Plantar fasciitis: Exercises to relieve pain

Introduction

Key points

  • Heel pain can be caused by stress placed on the plantar fascia ligament when it is stretched irregularly, which causes small tears and inflammation. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help the ligament become more flexible and can strengthen muscles that support the arch, in turn reducing stress on the ligament.
  • Exercises for plantar fasciitis—when combined with other steps such as resting, avoiding activities that make heel pain worse, using shoe inserts, icing, or taking pain relievers—usually succeed in relieving heel pain.
  • Exercises for plantar fasciitis may be especially helpful for reducing heel pain when you first get out of bed.
  • If you have questions about how to do these exercises or if your heel pain gets worse, talk to your doctor.
 

Exercises that help relieve heel pain from plantar fasciitis include:

  • Stretching exercises, to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
  • Strengthening exercises, to strengthen the muscles of the foot and ankle.

Exercises to avoid

Some exercises may make your heel pain worse. One example is exercise that involves repeated motions and pounding of the foot against a hard surface such as running or jogging. You should avoid this type of exercise.

Test Your Knowledge

Any exercise is good for a person with plantar fasciitis.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    Not all exercise is good for a person with plantar fasciitis. Some activities, such as running and jogging, make heel pain worse by causing more injury from both the pounding on the heel and the repeated motion. Other activities, such as stretching and strengthening exercises for the foot and leg, can reduce or prevent heel pain.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    Not all exercise is good for a person with plantar fasciitis. Some activities, such as running and jogging, make heel pain worse by causing more injury from both the pounding on the heel and the repeated motion. Other activities, such as stretching and strengthening exercises for the foot and leg, can reduce or prevent heel pain.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

People who develop plantar fasciitis may have less flexible feet and ankles, and weaker foot muscles. Their feet may tend to flatten and roll inward (pronate) more when they walk or run.

Exercises can protect the plantar fascia from injury and inflammation by making the plantar fascia and calf muscles more flexible and by strengthening the foot and ankle muscles that support the arch.

Test Your Knowledge

Stretching and strengthening exercises can reduce or prevent heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Stretching and strengthening exercises can reduce or prevent heel pain, because they make the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon more flexible and strengthen the muscles around the arch, all of which protects the plantar fascia from injury and inflammation.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Stretching and strengthening exercises can reduce or prevent heel pain, because they make the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon more flexible and strengthen the muscles around the arch, all of which protects the plantar fascia from injury and inflammation.

  •  

Continue to How?

 
  • If you are participating in sports, it is very important to warm up and do stretching exercises before your sport. Warming up and stretching will make your plantar fascia more flexible and may decrease the chance of injury and inflammation.
  • You may want to take a pain reliever such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), including aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium, to relieve inflammation and pain. Some people take NSAIDs at least 30 minutes before doing recommended exercise, to relieve pain and allow them to participate and enjoy the exercise. Other people take NSAIDs after they exercise.
  • After exercising, ice your heel to help relieve pain and inflammation.

Stretching exercises before getting out of bed

Many people with plantar fasciitis have intense heel pain in the morning, when taking the first steps after getting out of bed. This pain comes from the tightening of the plantar fascia that occurs during sleep. Stretching or massaging the plantar fascia before standing up can often reduce heel pain.

  • Stretch your foot by flexing it up and down 10 times before standing.
  • Use a towel to stretch the bottom of your foot (towel stretch).

Other steps can help reduce heel pain when you take your first steps after getting out of bed. You can:

  • Wear a night splint while you sleep. Night splints hold the ankle and foot in a position that keeps the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia slightly stretched.
  • Massage the bottom of your foot across the width of the plantar fascia before getting out of bed.
  • Always wear shoes when you get out of bed, even if it is just to go to the bathroom. Quality sandals, athletic shoes, or any other comfortable shoes with good arch supports will work.

Exercises to do each day

Stretching and strengthening exercises will help reduce plantar fasciitis.

  • Stretching exercises should create a pulling feeling. They should not cause pain. It's best to do each exercise two or three times during the day, but you do not need to do them all at once.1 Stretching exercises:
  • Strengthening exercises:

There are other exercises you can use to stretch and strengthen your foot and leg. Ask your physical therapist or doctor which exercises will work best for you.

Test Your Knowledge

Doing stretching exercises in bed before getting up in the morning can reduce or relieve heel pain that often occurs during the first steps after rising.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Stretching the plantar fascia and calf muscles by flexing your foot up and down 10 times before getting out of bed can reduce heel pain that occurs when you take your first steps after rising.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Stretching the plantar fascia and calf muscles by flexing your foot up and down 10 times before getting out of bed can reduce heel pain that occurs when you take your first steps after rising.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

For more information about exercises to reduce heel pain from plantar fasciitis, talk to:

  • Your doctor.
  • A physical therapist.
  • An occupational therapist for job-related activities.

If you would like more information on exercises to reduce plantar fasciitis, the following organizations can provide information:

Organizations

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, IL  60018-4262
Phone: 1-800-346-AAOS (1-800-346-2267)
(847) 823-7186
Fax: (847) 823-8125
E-mail: orthoinfo@aaos.org
Web Address: www.aaos.org
 

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS Web site contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury prevention, and wellness and exercise.


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
6300 North River Road
Suite 510
Rosemont, IL  60018
Phone: 1-800-235-4855
(847) 698-4654
Fax: (847) 692-3315
E-mail: aofasinfo@aofas.org
Web Address: www.aofas.org
 

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) provides information on a variety of topics, including foot care for adults, children, and people with diabetes; proper shoe fit; and how to select children's shoes and sports shoes. Some information is available in several languages besides English.


American Podiatric Medical Association
9312 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD  20814-1621
Phone: 1-800-FOOTCARE (1-800-366-8227)
(301) 571-9200
Fax: (301) 530-2752
E-mail: info@apma.org
Web Address: www.apma.org
 

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) provides information about foot and ankle injuries, sports-related foot concerns, surgical and nonsurgical treatment of foot problems, special medical issues such as diabetes, and resources in your local area. Some information is available in Spanish.


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References

Citations

  1. Frey C, ed. (2005). Plantar fasciitis chapter of Foot and ankle section. In LY Griffin, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 3rd ed., pp. 667–674. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Last Updated: July 16, 2009

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