Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Foot FAQ

Question:

I've heard that there are some stretches I can do for my plantar fasciitis. I would be very interested in trying these. What are they?

Answer:

Stretching the calf muscle and/or the plantar fascia itself can be very effective. Improving ankle motion and flexibility can bring pain relief for many people who have this condition.

The first stretch (the calf stretch) can be done in several different ways. The most commonly used stretch is the standing wall stretch. Stand in front of a blank wall with your feet two to three feet away from the wall. You should be about an arm's length away from the wall. Lean toward the wall and brace yourself against it with your hands.

Place one leg forward with the knee bent. Hold the other leg back with the knee straight and the heel down. Most of your weight is on this back leg. Keeping your back straight, move your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the lower leg and calf. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Relax and rest one minute. Repeat the stretch. You may prefer to hold it one time for 60, 90, or more seconds. Switch legs and do the stretch on the other leg.

The second stretch is for the plantar fascia. While in the sitting position, place your feet flat on the floor. Keep the heel down and lift the toes and foot up off the floor. Hold the same amount of time as mentioned for the ankle calf stretch. Repeat on the other side.

You can also use a tennis ball or rolling pin to roll very gently along the bottom of your feet. This is another way to stretch the plantar fascia ligament. One other popular stretch is called the windlass mechanism. While still in the sitting position, place your leg/foot that has the plantar fasciitis across the other knee. Very gently, pull your toes up with your hand. You can massage the bottom of the foot while doing this. Hold for as long as you can and release. Repeat.

All stretches should be done two or three times each day. The stretch can be held for anywhere from 20 seconds to three full minutes. Studies have not been able to determine the perfect length of time to hold a stretch for this condition. You'll have to try different holding patterns to see what works best for you.

The stretch should be felt as a stretch but not as a painful (can't-bear-it-another-second) sensation. Stretching alone may not be enough to reduce the painful symptoms. If the foot is pronated (flat foot position), repetitive microtrauma can occur with every step you take causing ongoing symptoms. You may need an orthotic inside your shoe to help hold and support your foot and ankle in good alignment. Thomas G. McPoil, PT, PhD, et al. Clinical Guidelines. Heel Pain -- Plantar Fasciitis. In Journal of Orthopaedics & Sports Physical Therapy. April 2008. Vol. 38. No. 4. Pp. A1-A18.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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