In this post I'm going to teach you the most effective exercises to eliminate plantar fasciitis!
First how do you know if your pain is from plantar fasciitis? The most common sign is heel pain with the first few steps in the morning after getting out of bed. The pain will be on the bottom inner portion of the heel and is tender when pressed on. The pain is worse when walking barefoot on a hard floor. And often times the pain starts after a recent change in physical activity like starting a new exercise program, or a new job that gets you on your feet longer than your accustomed to or increasing running mileage.
The first exercise can provide some quick relief in many cases. It is a toe extensor stretch. This is the opposite stretch of what patients are usually told to do but it's very beneficial to decrease the tension on the fascia and improve blood flow. To perform the stretch bend the toes down using your hand and hold for 20 seconds and repeat this 5 times. You'll want to do this stretch several times throughout the day. It can also be performed by sitting and curling the toes downward and holding that position. Some people may experience some cramping near the arch of the foot, that's OK and this is usually just the readjusting to the new position.
Next is a modified heel raise with rolled up towel underneath your toes. If it is too difficult or too painful start with both feet on the ground but progress to one foot, which will be more effective. Perform 3 sets of 12 heel raises at a slow speed of 3 seconds up, 2 second hold and 3 seconds down. As the exercise becomes easier, perform with a weighted back pack and progressively increase the weight to increase the load on the plantar fascia which will help stimulate healing and strengthening.
Next are gastroc and soleus stretches. This is best done on one leg, dropping your heel off a step and holding for 20 seconds with your knee kept straight to stretch the gastroc and with your knee slightly bent to stretch the soleus. Repeat each stretch 3 times and perform 2-3 times per day.
Do these exercises consistently for 4-6 weeks for best results. Some people will get some relief early on but to get more lasting relief you will need to improve the strength and mobility in your foot and ankle which takes time. So hang in there, and get it done!
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AJ Ludlow is a Doctor of Physical Therapy serving the Provo/Orem area and specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injuries.