The following Plantar fasciitis exercises form part of our step-by-step Plantar fasciitis rehabilitation program created by elite-level sports physiotherapist Phil Pask.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Chaminda Goonetilleke, 4th Jan. 2022
Program author: Phil Pask
Phil is one of the World’s most experienced Sports Physiotherapists. He has been England Senior Rugby Team Physiotherapist since 1997, continuing his role in recent years as Consultant Physio to the team. He was a player, physio, and head of performance at Northampton Saints from 1986 – 2002.
The Plantar fasciitis rehab program comprises five phases. Phase 1 is the acute phase where your aim is to reduce pain and inflammation. However, there are still a number of Plantar fasciitis exercises you can still do.
Plantar fasciitis stretching exercises
These exercises focus on stretching the plantar fascia under the foot and calf muscles at the back of the lower leg.
Foot massage toe flexed
Take your big toe and gently bend it upwards. Then massage lightly but deeply. As it releases stretch your big toe up further and repeat the massage. Do this three to four times.
Alternatives include rolling a tennis ball under your foot, or a frozen bottle of water to combine cold therapy as well.
Toe on the heel of the foot
This is a great Plantar fasciitis stretching exercise. Place one foot in front of the other. Gently press your toe into the heel of the front foot. Then stretch the joint of the back foot. This stretches the plantar fascia. Hold for approximately 30 seconds and repeat four times.
Sustained calf stretch
Wrap a resistance band or strap around your feet. Gently pull up to feel a stretch in your calf muscles. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
Calf stretches bent and straight leg
Bent knee calf stretch targets the deeper Soleus muscle at the back of your lower leg.
- Stand with the leg to be stretched at the back
- Bend the knee and ease in to feel a stretch lower down at the back of your leg
Straight knee calf stretch targets the larger Gastrocnemius muscle.
- Perform four sets of 30 seconds on each
Neural flossing plantar fasciitis exercise
This gently mobilises the nervous tissue.
- Lie on your back and hold one leg
- Your head follows your foot as you turn the tension on and off with a straight leg raise
- Do not force it. This should be a relaxed exercise
- Repeat this Plantar fasciitis exercise 15 to 20 times
Plantar fasciitis strengthening exercises
The following Plantar fasciitis exercises strengthen the ankle and foot without placing too much stress on your foot arch at this stage. Aim to do them once or twice a day.
Isometric ankle exercises
These work the ankle joint in all directions without movement. They are static contractions and help control the rolling action of your ankle. Make sure to include inversion, eversion, plantar flexion, and dorsiflexion.
To strengthen the intrinsic muscles within the foot, scrunch a tea towel or paper towel using your toes. Repeat for approximately 30 seconds or until the muscles begin to fatigue. Alternatives are to pick up a pencil or marbles with your toes.
Soleus wall sit plantar fasciitis exercise
- Sit against the wall and slide down so you are in a ‘comfortable’ position with your thighs horizontal.
- Then raise your heels up off the floor.
- Push through the ball of your foot and toes.
- Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat 2 to 5 times.
Plantar fasciitis activation exercises
Strictly speaking, these exercises are not specific Plantar fasciitis exercises. However, in addition to specific foot and ankle exercises, it is important to keep other muscles working, particularly the hips. These tend to switch off if you have to rest for a period of time.
Clam in flexion
- Lie on your side with your knees bent and slightly forward so your hips are in flexion.
- Raise your knee up in a slow, controlled movement and return to the start position.
- If you begin to find this exercise easy then you can increase difficulty with a stronger band.
- Aim for 2 sets of 30 seconds.
Clam in extension
Performing the clam exercise with your knees moved further back places your hips into extension. This targets the muscles on the outside of the hip in a slightly different way. It is important to do these exercises on both sides. If you begin to find this exercise easy then you can increase difficulty with a stronger band. Aim for 2 sets of 30 seconds.
Bridge from a chair
This works the gluteal muscles in particular, as well as brings your core into play. Place a band around your knees to increase the tension on the outside hip muscles as you perform the exercise. Bridge exercises can be done on the floor, or with feet raised. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps.
Plantar fasciitis movement control exercises
These improve your proprioception and balance. They start off easy but get more difficult later in the program.
Seated wobble board
- Whilst sitting down place the wobble board under the feet and slowly rotate it a number of times in each direction.
- This is good for improving ankle range of motion and control.
- Aim for 4 sets of 30 seconds.
Double leg stand eyes closed
- For double leg stand eyes open and then closed hold your balance, then eyes open.
- Perform 4 sets for 20 seconds.
- You may find this too easy. If so, progress to a single-leg stand.
- Download our full Plantar fasciitis rehabilitation program for phase 2, 3, and 4 Plantar fasciitis exercises.
- View recommended products for Plantar fasciitis at UPMedical.co.uk