7 Little-Known Plantar Fasciitis Exercises To Relieve Foot Pain

Do You Have Plantar Fasciitis Pain That Won't Go Away?

Learn 7 little-known but effective plantar fasciitis exercises to relieve foot pain.

6 Easy Ways To East Plantar Fasciitis, written by St. Louis Plantar Fasciitis Specialist Dr. Dave Candy, Physical Therapist. 6 Easy Ways To Ease Plantar Fasciitis is full of self-treatment for plantar fasciitis. Published by More 4 Life Physical Therapy serving St. Louis County MO: Ballwin, MO; Manchester, MO, Chesterfield, MO; Ellisville, MO; Des Peres, MO

Why Plantar Fasciitis Exercises Often Fail To Relieve Foot Pain

Some people do plantar fasciitis exercises for weeks, months, or even years without seeing any substantial improvement in their pain.

It doesn't have to be that way though!

There are a few reasons why "typical" plantar fasciitis exercises may fail to relieve foot pain.

  1. They just focus on stretching the calves or massaging the plantar fasciia without a thorough consideration of the anatomy of the foot.
  2. Even the exercises that are good exercises are done with poor technique.

I'll cover both of those problems, plus solutions to each in the exercises in this post.

Brief Review of Plantar Fasciitis Anatomy

Before we get into the 7 little-known plantar fasciitis exercises, it helps to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the foot and ankle complex.

Each of the exercises that follows targets a different part of the foot and ankle complex, so you need to have a basic understanding of the different components.

Here's a diagram of the bones of the foot and ankle.

Foot and ankle bones

These include the lower leg bones, the tibia (larger bone) and fibula (smaller bone)

Moving down to the ankle, the tarsal bones include the talus, calcaneus, navicular, cuboid, and the 3 cuneiform bones.

Past that, you have your 5 metatarsal bones, and then your toes (made of 14 phalanges).

With the exercises, we'll start from the subtalar joint between the talus and calcaneus and then move down toward the toes.

Then we'll move back up to the ankle joint itself (talocrural joint) in a standing position.

Exercise 1: Subtalar Joint Mobility

This plantar fasciitis exercise addresses the joint between your talus and your calcaneus, referred to as the subtalar joint.

Many people who have plantar fasciitis overpronate, or flatten their foot to much when they walk.

However, you can pronate at your rear foot (subtalar joint) and in your midfoot (mid-tarsal joint).

If your subtalar joint can't pronate, then you have to pronate from somewhere to get your big toe to the ground in order to push off when walking.

As a result, a stiff subtalar joint that doesn't pronate can result in overpronation in the midfoot and forefoot.

This in turn can cause plantar fasciitis pain when walking.

So here's how to do the exercise:

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 1

    1. Grasp around your ankle bones with one hand.
    2. Place the heel of your opposite hand on the inner side of your heel.
    3. Perform a subtle back-and-forth motion, focusing on pushing down toward the floor.
    4. Keep the motion small, about a minute, ensuring you feel a gentle, pain-free movement.

Exercise 2: Talonavicular Joint Mobility

Moving down to the talonavicular joint, place one on the navicular just past the calcaneus.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 2.1

Wrap your other hand around the cuneiform bones.  Then push upward on the navicular while pulling the cuneiforms down.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 2.2

Exercise 3: Cuneiform Joint Mobility

For the next plantar fasciitis exercise, move down to the cuneiform bones.

Put your thumb on the cuneiform bone that is tender and sticks out.  Then pull your metatarsals downward while pushing the cuneiform up.

This is very similar to the previous exercises except with a different  hand placement.

Exercise 4: Cuboid Joint Mobility

This one is somewhat similar to the previous two exercises except you'll now work on the outer arch of the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 4

Place your thumb on the cuboid and press up while pulling the metatarsals down.

Exercise 5: Intrinsic Foot Muscles Activation

Now, actively maintain that arch by scrunching the toes and scooping your foot inwards.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 5

This activates the deep intrinsic foot muscles and the tibialis posterior.  These muscles help support your arch when walking and prevent you from overpronating.

Exercise 6: Single Leg Balance with Arch Maintenance

Once you've activated your foot arch muscles and your tibialis posterior, practice balancing on one leg.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 6

Maintain the arch height while balancing on one leg.

Hold to something with your hand for balance at first, but as your balance improves, work toward doing this exercise without hands.

Exercise 7: Calf Stretch with Arch Activation

Finally, for a calf stretch, perform the scooping motion from exercise 5 to create an arch in your foot.

Then take a step, and hold the stretch for about a minute.

Plantar Fasciitis Exercise 7

Many people make the mistake of allowing their foot to flatten when stretching their calvesDon't make that mistake!

calf stretch wrong calf stretch wrong side view

Eventually, you want to be able to turn this into a dynamic walking exercise where you can maintain your arch height while walking.

What To Do When Plantar Fasciitis Exercises Still Don't Relieve Your Foot Pain

These exercises are similar to the manual therapy techniques we use at the clinic.

If you need more help for plantar fasciitis, connect with an orthopedic manual physical therapist near you.

If you're in the St. Louis area, we'd be happy to help at More for Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.

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