Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of fibrous tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. Pain is usually felt in the heel, but can also present in the arch area. Patients typically report pain with their first steps upon waking up, and also after periods of inactivity. As the day progresses, the pain tends to subside as the plantar fascia is stretched out.
The leading cause of plantar fasciitis is over-pronation, in which the person’s arches collapse and causes the plantar fascia to pull on the heel bone. Other causes include high arches, excessive weight on the foot usually due to obesity or pregnancy, sudden increase in amount of activity, and improper footwear. Treatments for plantar fasciitis include padding and taping, stretches, laser, ultrasound, shockwave therapy and custom foot orthotics.
5 Daily Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis
Perform each stretch 3x/day, 10 repetitions per side while holding for 10 seconds then relaxing. The following stretches are described in terms of the right foot, however be sure to do the stretches on your left side as well. To decrease the pain upon waking up, perform Stretches 1 and 2 before taking your first steps.
1. Sitting Plantar Fascia Stretch – Sit and cross your right leg over your left thigh. Using your right hand, place your fingers across the ball of the right foot and pull your toes back towards the shin until you feel a stretch in the arch area. You can use your left hand to massage the arch area, and feel the tension in the plantar fascia.
2. Sitting Towel Stretch – Sit with your right leg stretched out in front of you. Loop a resistance band or towel around the ball of your right foot, and pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight.
3. Standing Calf Stretch – While standing, place your left foot against the wall (only tip of toes touching wall) and your right foot behind the left. Make sure the toes of the right foot are pointed towards the heel of the left foot. Bend the left knee, while keeping the right knee straight and heel firmly on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the right calf muscle. To increase the stretch, you can place your right foot farther back.
4. Modified Standing Calf Stretch – While standing, place your right heel on the floor, close enough to the wall to allow the toes to be placed on the wall. Place both hands on the wall, then lean forward, keeping both knees straight, until you feel a stretch in the back of the right calf muscle. To increase the stretch, you can place your right heel closer to the wall.
5. Towel Curls – Place a towel on the floor. With your heel on the ground, pick up the towel with your toes. Release and repeat 10-20 times. When this begins to feel too easy, you can add more resistance by placing a book or small weight on the towel. This stretch helps to maintain the arch of the foot by strengthening the flexor muscles of foot.