Our feet are underappreciated and overused. Containing 25% of all of the bones in our body, our feet withstand harsh terrain, ill-fitting shoes, and the strain of supporting our entire body. Their health is so important that sometime issues that arise in other parts of our body originate in our feet. When our neglect catches up to us, sits us down, and debilitating tendon pain pops up, yoga for plantar fasciitis can help.
Can yoga help with plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis affects an estimated 10% of people in the U.S. in their lifetimes, with pain that ranges from annoying to debilitating.
Your plantar fascia is a long, thick strip of connective tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. This connective tissue band supports the arch of the feet; essentially, it is the foundation upon which all standing movement is based.
When the plantar fascia is torn or strained, you’ll know it. Common plantar fasciitis symptoms include:
- Stiffness or soreness in the whole foot, especially in the morning
- Swelling and redness
- Pain in the heel and the arch
- Burning or tenderness in the soles of the feet
- Difficulty going up or down stairs
Although some plantar fasciitis is caused by tears or strains due to intense physical activity, you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to suffer from this condition. Daily stress and strain caused by ill-fitting footwear, not enough rest of the feet, standing too long on hard surfaces, and not warming up (or warming up improperly) can all cause microscopic tears in the plantar fascia. Over time, these tears can become plantar fasciitis.
Other risk factors include:
- Too high or too flat arches
- Metabolic issues (e.g., liver disease or diabetes)
- Physical activity (play or work) on hard surfaces for extended periods of time
- Resuming too much activity after long periods of rest
- Rapid increase in the intensity or duration of a workout
We may experience warning signs—sore feet in the morning, pain when walking up or down the stairs, and swelling—long before an actual diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. Luckily, yoga for plantar fasciitis can help restore the health of your feet and prevent further injury. A thoughtful plan of yoga for healthy feet can complement other treatments that get you up and running again in no time!
10 yoga for plantar fasciitis poses
As always, whenever you are beginning a new exercise regimen, especially in direct response to an acute injury, it’s important to discuss your plan with your doctor. They can help you tailor exercises to your specific condition and make sure you will not further aggravate your injury.
Practice yoga for healthy feet whenever you have time, but certainly before you begin any other kind of workout. Here are ten yoga poses for plantar fasciitis.
Poses that strengthen and stretch the calves
A flexible, strong calf muscle removes some of the burden from your plantar fascia.
Stretch and strengthen the gastrocnemius and soleus with these three exercises.
1. Wall stretch I
Stand about a foot away from a wall and step your left foot back, keeping the toes pointed to the wall and the left leg straight. Press your left heel to the ground as you lean forward and place both hands on the wall.
Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat three times.
2. Wall stretch II
In this stretch, you will set up in the same way but step the left foot back just about a foot or so. Keep both knees bent, and lean towards the wall, again placing both hands on the wall for support.
Notice that this stretches the lowest part of the calf (instead of the Achilles tendon and whole calf). Hold for 30 seconds, then step forward. Switch legs. Repeat three times.
3. Stair stretch
Stand on the lowest step on a set of stairs (use the handrail if balance is an issue). Keep the right foot flat on the stair and slide the left foot back so that the heel hangs off (the ball of the foot stays on the stair).
Stretch down through the heel, gradually bringing more weight into the left foot as you can. Hold for 30 seconds, then step forward. Switch legs. Repeat three times.
Poses that increase foot and ankle flexibility
Connective tissue (fascia) is a connected system in the body, so if it’s tight in one place that can translate to another.
Try these two poses to increase overall foot and ankle flexibility.
4. Draw the alphabet
Come into staff pose on the ground, which means your legs are straight out in front, toes flexed towards the sky, and your hands in your lap or on the ground beside you. Sit up tall with a long spine, crown of the head reaching towards the sky and navel lightly pulled in and up.
Relax your shoulders. Maintaining the strong engagement of the legs and core, begin to draw the alphabet with your toes in the air, one foot at a time.
5. Front ankle stretch
Sit with legs folded underneath you so that your shins and tops of feet are on the ground and your hips rest on your heels. Keeping your spine nice and tall, rock back and place your hands on the floor behind you, lifting your knees off the floor and stretching the tops of your feet.
Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Pause and repeat three times.
Poses that stretch, strengthen, and release tension in the soles of the feet
Some of the best poses for foot pain start out fiery and end up with a sweet feeling of release when you’re finished.
These are no different, but it’s important to take your time as you ease into these poses. If you feel a sharp increase in pain, or the pain is so intense that you have trouble maintaining long, deep, and even breathing, back off the pose.
The goal of yoga for foot pain is to strengthen, stretch, and increase mobility. It’s hard to do that if the pain is so intense you can’t breathe!
6. Tennis ball release
In yoga, foot massage can be done with the hands, or it can be done with a tennis ball. If you are ready for a deeper massage that you cannot get with your hands, find a tennis ball and come to standing. Hold onto a chair or the wall if balance is an issue.
Place the tennis ball underneath your foot and begin to slowly roll up and down the inner arch of your foot, the outer arch of the foot, and just underneath the ball of the foot. Go slowly and pay attention to what pressure feels good.
