If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, you know the pain in your heel and foot can be excruciating. That first step out of bed in the morning is a sharp and unwelcome start to your day.
About 50% of Americans experience heel pain, and the most likely culprit is plantar fasciitis.
The problem is that your plantar fascia — a tendon that stretches the length of the bottom of your foot, forming your arch — has become irritated and inflamed. It usually absorbs shock and gives your foot some flexibility, but when it’s injured, it can cause a burning pain in the bottom of your foot and a stabbing pain in your heel.
Symptoms are usually worse after you’ve been off your feet for a long time (like when you’re sleeping overnight) or after exercise.
It’s important to treat this condition because the pain can cause you to alter the way you walk and cause issues with your feet, knees, and legs.
The physical therapists at Empire Physical Therapy and Athletic Rehabilitation in New York City recommend five stretches you can do to remedy your pain:
There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is probably to stand a couple feet away from a wall. Lean against the wall with your hands stretched out and move one foot a couple of feet behind the other.
Keep your back foot flat on the ground as you lean forward, and you should feel a stretch in the back of your heel. Hold this for a count of 10 and then switch feet. Looser calf muscles mean they will pull less on your heel, which is good news for lessening your plantar fasciitis pain.
While you’re still sitting in bed in the morning, grab a towel — you prepared for this stretch the night before, of course — fold it lengthwise until it’s just a few inches wide, and then loop it around the bottom of your foot. Grab an end of the towel with each hand and gently pull the top of your foot toward you.
Hold this for about 15 seconds before repeating at least three times and then switching feet.
Sit on a chair or the couch and cross one leg over the over. Pull the toes on that foot gently backward toward the shin. This creates tension in your arch, which you can feel by placing your other hand on the bottom of your foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then repeat a couple of times.
Make a game out of stretching. Sit on a chair with your knees bent and your feet flat. Put 20 marbles and a bowl on the floor. Curl your toes to pick up each marble, one by one, and deposit it into the bowl. This repetitive movement flexes and stretches your foot muscles, building strength.
Sit on a chair and roll your foot back and forth over a foam roller or a cold soda can. Do this for a minute and switch feet. This rolling motion will stretch your tendon out. Bonus: Use a frozen water bottle instead of a foam roller, and you’ll take care of your post-stretch icing, which you should always do.
For more on how to treat plantar fasciitis, call Empire Physical Therapy or make a request online to set up an appointment and get the pain out of your life forever!