Are you looking for the best stretches and exercises for Plantar fasciitis at home? Plantar fasciitis is a common and painful condition that affects the thick tissue that moves along the bottom of the foot. It causes pain at the bottom of the foot, around the heel, or the foot arch. So, if you’ve been experiencing heel pain, the primary culprit is usually plantar fasciitis.
Your plantar fascia is a thick ligament that links your heel to the front of your foot. When your plantar fascia becomes inflamed, you may have plantar fasciitis. It could also result from overuse, overstretching, or in some rare cases, it can result from another medical condition.
Plantar fasciitis is also known as heel spur pain since the pain is concentrated at the heel. People with plantar fasciitis usually feel the pain early in the morning when they first get out of bed or stand up after sitting for a long time. Most times, the pain may subside after you start moving around.
If you’ve been suffering from pain in your heel, it usually isn’t a cause for concern. In fact, plantar fasciitis affects about 50% of adults in the United States. When the thick ligament that connects your toes and heel is under pressure, it can cause tears and pain. The good news is – plantar fasciitis isn’t a condition to worry out. Most times, your plantar fasciitis will resolve on its own within 6 to 18 months without treatment. With gentle, non-invasive treatment, most people with plantar fasciitis recover within 6 months.
There are several simple stretches and exercises to reduce the pain and discomfort that comes with plantar fasciitis. These foot stretches and exercises help improve the foot muscles’ flexibility, increase muscle strength, and reduce pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
There is no definitive cause of plantar fasciitis. It usually happens when you strain your plantar fascia (the thick tissue that connects your toes with your heel).
The plantar fascia is a familiar trouble spot for many people, especially runners, pregnant women, and older adults. Doing strenuous exercises, repeated motions like running can damage your plantar fascia and cause heel pain. Weight gain can also increase the pressure on your foot tear the plantar fascia, causing inflammation and pain.
Since pregnant women tend to add up extra weight, they are also prone to plantar fasciitis because the added weight can damage the ligament and cause heel pain, especially during late pregnancy.
Active adults between 40 and 70 are also prone to plantar fasciitis. However, it is more common in women than men. If you run long distances or have a job requiring you to be on your feet for long hours, you may be more likely to develop plantar fascia problems. Structural foot problems like high arches or flat feet can also cause plantar fasciitis.
If you have tight Achilles tendons (your tendons attach your calf muscles to your heels), you may also experience plantar fascia pain. You can also experience heel pain by wearing bad shoes with soft soles and poor arch support.
You can also be prone to plantar fasciitis if you:
- Are overweight
- Wear shoes with poor cushioning or support
- Overstretch the sole of your feet.
- Exercise on hard surfaces
- Doing exercises that involve running, walking, or standing up.
- Work out with a tight calf or heel.
Best Exercises and stretches for Plantar Fasciitis
Rolling Plantar Fascia Massage
Rolling plantar fascia massage is a simple technique that relaxes your plantar fascia and reduces any pressure on the tissue.
- Step 1: Sit in a chair or stand with the affected foot resting on a small round ball or frozen water bottle. Note: The frozen water bottle can prove more effective since the ice can help to reduce inflammation.
- Step 2: Carefully roll the ball or water bottle forward and backward using the affected foot. Ensure you place the ball at the base of your foot and roll upwards to the end of your heel.
- Step 3: Roll the ball or bottle back and forth gently 10 times for both feet.
- Step 4: Do two sets for each foot.
Do this exercise once every day till your heel pain disappears. You should not feel any pain when you do this exercise.
Top tip: The rolling plantar fascia massage reduces heel pain and can help prevent plantar fasciitis.
The towel stretch also helps to relieve heel pain. This exercise is useful for reducing and preventing plantar fasciitis when done in the morning before you step out of bed.
- Step 1: Sit on a chair or lie down on a flat surface with both feet flat on the ground and a small towel in front of the feet.
- Step 2: Use your toes to hold the center of the towel and curl the towel towards you.
- Step 3: Release the towel and relax the affected foot.
- Step 4: Repeat the exercise five times, once or twice daily.
- Step 1: Stand at an arm’s length away from a wall.
- Step 2: Put your right foot behind your left.
- Step 3: Slowly bend your left leg forward.
- Note: Make sure you keep your right knee straight and your right heel firm on the ground.
- Step 4: Maintain the stretch position for 15 to 30 seconds and release.
- Step 5: Repeat 3 times.
- Step 6: Reverse the position of your legs, and redo the exercise.
This stretch focuses on the gastrocnemius muscle in your calf and helps to loosen the soleus muscle in your lower calf. As the pain in your heels subsides, you can increase the stretch’s efficiency by performing it with both legs slightly curved.
