I'm interested in health and nutrition. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and had to learn how to resolve my pain.
Persistent Heel Pain
When I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, I wasn't particularly worried. Treatment is pretty simple, after all, and not necessarily even very expensive.
A year later, after a round of anti-inflammatories, months of physical therapy, and some pricey custom orthotics, I was starting to get a little worried. My plantar fasciitis was mostly under control—as long as I didn't run. But as soon as I did anything that involved a little extra impact—running, jumping, even a long hike—the plantar fasciitis flared up. I worried that I wouldn't ever run again, and the reading I did suggested that if I wanted to avoid surgery, I might need to spend six weeks completely off my feet. And let's get serious: What were the chances of that?
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis emerges when the plantar fascia, the long ligament that runs from the heel bone to the forefoot, develops tiny tears that produce pain and inflammation. Most times, this feels like an ache or stabbing pain under the heel, but if you aggravate that ligament enough, you can also feel a sharp pain along the sole of your foot.
Lots of things can cause plantar fasciitis, but they all boil down to some combination of overuse and inelasticity. If your plantar fascia can't stretch enough to comfortably absorb whatever pressure you're putting on it, you're at risk of tearing. And once you start tearing the fascia, it gets inflamed, and pain ensues.
The Usual Treatments
Since the onset of plantar fasciitis is usually accompanied by inflammation, standard treatments address that. If you turn up at your doctor's office complaining of heel pain, you'll likely be told to take some ibuprofen, ice the area, and stay off your feet. For some people, that's enough. The inflammation settles down, the plantar fascia heals, and they're good to go.
If that doesn't solve the problem, your doctor or physical therapist will probably set to work on combating the overstretching of the ligament. For starters, you might be given a night splint, which holds your foot in a flexed position during the night. This keeps your plantar fascia from tightening up while you sleep, which in turn prevents you from re-tearing it when you hop out of bed and put weight on it in the morning.
For some people, the night splint is an instant cure. If your plantar fasciitis is a bit more stubborn, however, the next step might be orthotics—and again, for some people, these can produce an instant cure.
But if you are not one of those lucky people (and I count myself among those unlucky people), you're starting to run low on options. You might get some physical therapy, you might be told to stay well off your feet, and—if things get bad enough and go on for long enough—you might start considering surgery.
This is not a happy place to be.
The Little-Known Secret That Worked for Me
If this is your situation, you're probably at the end of your rope. I know I was. I started seeing an acupuncturist, a reflexologist, and a chiropractor, all in hopes that something would make a difference.
See, the problem at this point is not inflammation. The problem is that ligament that keeps getting aggravated. Inflammation and pain are the symptoms, not the cause. So icing your foot and popping Advil isn't going to help after a certain point, and orthotics and night splints can only help so much.
The secret I discovered is that what I really needed was flexibility—not just in that ligament, but in all the muscles near it (plus all the muscles near those muscles), so that your whole foot and lower leg are flexible enough to absorb whatever impact you subject it to.
So really—and I know this will be hard to believe if you've been fighting plantar fasciitis for a long time—you need a good, consistent stretching program. And that's it. There's other stuff you can do, of course, but if you're really good about thoroughly stretching multiple times every day, that's (probably) all you need.
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The trick, though, is to stretch every day, multiple times, for 4-5 minutes per session. None of those 20-second calf stretches will do—you've got to hang out in each stretch for at least a minute.
And chances are, you'll have to keep up that routine. I'm not great about keeping up with mine, and I can tell the difference. When my calves start to tighten up, the plantar fasciitis flares up. But, on the flipside, I can also prevent flare-ups by being careful about stretching. So I (finally) started running again, did yoga after every run (lots of downward facing dog!), and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d every muscle I could get to in my feet and legs, voila! No heel pain.
I had tried just about everything before I stumbled on the stretching secret. I had night splints, acupuncture, reflexology, yoga toes, foot massagers, the works. Some of it helped (and much of it helps in conjunction with good stretching), but nothing did the trick until I ran across Jim Johnson's book, The 5-Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution.
