Updated: 4 days ago
THE PLANTAR FASCIITIS SELF-TREATMENT SERIES:
Self-treatment – stretching (this article)
If you want to save time and money by treating your own plantar fasciitis, you need to understand that tight muscles as high up as your lower back and glutes (the muscles in your bum) can cause this painful problem.
This article will show you how to stretch all the muscles that matter to alleviate the strain on your plantar fascia.
I find that my patients with plantar fasciitis not only have very tight calf muscles, but often also have tight lower back, glutes and hamstring muscles. This is because all the muscles that run down your lower back and 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. Your plantar fasciitis stretches should include all of these muscles.
It is important to understand that stretching alone will not resolve your plantar fasciitis. It is only a small part of a wider treatment plan. You can learn about the different approaches for plantar fasciitis treatment here.
This post includes:
General instructions for stretches
Plantar fascia stretch
Glute and lower back stretch
I've teamed up with Exakt Health to create an injury treatment app that guides you through this process and adapts the exercises and treatment suggestions according to your progress. You can download the Exakt Health App from the App Store.
General instructions for plantar fasciitis stretches
A WORD OF CAUTION: None of the stretches should be painful to do, nor should they cause you pain or discomfort afterwards. You should not try and stretch as hard as you can, but rather just take it to where you start to feel a stretch and then maintain it for about 30 seconds.
I always prescribe 3 sets of 30 seconds for each stretch. Hold still while you stretch and do not bounce. Research suggests that you should do it more than once a day to see results. I would recommend you do it at least twice a day.
Stand facing a wall with the foot to be stretched at the back. Your toes must point straight forward.Lean against the wall.
Keep your heel on the floor and bend the knee of the front leg until you feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg.
Maintain the calf stretch for 30 seconds before switching legs.
Repeat 3 times with each leg.
Plantar fascia stretch
Please be careful not to over-stretch the plantar fascia by pushing to vigorously. This stretch should not be done directly after a sudden injury of the plantar fascia.
Place your toes against the base of a wall as shown in the picture (your toes may likely not bend as much as mine as my foot joints are a bit hyper-mobile).
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.
Repeat 3 times.
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Glute and lower back stretch
Hold on! It’s my foot that hurts. Why do I have to stretch my glutes and back?
All the muscles that run down your lower back and the back of your leg 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 could therefore strain the plantar fascia.
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. If you struggle to keep your neck in a comfortable position you can put a pillow under your head.
You should feel the stretch in the right buttock/thigh/back depending on which part is the tightest.
Hold the glute stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Repeat 3 times on each side.
It is important to make sure that the pain in your foot is in fact plantar fasciitis and not due to nerve pain from your back before attempting a hamstring stretch. Doing the hamstring stretch will make your pain worse if the pain is due to nerve irritation. The first post in this series tells you how to diagnose plantar fasciitis, but you may want to consult a physiotherapist if you suspect that your back may be at fault.
Sit with your one leg straight and the other bent up.
Your knee must remain straight throughout the stretch.
Put your chin on your chest and lean forward with both your arms (this will help to stretch a whole lot of muscles down the back of your body).
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times with each leg.
Like I said previously, stretching on its own won’t fix your plantar fasciitis. Adding some self-massage is often a more effective way of dealing with the injury.
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.
About the Author
Robroy L. Martin, T. E. D., Stephen F. Reischl, Thomas G. McPoil, James W. Matheson, Dane K. Wukich, Christine M. McDonough, Roy D. Altman, Paul Beattie, Mark Cornwall, Irene Davis, John DeWitt, James Elliott, James J. Irrgang, Sandra Kaplan, Stephen Paulseth, Leslie Torburn, James Zachazewski, Joseph J. Godges. (2014). Heel Pain—Plantar Fasciitis: Revision 2014. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 44(11), A1-A33.