Stretching Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis

Stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis may seem inconsequential. But research shows that they are effective for managing pain and improving function in people with the condition, which causes thickening of the plantar fascia—a band located in the arch of the foot. In fact, plantar fasciitis exercises are a key element of any treatment plan for this painful foot condition.

The main cause of plantar fasciitis is micro traumas that lead to degeneration and tears of the plantar fascia, which result in tenderness, pain, and swelling around the heel of the foot. If the condition is not managed, it can affect your quality of life and make day-to-day activities uncomfortable and more difficult. Persistent, severe cases may require surgery.

Your physical therapist or physician may walk you through these common plantar fasciitis stretching exercises, or you can try them yourself at home. This routine is simple and often enough to alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis in most people.

Calf Stretch

calf stretch
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The easiest way to do the calf stretch is by standing about 1 to 2 feet from a wall.

  1. Lean against the wall with your arms outstretched.
  2. Place one foot on the ground in the line extending down from your shoulders and one foot behind your body.
  3. Keep your back foot flat on the ground and feel a stretch in the back of your heel (the Achilles tendon).
  4. Hold the stretch for a count of 10 and repeat. Do both sides.

To accentuate this stretch, point your back knee down toward the ground while keeping the foot flat on the floor.

Stair Stretch

Stair Stretch

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To perform a stair stretch, find a stair step or curb.

  1. Keep the foot you want to stretch back and take one step up with the other foot.
  2. Lean into the stairs keeping the back foot flat.
  3. Feel the stretch in the back of the heel. Try to relax and allow your body to lean further into the step.

Foot Stretch

Foot Stretch

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The foot stretch is done is a seated position.

  1. Reach forward and grasp your foot. If you aren't flexible enough, just cross your leg and grasp your foot.
  2. Pull your toes up toward your shin while holding your foot with the other hand.
  3. Feel a stretch on the bottom of the foot.

Hold this for a count of 10 while feeling the stretch along the arch of the foot. Repeat at least 3 times on each side.

Heel Cord Stretch

heel stretch
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A heel cord stretch can be done by reaching forward and grasping your foot. Keep your knee straight with your toes pointing up.

If this is difficult, enlist the help of an elastic band or towel.

  1. Hold the ends of the band or towel. Loop the middle around your toes.
  2. Pull the ends toward you. This will pull your toes without you having to reach them.

This will stretch both the back of your leg and the bottom of your foot.

Wall Lean

wall lean

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  1. Stand facing a wall and place your palms on the wall at eye level.
  2. Position your feet about 12 inches apart, one in front of the other.
  3. Keeping the front knee straight, place the toes against the wall as high as possible.
  4. Lean into the wall so you can feel a stretch in the front foot.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  6. Go back to the starting position and repeat three times. Change feet and repeat.

This exercise can be done several times a day.

Post-Stretch Icing

Water bill

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The final step of this routine is to ice the arch of the foot. Keep a frozen ice pack in your freezer for when you need it; you can also fill plastic water bottles and freeze them for this.

Place the ice pack under the arch of the foot for 10 to 15 minutes. Stretch the foot during this time. If using a frozen water bottle, you can roll it under your foot for the same period.

A Word From Verywell

Plantar fasciitis is not a condition to ignore as doing so can hinder daily activities and complicate quality of life. Moreover, the pain may force you to change the way you walk, which might eventually lead to foot, knee, hip and back discomfort. While stretching, rest, and ice therapy can help, be sure you have a pair of sturdy shoes that offers adequate support and a proper fit.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sweeting D, Parish B, Hooper L, Chester R. The effectiveness of manual stretching in the treatment of plantar heel pain: a systematic review. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. 2011;4(1). doi:10.1186/1757-1146-4-19

  2. Wheeler P, Boyd K, Shipton M. Surgery for patients with recalcitrant plantar fasciitis: good results at short-, medium-, and long-term follow-up. Orthop J Sports Med. 2014;2(3). doi:10.1177/2325967114527901

Additional Reading

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.