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Massage for plantar fasciitis - Does it actually work? Research update and demo

Updated: May 7



Yes, it does. Recent research has found that patients with plantar fasciitis appeared to have superior recovery rates if their physiotherapy treatment included soft tissue release (massage) – not only of the plantar fascia, but also of other tight muscles in the legs.

The good news is that the current research further suggests that self-massage techniques are just as effective as massage done by a therapist. So, no need to break the bank! Here’s how you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

Learn how to massage yourself to treat your own plantar fasciitis. You should focus on more than just the plantar fascia.

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This article will show you:

  1. Which muscles to massage as treatment for plantar fasciitis

  2. How to massage the plantar fascia itself

We have also made a video about this:

It’s important to understand that massage alone will not cure your heel pain. It is only one part of the treatment plan. You can find more information about what treatments have been shown to be effective for plantar fasciitis here.

Or if you're looking for a rehab plan, check out the Plantar Fasciitis rehab plan in the Exakt Health app. I've helped to design the app to guide you through the rehab process from the moment your foot becomes painful all the way back to your sport.

🎉Get 1 month FREE with Discount Code: MARYKE

Click to download the Exakt Health App

Massage for plantar fasciitis: Which muscles should be included?

All the muscles that run down the back of your legs are connected via thick layers of fascia and tendons. They are in turn connected to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. Tight muscles further up the body can thus potentially cause more strain on the plantar fascia. You should therefore not only massage the plantar fascia but also the other muscles in the back of your legs.

Because these muscles are connected, they can influence the plantar fascia.
Because these muscles are connected, they can influence the plantar fascia.

As mentioned before, treatment for plantar fasciitis should include more than just massage, and you may find better results if you combine the massage with plantar fasciitis stretches.

Jump to:

Massaging the plantar fascia

In the video clip below, I demonstrate three ways to massage your plantar fascia. What method works best for you may depend on how sensitive your plantar fascia is and what tools you have available.

A WORD OF CAUTION: It is not a good idea to use very forceful massage on the plantar fascia itself because it usually just ends up irritating the injury and may even bruise and injure the little nerves under the foot. You are looking for comfortable or at most "comfortably uncomfortable" pressure.

What you need

This depends on the method you decide to use. You can buy several types of tools to massage the plantar fascia.

Method 1: Using your hands

Plantar fascia massage using your own hands.

This method is very convenient because you don't need any extra tools. It is especially useful first thing in the morning when you first sit up in bed, before you start walking.

You don't have to worry about doing it exactly right. Just rub your foot in a way that feels comfortable and good to you. It is the rubbing action that gets the circulation going, reduces the stiffness and calms the over-sensitive sensors in the area of the injury so they don't create such an excessive pain response. Spend about 1 to 2 minutes doing this.

Method 2: Using a ball

A larger ball, like a tennis ball or lacrosse ball, usually provides a gentler massage than a smaller ball (golf ball size).

Gently roll the ball up and down the length of your foot arch. Remember not to press too hard - massaging your plantar fascia should bring relief and feel enjoyable. If you feel tingling or stinging sensations it's a sign that you are irritating a little nerve. You can injure your nerves or bruise your foot if you are too aggressive. Spend about 1 to 2 minutes on this.

Method 3: Using a frozen bottle of water or mini-roller

Using a mini-roller to massage the plantar fascia

You can find mini-rollers on Amazon that you can put in the freezer, but a frozen 500 ml bottle of water will also work. This method is especially nice at the end of the day to relieve pain that may have developed throughout the day.

Gently roll your foot on the roller. It is usually best to limit any cold treatments to between 7 or 10 minutes at a time.

Massaging the hamstrings

Your hamstrings attach onto your calf muscles, which in turn are attached to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. That’s why you should include massage for your hamstrings when you struggle with plantar fasciitis. I demonstrate my favourite method in the video clip below.

What you need

I use a foam roller, but some of my patients prefer a firm ball such as a lacrosse or hockey ball.


Place the foam roller under your thighs and slowly roll backwards and forwards. Make sure that you cover the whole length of the hamstrings from its origin in the buttock to its attachment at the knee. You can target different parts of the hamstring by rolling your body slightly to the sides.

Foam rolling the hamstrings can help with plantar fasciitis


You can do this once a day for one to two minutes, but two or three times a week is usually enough.

Massaging the calves

As mentioned before, your calf muscles attach directly to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. Any treatment plan for plantar fasciitis should therefore include massage of the calf muscles. I demonstrate how I massage my own calves using a foam roller and ball in the video clip below.

What you need

Use a foam roller or any firm massage ball.


You can use your opposite leg to apply pressure and make the massage more effective. Slowly roll backwards and forwards using your arms to push you. Make sure you cover the full length of the calf muscles from the knee to the Achilles tendon.

Using a foam roller to massage your calves.


You can do this once a day for one to two minutes, but two or three times a week is usually enough.

Massaging the glutes (your buttock muscles)

Tightness in your gluteal muscles not only contribute to plantar fasciitis due to increasing the tension in the fascia, but also by holding on to your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs through these muscles, and when it’s not allowed to slide freely it can contribute to pain in the plantar fascia. I demonstrate how I use a ball to massage my glutes in the video clip below.

What you need

I prefer to use a massage ball because it gives you better point pressure, but you can also use a foam roller.


Slowly roll over the gluteals while you sit sideways on the ball or roller. You can also just maintain the pressure on painful spots for 30 seconds before moving on. Do this once a day for two minutes.

Using a foam roller to massage your glutes


You can do this once a day for one to two minutes, but two or three times a week is usually enough.

This article is the last in my series of four articles on how you can treat your plantar fasciitis yourself. Massage alone will not be enough to fix your plantar fascia pain. So, if you’ve landed on this article first, please consider going back and reading the others as well. This will help you to find the best overall approach to fixing your plantar fasciitis.

Learn more:

How we can help

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 20 years' experience and a Master’s Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.



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