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Plantar Fasciitis: Exercises to Relieve Pain


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Key points

  • Heel pain can be caused by stress placed on the plantar fascia ligamentClick here to see an illustration. 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.

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Exercises that help relieve heel pain from plantar fasciitis include:

  • Stretching exercises, especially to stretch the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot and to stretch the calf muscles.
  • 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
False

People who have 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
False
  • Warming up and stretching before sports or exercise may 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, to relieve inflammation and pain. Some people take NSAIDs at least 30 minutes before doing recommended exercise, to relieve pain and allow them to do and enjoy the exercise. Other people take NSAIDs after they exercise.
  • After you exercise, 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 they take their 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.
  • Do toe stretchesClick here to see an illustration. to stretch the plantar fascia.
  • Use a towel to stretch the bottom of your foot (towel stretchClick here to see an illustration.).

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

  • Wear a night splintClick here to see an illustration. 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
False

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 groups 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
Email: orthoinfo@aaos.org
Web Address: www.orthoinfo.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 website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury prevention, and wellness and exercise.


American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS)
8725 West Higgins Road
Suite 555
Chicago, IL 60631-2724
Phone: 1-800-421-2237
(773) 693-9300
Fax: (773) 693-9304
Email: info@acfas.org
Web Address: www.foothealthfacts.org

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons provides information on surgery and shoe selection as well as the care and treatment of heel, toe, ankle, nerve, tendon, nail, and skin conditions; sports injuries; diabetic foot problems; arthritis; and resources in your local area. Some information is available in Spanish.


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
6300 North River Road
Suite 510
Rosemont, IL 60018
Phone: 1-800-235-4855
(847) 698-4654
Fax:
Email:
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 who have 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) 581-9200
Fax: (301) 530-2752
Email: 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.


Citations

  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Plantar fasciitis chapter of Foot and ankle section. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 839–844. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Other Works Consulted

  • Digiovanni BF, et al. (2006). Plantar fascia-specific stretching exercise improves outcomes in patients with chronic plantar fasciitis. A prospective clinical trial with two-year follow-up. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 88(6): 1775–1781.

  • Pasquina PF, Foster LS (2008). Plantar fasciitis. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation, 2nd ed., pp. 469–473. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerBarry L. Scurran, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Last RevisedJuly 14, 2011

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