Johnson does a nice survey of the research on plantar fasciitis and makes a pretty compelling case for treating it as a problem of tight muscles rather than chronic inflammation. And he gives you a little stretching program that has been tested and demonstrated to work in clinical trials. The book is a bit pricey for its size (though, since I credit it with teaching me to manage my plantar fasciitis, it was quite a bargain), but if you're interested in a layman's overview of the science or the details of a specific stretching program, by all means check it out.
But if you're willing to wing it and design your own treatment program, read on!
My Treatment Program
So, before I launch into this, let me just say that I'm not a doctor or a physical therapist—or anyone with any medical expertise. I don't think I'm going to suggest anything that will hurt you, but be advised that any steps you undertake are taken at your risk. These are things that worked for me, but they may or may not work for you. Before undertaking this program, I advise you to consult with a professional.
The centerpiece of the plantar fasciitis treatment is the basic calf stretch:
- Face a wall and place your hands on it at about shoulder height.
- Stretch one leg behind you, heel to the ground. Find a position that gives you a nice stretch in the calf of the back leg. You might need to lower your hands a bit or change your distance from the wall.
- Hold...hold...hold. For at least 60 seconds.
- Then pull your back leg forward a bit, bend your knee, and sink your weight onto that leg. This should move the stretch from your upper calf to down around your Achilles' tendon. Again, hold for at least 60 seconds.
- Repeat the whole process with the other leg.
- And then run through the whole shebang again on each leg. Do it a third time if you're feeling motivated.
- Repeat three times a day.
As I said, the real trick here is consistency and duration. If it seems like it's not working, do it more often and for a longer duration. And give it at least a few weeks to start working. I bet it'll help. It helped me!
10 More Things That Worked for Me
Basically, anything that warms and/or loosens your muscles can help. Play around and see what works for you. Here are some techniques I've had luck with, organized roughly from cheapest to most expensive.
1. Stretch the Bottoms of Your Feet
Kneel on the ground. Tuck your toes so the bottoms are pressed against the floor and settle your weight back onto your heels. Depending on how flexible your feet are, this will range from intense to excruciating. But it's really good for your feet.
2. Use a Tennis Ball to Release Tight Muscles
- Easy version: Sit on the ground, place a tennis ball under your calf, and roll it around with your leg. If it hurts, you've hit a tight spot—keep it at that location for as long as you can stand it.
- Harder version (but worth it!): This is a trick I learned from my yoga teacher. Along the outside of your lower leg, there's a place where the muscles on the front of the leg meet the muscles on the back. That meeting forms a little bit of a trough that runs the length of your lower leg. Get the tennis ball into that trough, put as much of your weight on it as you can, and roll the ball up and down under your body. (This involves a certain amount of writhing on the floor, but it's so worth it.) It will probably hurt, but the more it hurts, the more good it's doing. If you get the tennis ball in the right spot, it will release those muscles like nobody's business.
3. Soak Your Feet (And as Much of Your Leg as You Can) in Hot Water
This is self-explanatory, right? Damp heat relaxes muscles. Add some Epsom salts if you want to get fancy.
If you have access to a hot tub, it'll probably do wonders. I don't, so I use a dishpan of hot water. Livin' the high life.
4. Use a Heating Pad on Your Calves, Follow With a Calf Massage
Again, heat = looser muscles. It's nicer and more fun if you can get someone else to massage your calves afterward, but you can do it yourself too. Just remember: When you find a spot that hurts, that's the place you need to be focusing on.
5. Make Yourself a Rice Bag
You can buy a rice bag, but most are small and designed for use on the neck. Look for something big enough to rest both feet on, or (even better) big and squishy enough to envelop your feet and Achilles' tendons.
If you possess some basic sewing skills, you can make yourself a better rice bag for way less. (My grandma used to make them for me.) You're going to sew a bag out of some fabric (something basic, like muslin). Add some rice—regular rice not instant—and sew the bag closed. Don't overdo it with the rice: You want the bag fairly full, but not so stuffed that it won't conform to the shape of your body. You can get pretty fancy with this—my grandma always made covers out of old towels, which kind of put me off using a cover on my rice bag. But you can also make attractive covers if you're crafty in that way.
