One of the most common ways to try and address your own plantar fasciitis is with exercises. The good news is that exercises are an important and very worthwhile part of managing plantar fasciitis effectively. The bad news is that the internet is a big place and there are way too many to choose from. We recommend you pick one that makes sense to you and stick with it for a while.
*Before you jump into any self directed exercise routine seek qualified professional advice from a clinic like ours to make sure its safe to proceed in your particular case.
A quick insight before we get into the exercise instructions, there are 2 basic categories of exercise for plantar fasciitis…
Stretching exercises for the leg and foot. These restore full flexibility to the plantar fascia and its associated structures. Some of the best exercises for plantar fasciitis fall into this category.
Strength & coordination exercises for the legand foot. These type of exercises target plantar fasciitis with the intention of strengthening the muscles whose job it is to prevent strain in the plantar fascia… important stuff !!!!
But what if we had an exercise that could do both jobs in the same amount of effort and time? Here it is ….
Single Leg Plantar Stretch
After 2 decades of trial and error we are going to stick our flag in the ground and say that this is the best exercise out there for plantar fasciitis. We remain 100% open to being proven wrong on this but for now it has earnt the accolade. .
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. 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 you need BUT BE CAREFUL OF FALLS. You may need to use a piece of furniture to hold onto or have someone spot you for the first few weeks or until 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.
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 it is unlikely that you will be able to address it completely with any single exercise and/or treatment approach. Also be reminded 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 genius of this exercise and the reason we think it is the current leader in the ‘best exercise for plantar fasciitis in the known universe’ race is that it addresses both the tightness in your plantar fascia but also the kind of weaknesses that cause plantar fasciitis in the first place.
On the stretchy up/down side you get to give your plantar fascia a really good stretch. On the balancing side you simultaneously strengthen the entire leg on a way that prevents future repetitive strain in the plantar fascia.
The massive added bonus hidden within this disarmingly simple powerhouse of an 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 make a percentage of us get old and stiff before our time.
Deep Plantar Fasciitis Pain Stretch
Start this exercise for arch 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 plantar fascia without too much pain, progress to 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.
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 forward along your plantar fascia.
Gradually rolling forward apply pressure into the plantar fascia, carefully but persistently allowing a bit of body weight press down sufficiently 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 and focus anywhere that you feel requires extra attention.
Bring the roller forward continuing the application of body weight to creat 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 the same way you went forward, applying pressure and feeling free to focus pressure in different areas as feels 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.
*Pain is an okay thing at the gym and it’s also often 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.
Ultimately the best exercise for plantar fasciitis is the one that works for you ! If you ignore what works best for you and take our advice instead we might as well be your enemy… don’t do it! The small print here though is that in order to truly know what is working you need to connect to more than the immediate desire for pain to go away.
If for example you did this exercise every day for a month and found that it didn’t ease your plantar fasciitis pain but it did significantly improve your balance; that means it is still working for you in quite a profound way. This is because an improvement in your balance would be a most excellent metric to improve if you are looking for a ‘permanent fix’ for your plantar fasciitis. Of course in this scenario you would need to find additional tools to assist with your immediate pain of which there are many.
Asking for professional help as you most likely would for your teeth is often a good option if your pain is stubborn. Remember that it’s not always that easy to exercise your way out of pain. With treatment we can often turn months and years into days and weeks when it comes to improvements in pain levels.
Regardless of whether these are the world’s best exercise for plantar fasciitis or not they won’t do themselves, nor was Rome built in a single day. Knuckle down and do it twice a day for 2 months before you make any further judgement. Enjoy seeing and feeling the stability return to your legs !!
*This info is not designed to be a substitute for seeking qualified professional help. Use common sense. If you have undiagnosed pain anywhere in your body it’s important to get it checked out and you should take advice on which exercises will be safest and best for your specific case.