There are 2 basic goals behind exercises for pain in the arch & heel. The first is to stretch the soft tissues of the arch & heel. The second is to strengthen the muscles that are involved with the specific type of weakness of the leg and foot that predispose is not only to arch pain & heel pain but ankle pain, knee pain and the rest. Traditionally these 2 goals are addressed with different exercises. We have taken this to the next level and have an arch pain & heel pain rehab exercise that will help address both these issues for you provided you are willing to work on it for an extended period of time. In addition, we have a very simple but deep stretch for the connective tissue of the arch & heel.
Arch & Heel Pain Rehab Exercise
Stand on 1 leg and balance carefully making sure that you are steady and that your weight isn’t collapsing onto your big toe repeatedly. This means your weight should be balanced subtly over the outer margin of your foot. Bring the non-supporting leg to 90 degrees
*if this is very difficult for you to do without wobbling we have definitely found the exercise for you BUT BE CAREFUL OF FALLS. You may need to use a piece of furniture to hold onto. Alternatively have someone spot you for the first few weeks or until such a time as you are more steady.. to be safe.
Starting the first rep – stretch the tip of your toe up towards towards the ceiling and hold it there with about 7/10 effort for 3 secs. Focus on the upwards stretch at the top of your toes
Slowly, firmly and with good control stretch the the tip of the toe downwards and point towards the ground with 7/10 effort again & hold for 3 secs – this completes the 1st rep.
Repeat for 1 minute continuing to balance carefully while you stretch the toes up and down.
Repeat steps 1-4 on opposite leg. 1 minute on each side like this is 1 full set and has taken you 2 minutes in total. Repeat 3-5 times total ( 6-10 minutes )
Be advised that if you have reached a point where there is significant scar tissue in your arch or heel it is unlikely that you will be able to address it completely with any single exercise and/or treatment approach. Also be advised that if you have stubborn pain you should always get it checked by a professional before you start using exercises for it without supervision.
The strength of this exercise and the reason we think it is very hard to top as an exercise for arch pain & heel pain is that it targets both the tightness in the arch & heel but also the kind of weaknesses that cause strain and pain for the arch & heel in the first place. The weakness of this exercise is that if you aren’t willing to be extremely persistent lasting change is unlikely.
On the stretchy up/down side you get to give your foot a really good stretch. On the balancing side you simultaneously strengthen the entire leg on a way that prevents future repetetive strain in the arch & the heel.
The massive added bonus hidden within this disarmingly simple exercise is that when we increase our strength/balance like this we also have an impact on the types of weaknesses that have been shown to contribute to losing mobility prematurely in later life.
Deep Arch & Heel Pain Stretch
Start this exercise for arch pain & heel pain in a sitting position on a chair looking down at your foot. Follow the steps and see if you can easily handle the stretch sitting. If you feel you can put more pressure through your arch without too much pain while sitting you can stand up and start to put more pressure on. Start by standing in a doorway to perform the stretch with more body weight on the foot. Control your balance and body weight with your hands against the door frame. Eventually you may be able to put your whole body weight into this exercise while standing without the need for the door frame.
Start with your weight pressing quite firmly through your heel onto the roller. Pressing as firmly as you dare without excessive pain and start to draw your foot backwards so that the roller progresses forwards towards your arch.
Gradually rolling forward apply pressure into the arch carefully but insistently letting a bit of body weight press down enough to feel like it’s getting ‘into’ the arch a bit. Work your way along to the front of your arch in the same way. Pause anywhere that you feel requires extra attention.
Bring the roller forward continuing the application of body weight to create stretch. The end of the stretch is basically in the base of the toes and you can apply some extra pressure at the end again focusing anywhere that needs attention.
Work your way back to the heel in the same fashion, applying pressure and feeling free to focus pressure in different areas as you feel necessary. The inner margin of the heel and the apex of the arch often feel especially ‘interesting’. Spend about 1 – 1 ½ minutes on each foot in turn then repeat taking you up to a max of 3 minutes.
*pain is an okay thing at the gym and it’s also okay when stretching your feet provided that you have already been cleared of any serious issues by a trained professional.
*Go really easy at first but as you progress go deeper into the tissues, as you go deeper your feet will start to feel really nice and warm afterward. We do advise extreme caution and care when self stretching like this especially at first.
* start doing this exercise once per day as described and if you find it is well tolerated do a bit more.