Easy Physical Therapy Exercises for Heel Pain

Physical Therapy, Workout Injuries


Is heel pain bothering you? It could be plantar fasciitis. Luckily, these easy physical therapy exercises can help you get back on your feet.

Your foot can hurt for a lot of reasons. But if the pain is concentrated in your heel rather than other parts of your foot, you’re likely suffering from plantar fasciitis, a common orthopedic injury that often strikes athletes, particularly runners — though you don’t have to be an athlete to experience plantar fasciitis!

The plantar fascia is made of strong, rubbery tissue. It connects your heel to the base of your toes and is what absorbs the shock each time you step. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia tears and becomes inflamed. It’s a repetitive injury, meaning that the more pressure you put on the plantar fascia, the more likely you are to develop plantar fasciitis. Runners are vulnerable to this condition because they constantly hit the pavement with their feet, but people with fallen arches can develop it, too.

The good news is that plantar fasciitis pain can be reduced using physical therapy exercises that help you get back on your feet fast!

Physical therapy for treating heel pain

The most notable symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain from the first step you take in the morning. The pain typically worsens as the day goes on and, while you may not feel any pain while exercising, it will return when you rest. The condition is fairly common, with about 2 million people suffering from plantar fasciitis in the U.S. alone.

Fortunately, plantar fasciitis responds well to conservative treatments and surgery is rarely called for. Your orthopedist can prescribe custom-made foot orthotics to take the pressure off the plantar fascia. To reduce inflammation, they may suggest anti-inflammatories taken either orally or injected directly into the tissue. A period of rest and icing is also a good way to give the tissue a chance to heal.

But that’s not all. A simple program of at-home physical therapy exercises is typically the best way to treat plantar fasciitis. While a physical therapist can design a custom plan for you, here are four simple exercises you can try:

Calf stretch. Stand with your hands against a wall, with the painful foot in back and the other foot forward in a slight lunge position. As you push toward the wall, keep your back calf straight with the heel on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Perform this stretch two to three times a day.

Plantar fascia stretch. Place your foot on the edge of a raised surface, such as a stair or yoga block. With the ball of your foot bearing your weight, drop your heel to the floor. If you feel the stretch from the bottom of your foot to the middle of your calf, you’re doing the exercise correctly. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Do two to three times a day.

Toe curls. A great way to strengthen your plantar fascia is with toe curls. Drop a towel on the floor, and place the foot with plantar fasciitis on it. Curl your toes and slowly scrunch up the towel. Do this three to five times per session, with two sessions a day.

Marble pickups. Spread marbles or similar small, round objects on the floor. Using your toes, pick up the marbles and put them in a cup. Like toe curls, this is a great exercise for strengthening your plantar fascia.

Until the pain eases, you might want to switch to low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and yoga, instead of higher-impact exercises like running. When you do return to your higher-impact activities, be sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes that cushion your arch to prevent another bout of plantar fasciitis.

Don’t let heel pain sidetrack you

Want to know more about physical therapy for heel pain? At All Sports Physical Therapy our expert physical therapists treat all types of foot pain, including plantar fasciitis, and other orthopedic injuries with an exercise program tailored to your specific needs. Contact our office today for an appointment.

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