stretches for foot pain

November 28, 2016

Have you had or currently have nagging pain in your foot/heel that seems to last forever? The personal trainers here at Energy Fitness in Downtown Memphis have seen an increase in this injury in the age range of clients between 35 and 60. Tight calf muscles combined with either poor flexibility or hyperflexibility in muscles & joints can be a culprit. Another cause could be years of poor shoe quality and/or either extreme of high heels or flat shoes.

Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is the inflammation of a thick band of tissue (plantar fascia) that runs the length of your foot and connects to the bottom of your heel bone to your toes. When the weight of your body moves to the balls of your feet, the plantar fascia stretches. Simply put, your calf muscle, one of your strongest muscles, attaches to the Achilles Tendon. In turn, your Achilles tendon, the strongest of all your tendons, attaches to the back of the heel bone to hold everything together. These inter-connections operate together as a single unit in which your heel bone is the pivot point.


We have noticed that when clients prone to this condition incorporate squats in their fitness program and they have tight calves and Achilles tendon already this may cause altered form in performing the squats thus tightening the calves even further. Eliminating squats is not the answer as it’s a great exercise for the lower body. Note the picture below for good technique.

Q54 Legs Squats stationary with band

Stretching, massage therapy and trigger point massage may be beneficial in reducing or eliminating this plantar fasciitis. I personally have suffered with this and really have to keep my calves stretched out and be mindful of proper shoes. I have extremely flat feet, had braces on my legs as a kid, bar between knees, corrective shoes, custom arch supports & have been running about 30 years.  Since 2015 I ditched the custom arch supports in favor of gel filled insoles Happy Feet that have been life changing (see more info below on Happy Feet -thanks Anna for introducing me to this product).

Think about how the arch of the foot functions- like a bow (as in a bow and arrow), and the plantar fascia is like the string of the bow. The tension in the “bow string” holds the shape of the arch. But every time you step, the “bow string” stretches… and when stretched too hard and too often, it gets irritated, and then it’s like a bow shooting you in the foot!

Ink drawing of the bones of the foot, with a bow underneath the arch, and the string of the bow highlighted. The string of the bow is an analogy for the plantar fascia.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

  • Forceful extension of toes (flexing your feet) against a hard surface
  • Shoes that don’t support or fit your feet appropriately
  • Running with poor technique
  • Obesity
  • Flat feet
  • High arches
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Always running the same way (Do you always run on the left side of the road like you are supposed to? Have you ever thought that this slant is overstretching some muscles and straining other ones?)
  • Not changing your running shoes every 300 miles or more often if you are prone to foot injuries
  • Not enough rest between exercise sessions. Runners, as they get older, or new runners need at least a day of rest in between runs to allow soft tissue to repair.
  • Increasing running mileage too rapidly per week
  • Muscular imbalances such as a anterior tilted pelvis or a leg length difference due to tight muscles or tendons

 What are the symptoms?

  • Pain, especially near the heel
  • Pain that eases up with rest
  • Stabbing pain that occurs with your first steps in the morning
  • Pain with walking, especially in the part of your stride when you’re pushing off your toes
  • The more you move the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting.

Check out our video below with Energy Fitness’ endorsed provider, Licensed Massage Therapist Mae Jensen. She received her training in Salt Lake City, UT and is trained in 15 modalities compared to the usual 4 at most massage therapy schools. Our suggestions may help you to kick plantar fasciitis to the curb. I have included stretches below that may prove useful.  Remember that when you feel a pain somewhere on your body it is often the referral pain and not the exact spot that needs to be massaged. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Consistency is key for prevention and treatment of injuries. If you want more information about Mae and her services, check out her Facebook page here and let her know we sent you when you schedule an appointment with her!:  Greenchi Massage

How to treat plantar fasciitis?

  • Ice your pained foot with an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas a few times per day. happy_feet_jacket_w
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear athletic shoes. Shoe inserts may help, too. See a podiatrist (foot doctor) to find out which type of inserts will work best for you. I love these inserts and clients love them too: Happy Feet provides fluid-filled insoles to create an unstable, supportive and shifting surface within your shoe. A proper walking environment leads to a stronger foot because of both increased circulation and proper support that adjusts with each step. Get a pair of insoles and try them out for yourself here: Happy Feet
  • Use anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (I am not a proponent of these method unless it’s a severe case as these medicines are hard on the stomach and liver).
  • Roll a tennis or golf ball or a sturdy can under your sore foot as well as the heel. Apply firm pressure as you roll. I like to do from a standing position holding onto a wall or chair and roll.
  • Stretch the plantar fascia, especially before getting out of bed in the morning. Extend your leg out straight, grasp the toes of your pained foot and gently pull your toes toward you to stretch out the tissue along the bottom of your foot. If you have trouble reaching your toes, try looping a towel or scarf around your toes, grasp the ends of the towel and gently pull them toward you to stretch the bottom of your foot. (Check out some stretches below)
  • Taping the calves with KT (kinesiotherapy tape) may prove helpful. This is in Mae’s bag of tricks.
  • Severe cases of plantar fasciitis should be treated by a podiatrist.
  • In severe cases surgery may be needed as was the case with one client at Energy Fitness, she recovered well and can still jog a few miles here and there. Her knees make that crunchy sound during knee bending extension and often complains of pain in the knees which is what I believe may have led to poor mechanics during runs thus causing a flare up of plantar fasciitis. lower-calves-gastrocnemiusNot a client? Live in town and interested in our personal training or nutrition coaching? Click here for a FREE Consult (value $87) or give us a call at 901-466-6242

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    Energy Fitness, 552 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103



Personal Training & Nutrition Coaching Studio
Located Downtown Memphis since 2002
552 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103