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5 Exercises to Help With Plantar Fasciitis

About half of American adults have heel pain, and it’s likely that a majority of those people have some degree of plantar fasciitis. Your plantar fascia is a hardworking and often unappreciated structure in your foot, yet when problems arise with this part of your foot, you know it. 

Dr. Svetlana Malinsky sees many patients with plantar fasciitis at her practice in College Park, Maryland. Here, she highlights some exercises and stretches she recommends that provide some relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis facts

Before we get to the exercises, it’s important to understand what plantar fasciitis is and what contributes to it. Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects at the heel of your foot and at the base of your toes. It gives your foot spring and absorbs the shock of each step you take. 

If you’re a runner, if you have a job that requires you to stand for many hours a day, if you’re overweight, or if you’re pregnant, it’s possible that your plantar fascia can develop microscopic tears. When those tears become inflamed as your body tries to heal, you feel the pain of plantar fasciitis. 

Most people feel pain in their heel, and the pain is more intense first thing in the morning or after a period of rest. It may feel like a stone bruise, and the discomfort may clear up during the day or it may not. When you’re feeling the pain of plantar fasciitis, the following exercises can help.

1. Roll, roll, roll

This exercise directly stretches and massages your plantar fascia.

Sit in a chair and put a frozen water bottle (the cold can help ease inflammation), a tennis ball, or a foam roller under your foot. Gently press down to roll it up and down the length of your foot. Roll for about a minute at a time. If both feet hurt, switch feet after a minute.

2. Bend your toes back

Sitting in a chair, cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Flex your foot, grab hold of your big toe, and gently bend it back toward your foot. Feel the stretch across the bottom of your foot. 

Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds (you may have to start with a shorter hold time), then relax for a moment, and do it again. Perform the stretch three times, and then switch feet.

3. Curl your toes

For this one, sit in a chair and place a small towel flat on the floor in front of you. Put your foot on the towel, and use your toes to scrunch the towel toward you. Curl your toes to pull the towel toward you 10 times with each foot.

4. Stretch your calves: Option A 

Tight calf muscles can cause plantar fasciitis, so it’s important to make sure you keep your calves stretched and flexible. 

Stand facing a wall, with one foot in front of the other. Place your hands on the wall for support, and bend the knee of the front leg, leaning forward, until you feel a nice stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat the stretch about six times on each side. 

5. Stretch your calves: Option B

You can do a deeper calf stretch by standing on a step. Keep one foot flat on the step, and let the heel of your other foot hang over the edge. Let the hanging heel sink down until you feel a good stretch in your calf — but don’t let it get to a point of pain. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat several times on each side. 

Doing these exercises and stretches each day can ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, and you can even do them to prevent pain and problems with your plantar fascia.

If you have concerns about your feet, or if you suspect you may have plantar fasciitis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Malinsky for a proper diagnosis and to learn about your treatment options.

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