Top tip: Make sure you don’t hold the calf stretch for too long.
You can do the heel raise exercise on a staircase.
- Step 1: Stand straight with the heels of the affected feet at the edge of a lower step.
- Step 2: As your affected heel hangs off the edge, carefully and gradually lower your heels just below the edge of the lower step.
- Note: You will feel a gentle stretch in your calf muscles.
- Step 3: Gently rise to the heels of your feet.
- Step 4: Redo this 10 times, and then relax your muscles.
- Step 5: Do 2 sets of heel raise.
- Step 6: Complete the exercise at least once a day.
- Top tip: Ensure you hold on to a railing or firm support to maintain your balance and prevent injury.
You can stretch your foot muscles by picking marbles with your toes. This exercise strengthens your foot muscles and can help relieve pressure on your plantar fascia.
- Step 1: Get a container and fill it with 10-20 marbles.
- Step 2: Sit on a chair and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Step 3: Carefully place all the marbles on the ground (Gently so they don’t roll away!).
- Step 4: Use your toes to pick up the marbles one at a time and place the marble back in its container.
- Step 5: Repeat this exercise till you have picked up all the marbles.
To complete this exercise, you will need an elastic band. These foot flexes will help relieve the tension in your affected foot.
- Step 1: Sit on the ground and straighten your legs out in front of you.
- Step 2: Put the elastic/stretch band around your affected foot and hold the other end of the band tightly in your hand.
- Step 3: Gently flex your foot that your toes point away from your body.
- Step 4: Hold this position for a few seconds and then release the elastic band.
- Step 5: Repeat the exercise up to 10 times for your affected foot.
Seated Plantar Fascia Stretch
- Step 1: Sit in a chair and cross your affected leg over the other knee, so your ankle is on top of your other leg.
- Step 2: Hold your ankle with one hand and use your other hand to hold your toes.
- Step 3: pull your toes backward until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot.
- Step 4: Hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat three times for both feet.
- Step 5: Do this exercise once daily.
Safety Considerations for Plantar Fasciitis
Before you start these exercises, you should note that these simple stretches should not cause you pain or discomfort. If you feel pain while doing any of the exercises for plantar fasciitis, you should stop it immediately and talk to your doctor.
Most of the simple exercises will help reduce pain and inflammation in your heel. To get the most relief from your exercises, you can take a pain relief like Ibuprofen or naproxen 30 minutes before you exercise.
Top tip: You may ice your foot after exercising to help with pain and inflammation.
Home Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis
Aside from the foot exercises, many home treatments can help you relieve pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Home treatments include:
- Spending less time standing or running
- Apply ice 3-4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce inflammation.
- Use Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) to soothe pain in the damaged ligament.
How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
To prevent plantar fasciitis, you may need to make a few lifestyle changes.
- Wear shoes with good arch support, and replace your old athletic footwear regularly.
If you frequently run, change your shoes when you run for about 400 to 500 miles.
- Rather than running and overworking your plantar fascia, you can try low-impact exercises like swimming or bicycling.
- Before you exercise, take some time to stretch your Achilles tendon, calves, and plantar fascia.
- Avoid excess weight. If you’re already overweight, try to lose weight to reduce pressure on your plantar fascia.
- Use Braces and shoe supports
- You can use night splints to help stretch your calf and the arch of your foot. Night splints also act as a brace that keeps your foot in a flexed position and straightens the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon overnight. Using night splints can prevent pain and stiffness in the morning.
Recovering from plantar fasciitis
For most people, your plantar fasciitis should improve within a few months of home therapy. By getting lots of rest, icing, and stretching, the plantar fascia will recover. You can also hasten your recovery process by stabilizing your foot with tape, which reduces the ligament’s mobility.
Complications associated with plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is usually not a cause for concern, but it can lead to certain complications in some rare cases. If your plantar fasciitis isn’t treated correctly, it can evolve into chronic heel pain. This pain can change the way you walk and cause injury to your:
- Legs and Hips
Using steroid injections and some other treatments can deteriorate the plantar fascia and may rupture the ligament. Although surgery is used as a last resort to relieve the pressure on your plantar fascia, surgery carries the risks of infection, bleeding, and anesthesia-related problems. Removing a part of your plantar fascia can also cause nerve damage in your feet.
Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes heel pain. Although it can affect people of all ages, it is more common among runners and people who are always on their feet.
Without treatment, plantar fasciitis can take several months or years to heal. However, you can use several strengthening and stretching exercise techniques to significantly reduce pain and improve walking in people with plantar fasciitis.