To use, you'll heat the bag in the microwave. How long depends on how big you made your bag— a smallish bag (6"x10" or so) would need two or three minutes. I have an extra-big bag that I heat for seven minutes. Play around with it, just be careful not to scorch the rice.
The rice bag works on the damp-heat principle. As the rice heats, it releases moisture, so you end up with a nice, heavy heating pad. (Really, a warm rice bag is just so comforting.) Plus it retains heat for a quite a while, so you can take it to bed with you and it'll stay warm for much of the night.
6. Buy a Pair of YogaToes
YogaToes are high-end toe separators, kind of like what you use between your toes when you paint your nails, only YogaToes are made with a soft, slightly tacky medical-grade gel, so they're a bit more comfortable and stay put.
YogaToes are designed to stretch all the tiny little muscles in your feet that don't get adequately stretched and worked when you're in shoes all day. You start out wearing them for 15 minutes or so and, and as your feet adjust, you'll build up to an hour or so. I often sleep in my YogaToes with my feet resting on a rice bag.
True, YogaToes are surprisingly expensive (but totally worth it, as far as I'm concerned). Knock-offs do exist, but I haven't tried them and don't know how they compare.
7. Take a Yoga Class
Yoga makes you stretchy, and stretchy is good.
8. See a Reflexologist
Depending on where you live, it might be hard to find a good reflexologist. But if you find a good one, it's worth every penny. This might be a personal preference, but I like a reflexologist with a lot of muscle. I want her to be able to dig right into the muscles of my feet. As with so many things, it seems to work best when it hurts a bit. Or a lot.
9. Get a Massage
You know the song about how all the bones are connected: "the thigh bone connected to the backbone / the backbone connected to the neck bone"? Well, the same is true of your muscles. If your neck is stiff and your back is achy, guess what? Your legs will probably be tight, too. A good massage can help address all that, especially if you can afford it regularly.
10. Get Some Acupuncture
If you have the cash or the health insurance for it, get thee to an acupuncturist! A couple sessions on your calves and feet can turn your calf muscles to butter. Nothing, nothing, nothing will fix you up as quickly as this will. (You'll still need to stretch, but the stretching will be easier and you'll see the results much faster.)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Cindy Racine on June 29, 2020:
Looking for anything that works. I have so much pain, I hate to get out of bed and stand on my feet in the morning. Love to walk excercise, but to painful to do. Thanks for the information. Ready to try anything.
JOhan on March 29, 2020:
I got rid of PF that I had for more than a decade by simply adopting a
barefoot lifestyle. I will never look back - the benefits are far more than just not having PF anymore.
Dee on May 29, 2019:
I have had PF seems like for several months. I started stretching my calves 3 times a day. 10 minutes each time. What a difference this has made. At the end of the day it was 20 minutes in the jacuzzi jets blasting on my calves and every bit of my feet. I did one week of this and now it’s gone. I tried everything you can imagine. I now wear shoes by Clark’s. They are wonderful. The PF has not returned I still stretch everyday to keep the calves from tightening up.
Kim on August 19, 2018:
I had ossotron orthotripsy procedure done in 2003 and my pain is just now returning in 2018. It was brand new then, ultra sound process that broke up the inflammation. That was the only thing that worked, after shots, titanium orthotics, stretches, night splints, etc...
Maria on July 19, 2018:
Do you think toe separator socks work as well as yoga toes?
Lisa on June 24, 2017:
Is sleeping in the yoga toes better than sleeping with the night splint? or compression sleeve ? Does it stretch the Plantar while you sleep?
