Heel Pain? Try Stretching It Out!

by | Oct 30, 2019

Some things become a habit through commitment and perseverance. Other things simply force their way into your daily schedule without you trying or asking.

Heel pain definitely falls into the latter category. Nobody works toward a cycle of regularly scheduled heel agony, yet for many the pain returns every day like clockwork. Maybe it’s those terrible first steps out of bed in the morning, or maybe it’s that ache after coming home from a long day of work. Perhaps you have the great misfortune of both!

Although heel pain may have become an unwanted part of your life, there are choices you can make and habits you can develop that may help you combat that discomfort.

In many cases, incorporating stretching into your daily routine can help take the edge off heel pain, or sometimes even fully eliminate it. It largely depends on the source of your heel pain and the types of stretching you perform.

How Can Stretching Help Heel Pain?

Stretching can help heel pain in a variety of ways, but one of the most common situations where it can be utilized is a case of plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is when excess strain and microtears develop in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. When this band is injured, it can become pained and inflamed.

If your first few steps out of bed are torturous for your heels, plantar fasciitis is a likely cause. Why this morning ritual, though?

During the night, while at rest, your plantar fascia isn’t moving. It “cools down” and contracts. This makes the first few minutes of moving it again especially painful, as it needs some time to “warm up” again. The same sort of thing happens if you get up after sitting for hours on end.

Taking some time to gently stretch your plantar fascia before putting it to work can significantly reduce these instances of pain—but that’s not the only way stretching can help.

The plantar fascia is not an independent unit. It is connected to your network of bones, muscles, and other connective tissues. When one of these connected elements is tight, it can place excess stress on the plantar fascia itself, which doesn’t feel great if it’s already injured.

Tight calf muscles are a notorious bad influence on plantar fasciitis, but other muscles can play positive supporting roles, too. Strengthening muscles that support the arch will, in turn, take more stress off the plantar fascia.

Some Sample Heel Pain Stretches

Knowing the best stretches and exercises to help your heel pain depends upon knowing the root cause of your condition. In some cases, stretching might not have that much of an impact at all.

We can help you determine the best plans and treatments for your heel pain, but it doesn’t hurt to try some general stretches to see if they provide any improvement. Even if they don’t help the pain, you are still giving some attention to the muscles and tissues you need to move.

Below are a few simple stretches. Please note that you should take all stretches with slow, controlled movements. You should also feel a stretch with each repetition, but never outright pain. If it hurts, stop doing it!

Let’s start with some stretches you can do right in bed, before you start moving in the morning.

  • Simple foot flex. This one is just what it says on the can. Gently flex your foot up and down 10 times while lying down.
  • Towel stretch. Roll a towel lengthwise and loop it around the ball of your foot, taking each end of the towel in each hand. Gently pull the towel toward you, flexing your foot back while keeping knees straight. Hold this position anywhere for 15-30 seconds, repeating up to four times with each foot.
  • Toe stretches. Place your heel against the bed, with knee bent enough so you can easily reach your toes with your hand. Gently pull your big toe up and back, toward the ankle. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat up to four times with each foot.

When you’re out of bed, you can place some more focus on stretching your calf muscles and other areas.

  • Foot rolling. While seated, roll each foot against something that, well, rolls. It can be a tennis ball, a bottle, or a foam roller. For even better effect, freeze a water bottle or can and use that for added cold therapy. Just make sure not to leak water beneath your desk or anything!
  • Calf stretch. You will need a sturdy, unyielding surface such as a wall or a tree for this. Stand at arm’s length from the object, then step back with one foot. Gently bend the front leg forward, keeping your other knee straight and heel on the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat three times before switching the positions of your legs.
  • Marble pickup. This one is a bit of a game and an exercise in one. Sit in a chair and place marbles on the floor beneath your feet. Using your toes, try to pick up each marble and deposit it in a cup or bowl. Try to do at least a dozen times for each foot.

Get the Best Plan for Quelling Heel Pain

For some, stretches are a great option for heel pain. Others likely need something in addition to or instead of stretching to really help—things like changes in footwear, custom orthotics, medications, or other forms of treatment.

If your heel pain keeps persisting, don’t wait for it to go away. It likely never will without some intervention! Call Premier Podiatry Group at (814) 472-2660 to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Ebensburg or Johnstown. We’ll get to the root of your condition and recommend a treatment plan to best suit your needs.