Our SHIFT physical therapists continue the injury spotlight series on common ailments and exercises to aid in pain relief. For more information about common injuries and physical therapy solutions, please visit our blog.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick fascia that spans the bottom of your foot and supports your arch from the calcaneus (heel bone) to your toes. Repeated stress from walking, running, jumping, or participating in sports can cause small tears in the fascia and lead to pain on the bottom of the foot.
- Sharp or stabbing pain in the arch of the foot near the heel
- Pain with the first few steps in the morning or after sitting for prolonged periods
- Pain is typically minimized with exercise, but worsens afterward
- New or increased amount of activity
- Participation in jumping activities, long-distance running, or dancing
- Flat feet or high arches
- Tight calf and hamstring muscles
- Weight gain or obesity
- Occupations that require lengthy periods of standing (e.g., nursing, factory work, teaching)
- Age (individuals who are 40 to 60 years old are at an increased risk)
- Rest from strenuous or aggravating activities
- Substitute low-impact activities (e.g., swimming or biking) for high-impact activities
- Implement physical therapy exercises to stretch the calves and hamstrings
- Take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce inflammation (as recommended by your physician)
- Roll the arch of your foot over a frozen water bottle for 20 minutes, 2-3 times per day
- Wear supportive shoes, orthotics, and heel cups to cushion your heel with every step
- Wear a night splint to passively stretch the calf and plantar fascia while sleeping
Physical Therapy Exercises
Plantar Fascia Release
Place a lacrosse ball on the midpoint of the plantar fascia, avoiding bony prominences. Search for tender trigger points or knots. Hold the lacrosse ball on each trigger point while extending/flexing your toes up and down. Spend no more than 30 seconds on each trigger point. Repeat the process on other trigger points found in the fascia, spending no more than 2 minutes total on each foot. (Complete 1-2 minutes per foot)
Calf (gastrocnemius/soleus) Release
Place a lacrosse ball on the belly of the calf muscle. Search for tender trigger points or muscle knots. Hold the lacrosse ball on each trigger point while flexing/pointing your foot up and down. Spend no more than 30 seconds on each trigger point. Repeat the process on other trigger points found in the muscle, spending no more than 2 minutes total on each leg. (Complete 1-2 minutes per leg
Plantar Fascia Stretch
Sit with your target leg crossed over the opposite knee. Stabilize your foot by firmly holding the midfoot. Gently pull the big toe into an extended position with the other hand. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds at a time and repeat 3 times.
Gastrocnemius & Soleus Stretch
- Gastrocnemius – Place your hands on a wall at shoulder level. Assume a split stance position with the target leg behind the other. Keep the back knee straight with the heel on the ground and lean forward toward the wall. Move closer or farther away from the wall to control the amount of stretch of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
- Soleus – Place hands on a wall at shoulder level. Assume a split stance position with the target leg behind the other. Bend the back knee as far over the toes as possible while keeping your heel on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
In a standing position, place the target leg slightly in front of the other. While keeping a neutral spine, hinge the hips backwards and allow the trunk to lean forwards. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Stand or sit with the foot flat and relaxed on the ground, evenly distributing your weight across the whole foot. Pull the knuckle of your big toe toward the heel to lift the arch of the foot. It is important to keep the toes relaxed and avoid any toe curling. Hold the position for 5 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
If following these recommendations does not result in pain relief, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Schedule Physical Therapy Appointment for an in-person assessment of symptoms and to create a more individualized plan of care.
In Real Health,
Avis Jason, PT, DPT & Scott Robin, PT, DPT
SHIFT Physical Therapists