Plantar fasciitis (and its close relation, Achilles tendonitis) causes excruciating foot pain that can be debilitating. This chronic pain condition affects nearly 10% of adults in the U.S. at some point in their lives. The plantar fascia is a long strip of connective tissue that runs from the ball of the foot to the heel. Given the amount of abuse our feet take, it’s no wonder that this arch-supporting band is susceptible to inflammation, strain, and tiny tears along its length. There are a number of plantar fasciitis exercises, though, that can help you heal this hard-working band, strengthening it to prevent future injury.
How do plantar fasciitis exercises help?
It’s important to examine the anatomy and function of the foot to understand how plantar fasciitis exercises can help.
The plantar fascia originates from the heel, runs down the center of the foot, and attaches to all five metatarsal heads and proximal phalanges of the toes. It acts as a major stabilizer of the entire foot, protecting it from rolling too much to either side. The plantar fascia is also the major supporter of the arch of the foot.
The plantar fascia can become inflamed when it’s:
This inflammation causes a chain reaction in the foot. In order to avoid pain, those suffering from plantar fasciitis foot pain may find themselves putting more pressure on other areas of the feet. This can cause strain up the leg and into the calf. Additionally, the hips can feel the burn as improper alignment continues to travel up the leg.
In the most extreme cases, the bone begins to react by overproducing calcium that is deposited in various areas of the foot, most commonly in the joints and where the ligaments and connective tissues attach. This can mean painful, bony deposits anywhere from the heel to the base of each toe. These are called bone spurs or heel spurs.
Plantar fasciitis symptoms
Most people realize they have this condition when they experience foot pain in the morning. Other symptoms of plantar fasciitis can include:
- Sharp pain in the foot upon standing after sitting for a period of time
- Pain in the arch of the foot
- Pain and stiffness in the heel
- Tightness on the bottom of the foot that eases with stretching
- High arches or flat feet
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, you may benefit from plantar fasciitis exercises.
The best plantar fasciitis exercises
The best plantar fasciitis exercises are comprehensive and aim to:
- Stretch the plantar fascia
- Strengthen the muscles of the lower leg
- Properly realign the foot so that other areas of the body are not affected
These exercises for foot pain can help those who suffer from mild to moderate case of plantar fasciitis. If you’re experiencing anything other than mild pain, always talk to your doctor before attempting any of these exercises.
30+ printable plantar fasciitis exercises
Treating plantar fasciitis encompasses a wide variety of exercises.
The plantar fasciitis exercises printables below cover much of the same ground, but each offers a different take on the most widely prescribed exercises. Print these out and hang them next to your workout area for a daily reminder.
This printable focuses ten of its 11 exercises on calf stretching and strengthening.
With clear pictures and descriptions, plus recommendations for the number of repetitions and frequency of exercises, this is a great place to start.
Information and exercise sheet
If you are looking for a good basic overview of plantar fasciitis, along with some exercises, this plantar fasciitis printable fits the bill.
While not wholly dedicated to the feet, this foam rolling printable offers suggestions for the legs that can be sore due to changes in alignment from plantar fasciitis.
The fascia that runs along the sole of your foot is part of a system of connective tissue that encompasses all of your muscles, organs, and joints. Release one part with foam rolling and feel the benefits everywhere else.
This printable weighs in at a whopping ten pages and offers tons of exercises for strengthening the ankles and feet. Each exercise comes with:
- Clear pictures
- The area affected
- The benefits
- Recommendations for numbers of repetitions
Definitely not just for runners, this is a great way to strengthen the whole foot and ankle area!
Stretching the calf is an important part of recovery from plantar fasciitis, and this printable gives a clear explanation why (and some exercises, too!).
Our peroneal muscles may be better understood as the tuxedo stripe of muscle that runs up the sides of our calf muscles (inner and outer calf).
When plantar fasciitis weakens the support of the arch, these leg-stabilizing muscles can help protect the ankle from rolling.
The Achilles tendon connects the muscle of the calf to the heel bone. Keep the Achilles tendon healthy and strong with many of the above exercises, plus a few in this printable. Explore some good strategies for controlling inflammation with the acronym PRICE, too.
Plantar fasciitis exercises printables are portable so you don’t have to miss a day of exercise on the road. The ones above can also be downloaded to your mobile device.
8 plantar fasciitis exercise videos
Sometimes a plantar fasciitis exercises handout isn’t quite enough explanation. For those who are more visual and would like to see the actual stretches in action, videos are the best option. Many of these videos also offer good explanations of why each stretch works.
