The best exercises for plantar fasciitis and heel pain can depend on the individual, but may include various foot and calf stretches. They can help to relieve pain, improve muscle strength, and promote flexibility in the foot.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue connecting the heel to the toes. Overuse, strain, and injury can cause inflammation in this tissue, which can be painful. This condition is called plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis can cause a deep, stabbing pain in the heel. It often occurs in people with excess body weight, but it can also occur as an overuse injury in runners. The pain is usually most severe in the mornings or after standing for extended periods.

A few simple stretches can reduce tension in the foot and calf. In doing so, they can provide both rapid pain relief and a steady improvement in symptoms over time.

Keep reading to learn which stretches and exercises can relieve plantar fasciitis pain and how to perform them.

Muscle tightness in the feet and calves can make plantar fasciitis worse. Loosening the calf muscles can relieve the pain. People can try performing a calf stretch, which involves the following steps:

  • Lean the hands against a wall.
  • Straighten the knee of the affected leg and bend the other knee in front.
  • Keep both feet flat on the ground.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat the stretch 2–3 times.
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Placing a round object under the foot and rolling it back and forward can loosen the foot muscles. People can use a rolling pin, golf ball, or specialized foam roller for this exercise. Many sports stores and online retailers sell foam foot rollers.

Another option is to try using a frozen bottle of water for arch rolls. This technique may be particularly beneficial because the cold surface of the bottle may help reduce inflammation.

This simple exercise stretches the foot:

  • Sit tall on a chair.
  • Place a ball or another rollable object under the foot.
  • Roll the object back and forward for 2 minutes.

A person may also be able to relieve muscle tightness in the plantar fascia using a seated foot stretch. They can perform this exercise by following these steps:

  • Sit on a chair and cross the injured heel over the opposite leg.
  • Pull the toes toward the shin to create tension in the arch of the foot.
  • Place the other hand on the bottom of the foot to feel for tension in the plantar fascia.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 2–3 times.
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Curling a hand towel or washcloth with the toes can stretch the foot and calf muscles. People may find it beneficial to do these stretches before walking or completing any other morning tasks. The exercise involves the following steps:

  • Sit on a chair with both feet flat and a small towel in front of the feet.
  • Grasp the center of the towel with the toes.
  • Curl the towel toward the heels.
  • Relax the foot and repeat 5 times.
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Picking up a marble with the toes will flex and stretch the foot muscles. A person can try the following:

  • Sit on a chair with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place a handful of marbles on the floor.
  • Pick up one marble at a time by curling the toes.
  • Repeat 20 times.

People can use several home remedies to reduce the inflammation and pain of plantar fasciitis:

The RICE method

When the pain first appears, it is important to rest the injured foot. First aid for a foot injury typically involves the RICE method:

  • R: Rest the painful area for a few days.
  • I: Ice the area for 20 minutes at a time to relieve inflammation.
  • C: Compress the area with a soft wrap to reduce swelling.
  • E: Elevate the area by putting the foot on a few pillows.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, reduce both pain and inflammation. It is important to take this medication according to the instructions on the package or a doctor’s advice.

Some people find that a few weeks of NSAID treatment improves their symptoms.

Shoe inserts

Shoe inserts provide the arch of the foot with additional support. Inserts limit stress on the plantar fascia and may be especially helpful for people who spend much of the day on their feet. Soft, supportive arch inserts can work as well.

People who are interested in this option can contact a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot health, for more information.

Ice massage

Some people find that massaging the injured foot with ice helps relieve foot pain. The best approach is to focus on massaging the arch of the foot around the injured area.

If stretches, exercises, and other home remedies do not help, a doctor or podiatrist may recommend medical treatment.

They may suggest the following:

Surgery is rarely necessary, but it is an option if other treatments prove ineffective.

Plantar fasciitis is relatively common, affecting 7–10% of the population. Doctors do not fully understand why some people get this injury and others do not.

However, known risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • standing for long periods
  • walking or running for exercise
  • having tight calf muscles
  • having excess body weight
  • having pes cavus, a condition that causes increased arch height

Plantar fasciitis usually resolves within 6–18 months without medical treatment.

However, for some people, plantar fasciitis becomes a chronic condition. Symptoms may improve and then appear again, or the pain may remain consistent for a year or longer. A 2018 study suggests that people who have previously had the condition are more likely to have it again.

Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury that is common in runners and people with excess body weight. It occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue, becomes inflamed and painful.

People can usually manage plantar fasciitis at home with stretches, rest, ice, and NSAIDs. If the symptoms persist, it is advisable to contact a doctor.