. Grasp the foot with your opposite hand to pull it toward the knee and stretch the ball of the foot.
  6. Alternate Method for Plantar Fascia Stretch 2: Use a towel. Loop it around the ball of your foot and use it to pull your foot and stretch the ball of the foot.

    2. Rolling Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

    The rolling stretch is another easy static stretch you can do once your pain is subsiding. This static stretch can be performed three times a day and it takes only 5 minutes. Continue to use this stretch to prevent recurrence of plantar fasciitis and heel spur.

    You can make a habit of keeping a golf ball or rolling pin handy at your desk or in another location where you are often seated.

    You can use a rolling pin, can, rubber ball, or golf ball. It can feel good to use a chilled object, so keep the object in the refrigerator or freezer, if possible.

    Steps:

    1. Sit in a chair or the edge of a bed.
    2. Place your foot on a hard round or cylindrical object such as a rolling pin, rubber ball, golf ball.
    3. Press the foot into the bar or ball and roll the foot over the bar or ball.
    4. Roll for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat five times.

    3. Manual Plantar Fascia Stretch With Friction Massage

    This stretch and massage is performed before you get out of bed in the morning, before taking your first steps of the day. It will take about 5 minutes.

    Steps:

    1. While still in bed, sit so you can grasp your foot with one hand and massage with the other.
    2. Gently pull the toes upward with one hand so the bottom of the foot is stretched.
    3. Hold for 1 minute while you perform cross-friction massage with two fingers of the other hand on the bottom of your foot. Stroke the foot back and forth across the sole.
    4. Rest for 30 seconds and perform the stretch and massage 3 times.

    4. Step Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

    Tight calf muscles can lead to developing plantar fasciitis and prevent healing once you have it.

    Use this stretch for your calves, but be careful not to overdo it. It's an easy stretch that requires only a couple of minutes.

    You will need a stairway or a step or box you can step on where you can be steady and hang your heels off the back of the step. You may want a stairway that has a rail for stability.

    Steps:

    1. Stand on the edge of a step.
    2. Allow one heel or both heels to drop off the step.
    3. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
    4. Repeat three times a day.

    Sources:

    DiGiovanni BF, Moore AM, Zlotnicki JP, Pinney SJ. Preferred management of recalcitrant plantar fasciitis among orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons. Foot Ankle Int. 2012 Jun;33(6):507–12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3113/FAI.2012.0507.

    Petraglia F, Ramazzina I, Costantino C. Plantar fasciitis in athletes: diagnostic and treatment strategies. A systematic reviewMuscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal. 2017;7(1):107-118. doi:10.11138/mltj/2017.7.1.107.

    Schwartz E. Plantar Fasciitis: A Concise Review. The Permanente Journal. 2014. doi:10.7812/tpp/13-113.

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