How to stretch for plantar fasciitis: an easy technique fix to relieve heel pain

If you have plantar fasciitis, you may have been told to stretch your foot as part of your treatment plan. If you are doing the exercise but not feeling much benefit, a simple tweak to your technique may help.

Why your stretch might not be working

The primary exercise that most people are taught for plantar fasciitis is to pull all the toes backward. 

Typical stretch – all toes together

But, the fascia tissue has several bands that branch out from the heel bone. These bands have different lengths and angles that make it difficult to get a good stretch when grouping them all together as one: 

Since the plantar fascia is made up of multiple bands, a more effective way to stretch involves splitting up the movement into several parts. This allows you to provide more or less stretch, as needed, to achieve pain relief.

If plantar fascia stretching has been recommended for you, but you’re not feeling much stretch, try this 3-part technique:

✅ Big Toe
✅ Toes 2 and 3 together
✅ Toes 4 and 5 together

How to stretch:

  1. Start by sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other knee. 
  2. Use one hand to hold your ankle in an upward/bent position. 
  3. Using the other hand to hold your toes, gently pull the big toe backward until you feel a firm but comfortable stretch in your foot. Hold for 30 seconds, or for your prescribed time.
  4. Repeat the stretch for toes 2 and 3 together, pulling them back and holding for the prescribed time.
  5. Repeat the stretch for toes 4 and 5 together. 
  6. Repeat 1-3 repetitions for each position. 

Be sure to keep your ankle bent during the exercise. It will look something like this: 

✅ Big Toe – ✅ Toes 2 and 3 together – ✅ Toes 4 and 5 together

What if I don’t feel a stretch? 

First, check that your ankle remains bent throughout the exercise. If you still don’t feel much benefit, you may need to increase the force applied. 

To do this, a standing variation with a wedge or block tool works very well. The benefit here is that you can simply lean your body forward or back to change the stretch intensity: 

You can get creative with objects you may have around the house, or buy a J Wedge, a nifty little tool designed specifically for this purpose. 

Hint: The big toe should bend backwards to about 50 degrees, so you might need to experiment with multiple wedges as your range of motion improves.

Summary

If you’re not finding relief from stretching for plantar fasciitis, you might need a more specific exercise. Adjust your technique by using the 3-part approach. Add intensity by standing and using a wedge-shaped tool. Try it out and see what works best for you!

Disclaimer:

Good judgment is your responsibility. No article can replace a healthcare professional’s advice who has examined you and knows your history and situation. While stretching is one type of treatment for foot pain, it is not the right option for all conditions. 

Questions or comments about foot problems or shoes? Send us a message

If you have a friend or teammate who could use this information, please share it with them. Thanks!

Photo Credits: Twentieth Century Fox; Medbridge