Stephen Ryan on June 16, 2017:
I have had PF for four years and have to say I agree wholeheartedly with the approach Liz suggests in this article. I too tried physio, acupuncture, orthotics, night splints and the PF would not go away. I then discovered that stretching and strengthening
helped a huge amount - the key is that you have to spend time on this every day, and for me that is about 20 minutes in total, usually 10mins morning and evening. I still notice the PF occasionally, but I would rate the discomfort level now at about 2/10 rather than 8/10. Good luck to all in your efforts :)
Paty Bower on June 04, 2017:
I'm going to try everything you said. I have been battling this for about six months and now it's in the Caves on my legs. I also have a pinched nerve in my neck and lower back pain so like you said it's all connected. I have a 90 minute massage coming up on Wednesday and I'm so looking forward to it thank you so much for all the wonderful advice you have given. I think acupuncture is next .
Momo on June 02, 2017:
I have done the reflexology twice and it is so painful. I teach dance and I run so my feet are always sore.
Queen on May 29, 2017:
Thank you so much for the great information. I will try this method and see how it works for me. Take care.
M.F. on May 14, 2017:
Thank you!! I just wish I had looked for this before buying
expensive orthotics! Will get at the stretching!
Fahmida on April 27, 2017:
Alison Morant on April 02, 2017:
Thank you so much for this info ... I'm about to start everything you've suggested
Karen on February 26, 2017:
See a podiatrist that provides extra corporal shock wave therapy (ESWT) three to four treatments and it never returns!
John Crowley on February 21, 2017:
I got rid of my orthotics all together. Worked like a charm!
laura cooper on January 18, 2017:
I see that you don't suggest digging into your foot w/ hard objects such as golf balls, etc., and this is refreshing! I totally agree about stretching because when my PF is acting up, my calf is tight feeling. When I've tried digging into my foot all I end up with is bruised feet! It just goes against my better judgement. Anyway, I will try some of your other ideas and see how that goes. I've been "up on blocks" from running since August because of this.
Daniel Garcia on January 03, 2017:
I've been suffering from plantar fasciitis pain for five years, on and off, but was able to treat it at the comfort of my home by doing simple tasks such as stretching and adding supplements on my diet. What I did completely is the following:
1. Rest a LOT – this is the most basic treatment but very powerful.
2. Follow this easy-to-follow comprehensive treatment program I used. This is the most vital part. Just be consistent in following the guide. (guide: buff.ly/2izM6lO)
3. Dietary adjustments like consuming Zinc supplements.
Remember to follow the guide I used. Good luck and cheers to your recovery!
Chawngthansangi on December 15, 2016:
Wish there was some videos of all the stretching exercise you've mention
Shalini on September 19, 2016:
You are right! Stretching is the key. You need to loosen up both your calf muscles and the hamstring muscles. So stretching accordingly. Utill they are tight, plantar facitiis won't be cured. The exercises you have mentioned seem very useful but could you make a video for proper understanding? If you could do that it would be very helpful :-)
Melanie on August 05, 2016:
This was pretty well my routine, including yoga toes and thank god it worked. Im walking normally again. Downward dog pose is really a fixer and consistency is key! Wish i knew all this before i spent so much money trying to fix it. Follow this advice às written her and I promise You won't be disapointed
Shoe Zipper on April 10, 2016:
Use the best shoe will prevent this. If you want to know for what is the best PLANTAR FASCIITIS shoe then visit and read this: http://www.shoezipper.com/best-shoes-for-plantar-f...
Also thanks lizlauder for her best tips.
Emily on January 12, 2016:
This article is SPOT ON! Glad to see someone is trying to get the proper treatment to those who need it. I have had plantar fasciitis for OVER TWO YEARS. It was crippling. I am pain-free now, working out, and beginning to run again (soon). It is all about the stretches - mostly in the calves, but dont forget your hamstrings, your big toe, and that little calf muscle near your heel. I would stretch before getting out of bed every morning, then soak in hot water for 15 minutes, then stretch again. Stretches every hour or so during work - especially if you are sitting at a desk. Heating throughout the day - stretch and strength exercises - then icing immediately if I felt swelling start. The healing is SLOW. MONTHS. So give the grocery shopping chores to your family, no long periods of walking. If it hurts - sit down and stretch and ice! Do not grin and bare it, you are doing damage. You really have to be very attentive to your feet and what they need - they have to be your first priority if you want to get better. Oh and I went up a shoe size and got better shoe inserts that have arch support - Vionic is the best. Such a great article! I wish I had read this a year ago!
Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on November 14, 2015:
I am so glad to have found your article. I have been suffering with this for about a year and am at my wits end. I will be giving everything a try. Great article.
Megan on August 08, 2015:
i just found your article from Pinterest. I was practically in tears reading it because your description is me!! I have had cortisone shots, physical therapy, a night splint, a boot for 12 weeks, etc... I am at my wits end. When I get home from my vacation, I am getting an MRI on my foot and we will try one more therapy. I have literally been depressed feeling like I can never run a marathon again. I am going to do everything you suggested with a positive attitude and hope to see results. Thank you.
Sara on April 23, 2015:
Acupuncture is the best I have used it in the past and after reading this I am making an appointment to see the acupuncturists to help ease this pain again.
Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on April 13, 2015:
While I never suffered with this problem, I know a few close to me that have and they've been struggling with the pain for months. Their physician prescribed a few things, but they never really solved the problem. I'll have to let them know about your tips and see if that works for them. I'm sure stretching is wonderful but everything requires technique. Excellent tips and well written hub.
mary on February 18, 2015:
Did you not ever go to a podiatrist? Stretching is always, always the first thing the doctor I work for suggests. It really can be as simple as stretching consistently and icing when it really hurts.
Tracy Runner on February 11, 2015:
What does everyone suggest about wearing shoes in the house? I actually got PF from wearing orthotics. I had PF in my right foot and I eventually got orthotics, but they destroyed my left foot and now I have PF in my left foot. Something about the orthotics throwing of my gait, etc. So, I have gone through a tone of remedies and I don't know what to do about wearing shoes in the house. I have walked around barefoot my whole life and have never had any issues so I feel like it's natural to do so. However, I might just be aggravating my PF more, but I feel like my feet need to toughen up or something. And, I am still doing yoga but worried about it aggravating my feet too. I have given up running, which is so depressing for me. Right now I am stretching, doing yoga, wearing night splints, and getting a special type of leg massage called myofascial release (spelling?). Can acupuncture really help? Is that the next step? By the way, I feel like I have spent thousands of dollars on treating this condition:(
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on January 22, 2015:
While this seems a very detailed article I'm a little worried over your additional option of hot water soaking. This may loosen the area initially but the increased bloodflow can cause blood to pool around the problem area enhancing any inflammation and subsequently lengthening recovery times. Heat therapy is great once some containment is in place however- especially combined with contrasting bouts of heat and icing of the area.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on January 12, 2015:
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! And yay for stretching!
Carol on January 11, 2015:
The calf stretching worked almost instantly for me. I highly recommend the calf stretch.
Patricia on December 30, 2014:
Wow. Great article, and very well written. Your story hit home for me in several ways. My dad has been a practicing orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot & ankle for 30 years. Also, I started getting symptoms of PF myself in college, but was apparently too lazy and stubborn to listen to my dads rant about stretching my calves very day to loosen them. Now looking back, I regert ignoring a lot of the advice that my parents gave me, but especially the calf stretching protocol. My heel pain worsened after college and for some time I still ignored my dad, until I realized I didn't have money to pay for stupid costly and short-lived remedies, such as cortisone shots or night splints, etc. Let's just say I learned my lesson that year. Not just a lesson about taking advice from my parents, but a wake up call about quality of life. I realized that in order to grow older and maintain my happiness and quality of life, I needed to make some lifestyle changes. One change was to practice more yoga/meditation, the other change was to prevent and treat my Plantat Facsiitis by stretching every single day. Yes, this does take time out of your day. And, yes, you won't see immediate results. and yes you might be the 1-2% of people that it doesn't work for. And lastly, yes I am a sales rep for One Stretch, which is the best (in my opinion :)) calf stretching device out there. Of course I would love people to check out the One Stretch and buy it, but really all I care about is being a patient advocate for others. From my own experience with PF, I never wish it upon anyone. I see the same cycle over and over (as described in this article) where people with foot pain spend so much money and time on treatments that only relieve pain temporarily. All I'm saying is if you want to stop spending tons of money on quick-fix treatments for your foot pain, if you want to prevent surgery, if you want your quality of life back, and if you want to be pain free then try stretching your calves. Lastly, the biggest takeaway I got from this was a whole new respect for my body. It feels rejuvenating, and just plain awesome to know that I can take care of my body without the help from doctors, PT's, fitness trainers, etc. I take care of ME!!
