The recovery process of my plantar fasciitis was quite a learning journey. In the country that I lived in at the time, I had no access to medical specialists, such as a physiotherapist or podiatrist, unless I would fly abroad. So it was “try & error” with all kinds of home remedies. In the beginning I just gave the foot a few days rest and stretched the foot as I thought that would be helpful. And as soon as the pain felt less severe, I went out jogging again.
The pain returned and I damaged the tissue even more….. the injury only got worse. This vicious circle was so frustrating. All wanted was to “fix this problem” so I could run again! But what could I do? Luckily I found out what kind of things do work! Stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis is one of the remedies you can do yourself. But be aware when to start with these and how to gently perform them safely.
Pain reduction and recovery of plantar fasciitis
There are actually several things that a plantar fasciitis patient can do that have a positive effect on the recovery and that can reduce the pain:
- Reduce tension in the plantar fascia: rest, orthotic insoles, well supporting and shock absorbing shoes, weight loss, taping the foot, massages and stretching.
- Strengthen the plantar fascia: strengthening exercises.
I have learned that it was a combination of treatments and products that have helped me recover from plantar fasciitis. In this article I will only discuss the stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis that I did that have helped me.
Focus on more than just the foot
Plantar Fasciitis is not “just a foot problem”, so I discovered. All muscles that run down your lower back, glutes and the back of your legs are (via the Achilles tendon) connected to your plantar fascia. Tightness of these muscles and tendons can all cause this injury. Therefor the plantar fasciitis stretches should include not only the plantar fascia, but all of these muscles.
Stretching exercises that helped me
When your plantar fasciitis seems on its return and the symptoms are beginning to fade away, the inflammation of the area around the damaged plantar fascia tissue is probably under control. But this doesn’t mean that the injury is recovered though, because plantar fasciitis is not just about the inflamed tissue, it’s actually degenerating or damaged tissue and that needs much more time to repair itself.
When my plantar fasciitis was passed the inflammatory phase, I gently started performing the following plantar fasciitis stretching exercises, twice a day: plantar fascia stretch, calf stretch, hamstring stretch, glutes and lower back stretch.
How to perform stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis
Plantar fascia stretch
- Place your toes against the base of a wall as shown in the picture
- Bend your knee towards the wall.
- You should feel a stretch underneath your foot and low down in the calf.
- Hold the plantar fascia stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times for both of your feet (also the non-injured one)
- Stand op straight facing the wall and take one step forward with one leg before the other as shown in the picture. Toes of both feet point straight forward. Use your arms and hands to lean against the wall.
- Keep the heel of your back leg on the floor and bend the knee of the front leg until you feel a stretch in the back leg’s calf.
- Maintain the calf stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times with each leg.
- Sit with your one leg straight (and keep the knee straight) and the other leg bent up.
- Put your chin on your chest and lean forward with both your arms towards the toes of your straight leg.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times with each leg.
Glutes and lower back stretch
- Lay on your back, bend the knees-up and place feet on the floor.
- Lift your right leg and place the outside of your right ankle just above your left knee.
- Take hold of your left thigh with both your hands and pull it towards your chest. You should feel the stretch in the right glute, thigh or back, depending on which part is the tightest.
- Hold the glute stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times with each leg.
These stretches for plantar fasciitis certainly improved my flexibility. During the recovery process I found out that especially my glutes, hips and lower back were extremely tight. Not enough flexibility in those areas was probably the cause of my injury. Happy that my plantar fasciitis is finally recovered (after 1.5 year!), I am on top of doing anything to prevent new injuries of course. Therefor I still work on the flexibility of my legs, calves, glutes and lower back.
Flexibility and strength training for runners
I still do similar stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis, like I just described in this article. Stretching those muscles and tendons have become part of my warming up and cooling down on my running days. And I also do them during my strengthening workouts in the gym. In order to keep my muscles more flexible and work on core strength and balance, which is important for runners, I added yoga to my weekly routines too. Healthy running is more than running only, I discovered…. Let’s hope I’ll never suffer from plantar fasciitis again.
I hope this article was useful to you. If you know someone with heel pain, please share this post. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below and I will get back to you.