Plantar fasciitis or inflammation of the plantar fascia happens when the ligament suffers micro-traumas at the point where it joins to the heel bone, or along the ligament itself. With poor foot mechanics, excessive use or the presence of other triggers, the force applied to the plantar fascia during running or walking and the shift of body weight from one foot to the other can twist the fascia from where it joins the heel and result in microscopic tears.
Stretching is important for rehabilitation from plantar fasciitis. Practising scheduled, daily strengthening and plantar fasciitis exercises on the base of the foot, heel of the foot and calf muscles, normally decreases the amount of tension in the plantar fascia and aids the process of healing. It is not uncommon to see people suffering from plantar fasciitis with reduced range of ankle movement and tight calf muscles. Stretching these areas cuts the risk of suffering plantar fasciitis in the future.
In recent studies more than 80 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis noted that stretching assisted their recuperation and nearly 30 per cent. considered that their stretching regimes were the most effective treatment they undertook.
The Dangers of Stretching
It is best to stretch regularly and gently. Start plantar fasciitis stretching slowly and conservatively at the start of your treatment because overly aggressive stretching during the first stages of the recovery process can tear the plantar fascia and set you back in your recovery process. Less is sometimes more with stretching and effective treatments come from a ‘little and often’ approach. Patients should do some light stretching at least two times daily (preferably more frequently) rather than diving into one long, aggressive stretching session on now and again basis.
Because of the risk of re-injury resulting from over-enthusiastic stretching, it is recommended always to closely follow a planned stretching program that has been designed to increase effort slowly as the ligament heals itself.
Easy But Effective Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis
Below are easy-to-follow basic exercises to recovery from plantar fasciitis. We cannot emphasize enough that the stretches should be carried out very carefully without over-stretching.
Basic Foot Stretch
The most basic stretch of the calf muscle and plantar fascia and we recommend all stretching schedules should begin with this exercise. Patients should do the seated foot stretch exercise for a number of days before beginning the more challenging exercises.
– Start by sitting on the floor, with your legs flat out in front of you.
– Loop a strap around the ball (at the front pad) of the foot and gradually pull the strap towards you, keeping your legs straight.
– Only pull until you feel a gentle stretch, then maintain the position for roughly 30 seconds. Breathe gently throughout.
– Relax for thirty seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
Wall Calf Stretch
The wall calf stretch allows for a deeper stretch than the seated foot stretch, but still allows you to control the amount of stretch.
Don’t start this stretch until you have improved fundamental flexibility by doing the Seated Foot Stretch.
– Stand looking at a wall and place your hands on the wall at eye level.
– Extend one leg backwards, keeping the front knee bent. Make sure both feet stay flat on the floor (i.e. don’t let your heels rise up).
– Lean forwards, allowing the front knee to bend until a easy stretch is felt in the back leg behind the knee.
– Hold for thirty seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
– Rest for thirty seconds, then repeat 3-5 times.
Standing Step Calf Stretch
This is the most advanced stretching exercise for the calf and Achilles tendon. It is more difficult to control than the previous two so additional care should be taken not to overstretch.
– Stand on a stair on the balls of your feet. Be sure to hold on to the rail or a wall for support.
– Slowly drop your heel over the edge of the stair until there is a stretch in the calf muscle.
– Hold the stretch for thirty seconds. Do the same with the other foot.
– Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times.
– Once you master the exercise, you will be able to progress to stretching both feet at the same time.
Using a Plantar Fascia Massage Ball
This involves rolling the plantar fascia arch over a massage ball while either standing (holding a wall or chair for support) or sitting. Give the foot and ankle full range of motion in all directions while rolling over the massage ball. This massage both stretches the muscles along the sole of the foot and eases stress. It can be done after the stretches above.
– Massage each foot for around 30 seconds.
– Rest for thirty seconds.
– Repeat 3-5 times.