Less an exercise video and more a whole-body treatment plan for at-home plantar fasciitis physical therapy, Dr. Axe outlines four ways to ease plantar fasciitis pain and prevent flare-ups.
From diet to plantar fasciitis exercises, if you only have time for one video, make it this one.
This video offer exercises that can be completed before you put your feet on the floor in the morning.
Plantar fasciitis pain often flares up in the morning, and the first step can be hard to take. Warm up your feet and relieve pain with this simple series in under two minutes.
Sometimes the causes of plantar fasciitis are subtle. Maybe it’s in the way you move or stand, or maybe it’s part of your job.
This video offers tips to correct these often unconscious patterns of movement that can lead to plantar fasciitis. Lots of anatomy lessons here, this also provides an excellent foundation of understanding how your whole body compensates for minor changes in alignment.
During the acute phase of a plantar fasciitis flare-up, it can be challenging to put enough weight on the foot to perform pain-relieving exercises (or even walk). This taping technique adds additional support in the arch of the foot so that walking becomes less painful.
A simple foot massage can make a world of difference for weary, painful feet. Take less than five minutes while watching this video to massage tendons and ligaments in the feet to relieve pain.
Exercises for fallen arches (a.k.a “flat feet”)
One of the contributing factors to plantar fasciitis is either high arches or fallen (low) arches (also called flat feet). This video offers seven different exercises to help strengthen and “rebuild” your arches.
Good arch support and proper footwear are important parts of treating plantar fasciitis. This video offers tips for finding the best shoes for good support, as well as a guide to proper fit.
Seated plantar fasciitis exercise – yoga perspective
In this two-minute video, the yoga director of the Cleveland Clinic offers suggestions for exercises that stretch and loosen the muscles of the calves and ankles. Working with gentle seated exercises to start, she guides viewers in keeping the spine tall and the breath moving through the body while demonstrating a series of exercises that keep mobility in the muscles and the connective tissues in the legs.
Whether you like to work with a plantar fasciitis exercise printable or watch a video, it’s important to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine. Many of these exercises can be safely performed at home to relieve pain, but check in with your doctor before beginning.
Beyond at-home care: Plantar fasciitis physical therapy
For milder cases of plantar fasciitis, the above videos and printables may work well. Maybe you have “weekend warrior syndrome” and just need to take it easy and stretch for a few days to allow the plantar fascia to rest.
In some cases, these exercises won’t be enough long term. If your plantar fascia is torn, it can take months to heal fully, and the acute phase can be extraordinarily painful. When this happens, the best chance of proper healing occurs when you work closely with a physical therapist. If you are unable to put weight on your feet for extended periods of time, or you are beginning to develop bone spurs, a physical therapist can tailor a treatment plan to you and assist you in completing it properly.
Plantar fasciitis physical therapy goes beyond just creating an action plan. When we are in pain it can be challenging to stick with something that seems to hurt us more. A physical therapist is there to make sure we stick to the plan, even when it is painful or challenging at times.
Part medical professional, part cheerleader, part hand-holder, a physical therapist is committed to helping you stick with a treatment plan. They can provide support, guidance, and encouragement that you may find hard to muster on your own.
Other plantar fasciitis treatments
There are other plantar fasciitis treatments that can be offered in conjunction with plantar fasciitis exercises or physical therapy.
Sometimes a simple shift in footwear can make all the difference. More arch support can help while you are healing and protect you from further injury. Find recommendations for 20 of our favorite plantar fasciitis shoes here.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can offer relief from pain and inflammation when used properly.
Steroidal injections to relieve inflammation are successful in treating some recalcitrant cases of plantar fasciitis. In some cases, just one injection offers enough relief to allow other treatments (like exercise or physical therapy) time to work.
In very rare cases, surgery for plantar fasciitis is necessary. This type of surgery severs the plantar fascia to relieve tension caused by tightness or injury. Surgery is only performed after all other treatment options are exhausted.
Bone spur treatment
If your plantar fasciitis has caused bone spurs, it’s important to have those treated as well. Untreated bone spurs can cause pain even after the inflammation of the plantar fasciitis heals. If conservative treatments for bone spurs are unsuccessful, surgical removal may also be required.
If you suffer from severe foot pain that might be plantar fasciitis, it may be time to talk to a pain specialist. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.