How to Stretch the Heel Cord & the Plantar Fascia

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Stretching the heel cord (Achilles tendon) and plantar fascia just after getting out of bed each morning will help prevent the sharp pain you feel when you take those first steps. Think of the plantar fascia as a rubber band that has been relaxed for the night, and then is suddenly snapped taught. By doing these exercises before taking those first steps you will reduce the inflammation caused by snapping the plantar fascia tight, and help speed healing if you suffer plantar fasciitis. Each of the following stretching exercises should be performed immediately after getting out of bed and repeated four or more times per day, especially after sitting or standing for prolonged periods.

Things You'll Need

  • Two hardbound books
  • A towel

The Stretches

Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Holding a towel in both hands, wrap it around the ball of your foot just under your toes. Keeping your leg straight, pull back on the towel to stretch the plantar fascia, and hold for a count of 10. Repeat five times.

Place two hardbound books (or anything that is sturdy enough to support your weight) about six inches from a wall. Lay one book flat and angle the other so the books form an incline. Stand on the books with the affected foot at the bottom of the incline so that your heel is on the floor and the ball of your foot and toes are on the book. Keeping the knee of the affected foot straight, lean into the wall until you feel the muscles in your calf stretch. Hold this position for 10 seconds then release. Repeat five times.

Stand an arm’s length from a wall, placing one foot a few inches from the wall, with the affected foot behind the front foot far enough that your heel is just flat on the floor. The front leg should be bent slightly at the knee, while the hind leg should be straight. Slowly lean forward into the wall until you feel your calf muscle stretch. Hold this position 10 seconds. Repeat five times. You can stretch the plantar fascia at the same time by simply rolling a towel and placing it under the toes of your back foot while performing the stretch.

Rest the ankle of your affected foot on the knee of the other leg. With your hand, pull your toes toward your body until you feel the plantar fascia stretch. Hold this position for 10 seconds, relax, then pull again, repeating for 30 seconds at a time.

Stand barefoot with your legs apart. Curl the toes of your foot under, pretending to pick up a pencil, then release. Start off with 10 curls (less if you feel pain) and slowly build up to 50 curls at a time. Rest your foot for a count of 30 then do this stretching exercise again. Repeat throughout the day.

Tips & Warnings

  • Performing these stretches before and after walking, jogging or running can help with the inflammation you may feel afterward if you suffer from plantar fasciitis.

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