Place the tennis ball on the ball of the foot and bring your heel down to the ground. Gradually lean forward to place more weight on the tennis ball. If your toes begin to curl under, see if you can stretch them forward and up. This strengthens the peroneal muscles on the side of your leg and increases stability.
Next, place the tennis ball underneath the heel and place the ball of your foot on the ground. Gradually bring weight into your heel, breathing as the sensation intensifies. If you have bone spurs, this may not be a good exercise for you.
Switch feet, and proceed through the steps. Remember to keep breathing and go slowly. See the following video for an example.
7. Mountain pose (tadasana)
Come to stand with your feet hip’s width apart, toes straight forward and heels straight back. Reach down towards the ground with your tailbone at the same time you lightly pull your navel up and in (do not press your hips forward; this move is very slight).
Roll your shoulders up and back, and glide your chin back so that ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles are in one line. Rotate palms open to the front. Lift all ten toes and then lengthen them forward and down. Imagine you could lift the arches of your feet as you press down into the earth. Keep your shoulders relaxed as you breathe for at least ten breaths.
8. Bound angle pose
Sit on the ground with knees bent. Allow your knees to open, bringing the soles of the feet to touch. Your feet can be far away from you or close to your body. If your hips are tight and your knees refuse to release, sit on a block or a blanket (you can also support your knees with blocks). Sit with a tall spine.
Use your hands to massage your feet as you sit and breathe for at least ten breaths (but as many as you want!).
9. Downward facing dog
If you only do one yoga pose for plantar fasciitis, make it this one. Come to all fours with toes tucked under, wrists beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Walk your hands one handprint forward, then on an exhale, lift your hips into the sky to come into downward facing dog. Your body will create an inverted V-shape with your hips the highest point.
You can keep your knees deeply bent if you have tight hamstrings. Reach the crown of your head towards your hands, creating space between your ears and your shoulders. Hug your forearms together and bring your shoulder blades onto your back. Breath here for five deep breaths, then come to all fours on an exhale and relax into child’s pose.
10. Fire toes pose for plantar fasciitis
This pose is the gold standard of yoga for plantar fasciitis, but it can be very intense. As yin yoga for feet goes, it’s important to hold it for at least three minutes and up to five. Yin yoga is a kind of yoga specifically for connective tissues, with long holds at about 60% of your regular capacity. This safely stretches connective tissue and increases blood flow, range of motion, and strength.
Come to all fours with your toes tucked under. If your knees are uncomfortable, pad them with a blanket. Sit back on your heels, then gradually walk your hands toward you so that your torso begins to come upright. Again, even if you know you can sit fully back on your heels, enter the pose gradually, as you will stay there for awhile. Blocks under your hands can provide support as you want to increase the intensity.
Almost immediately you will begin to feel the stretch in the plantar fascia. Your body will want to fidget, and you may want to immediately come out of the pose. As long as you can still take deep breaths and the pain is not sharp or stabbing, resist the urge to move, and stay in the pose. Take deep, even breaths, concentrating on relaxing what muscles can be relaxed.
It takes your brain 90 seconds to understand that even though it is receiving painful signals, you are not actually in danger. Try to make it to 90 seconds at least, supporting yourself you’re your breath, and you may feel a release as you continue.
To come out of the pose, begin to bring your hands forward until you are back to all fours. Uncurl your toes slowly, then gently tap the tops of your feet on the ground. You may want to rest in child’s pose for a few breaths.
Yoga for plantar fasciitis routines
If you are new to yoga for plantar fasciitis (or yoga in general), videos can help. Here are two of our favorites.
Downward facing dog
Because downward facing dog is such an excellent pose for overall health, take a look at this video tutorial on proper alignment (featuring a real dog!).
30 minutes for your feet
You have 30 minutes to spend on your feet, yes? Here’s another great video from Yoga With Adriene focusing on the feet and ankles.
Yoga poses to avoid with foot pain
While there are not really any yoga poses to avoid due to foot pain, you can use blocks and blankets to modify poses to make them more comfortable to get into and hold.
If you are in the acute stages of plantar fasciitis, bare feet for yoga may not feel supportive, so wear shoes until the pain subsides.
Other minimally-invasive plantar fasciitis treatments
Whether yoga for plantar fasciitis eases symptoms or not, there are other approaches to consider.
- Stay hydrated: Connective tissue needs lots of hydration to heal
- Look into NSAIDs: Ask your doctor about over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs for short-term pain and inflammation relief
- Change up your shoes: Picking the best shoes for plantar fasciitis is important
- Foam rolling: Foam rolling follows the same basic principles as the tennis ball exercise above
- Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can address any issues that may be aggravating your foot pain
Comprehensive treatment of plantar fasciitis is crucial. Left untreated, the body begins to build what it feels is protective extra bone in the heels, called bone spurs. Although these spurs may protect the bones from injury, they can be incredibly painful and require surgery to treat.
If yoga for plantar fasciitis helps, but doesn’t completely relieve your foot pain, 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/.