My advice is to obviously buy the product I sell on the side of my day job, but you can do calf stretching on your stairs, using your hand on wall method, etc. Why the One Stretch? There are too many advantages to list. Google One Stretch and you can find out more.
Thanks for posting. Truly an Inspring story since I, as well as many other, can relate.
Stetch your calves everyone!!
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on October 21, 2014:
@ Jenny -- thanks for the suggestion! I'll have to check it out!
@WeeCat -- Good luck -- I hope they help!
Susan Caplan McCarthy from Massachusetts, USA on October 21, 2014:
I've been bothered by plantar fasciitis a few times, each occasion lasting for many months. Thank you for the suggestions.
Dennis A on October 08, 2014:
Surgery? Are you nuts? One shot of Kenalog into the bursa and orthotics. My patients "walk" out the door without a limp and I never see them again. Surgery for this and someone should be jailed. Therapy is like peeing in the ocean and expecting a tidal wave.
Gita on September 13, 2014:
STREEEEEEEEETCHING is the KEY you are sooo right I cannot stress this enough. Gentle stretched. Something that has helped me is just 5 mins a day on the exercise bike (the version which allows you to sit and peddle only) this combined with the stretches now allow me to walk again without discomfort.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on August 27, 2014:
Thanks for the yoga insights, everyone! I guess the moral is: don't overdo the stretches/poses. :)
Ari on August 21, 2014:
downward dog and yoga is what tore the muscles in my foot in the first placle
Shantell1027 on August 19, 2014:
I stared doing the toe/foot stretch yesterday. It has helped. Can't wait to see how it helps long term.
Jacqui from New Zealand on August 18, 2014:
My partner has this, and has been doing the first stretch for ages. From what we were told it can take up to two years to full recover. Thanks for the info - I suggest some more of the exercises to her.
Beth Perry from Tennesee on August 17, 2014:
Good article! I use the ball and wooden spindle for mine. These help greatly. One word of caution I will lend, is the tuck and sit back on one's heels and overly repetitive standing on the toes can produce what my doctor calls burning heel syndrome. For me, this was several times more painful than the planter fasciitis. So I would advise anyone practicing these techniques to do only a few at a time.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on July 19, 2014:
Awesome! I'm so glad this helped!
Egirones on July 19, 2014:
Thank you!, I've been looking for some logical answer all week. Find it :)! Never thought of the rice bag, my mother in law sew me one a couple a years a go for my husband's back. Feeling better already
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on May 11, 2014:
They're amazing. Good luck with them!
Tina on May 10, 2014:
I am excited to try these things, I am a long time sufferer of plantar fasciitis. I have ordered the Yoga Toes.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on February 20, 2014:
Interesting! I did not know that about sciatica.
Debby on February 19, 2014:
I love Yoga Toes. They have helped several of my friends with Plantar Fasciitis. I'm glad to know that it's ok to wear them overnight. They relieve symptoms of sciatica - somehow balancing the sensations in both legs. Thanks for your post.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on June 04, 2013:
Definitely let me know how it goes!
Zubair Ahmed on June 04, 2013:
Just the info I was looking for. Been suffering heal pain for many years, I'll have to try your suggestions and see how it goes.
lizlauder (author) from Western New York on May 16, 2013:
That's a good idea -- I looked for pictures, but somehow it never occurred to me to just photograph myself. I"ll keep you posted if/when I do it!
Thanks for the suggestion!
carla on May 16, 2013:
I really want to try your stretch but it's really hard to figure out with the verbal description, would you consider making a video or taking pics - I am a visual learner! If you do, please let me know - email@example.com