Foot and leg

Stretches and strengthening

You might have noticed that your plantar fasciitis is at its worst first thing in the morning when you get out of bed - those first few steps as you go to get your dressing gown are really nasty! I used to hobble along on tiptoe - anything to avoid putting my heel on the floor.

This is a normal symptom of plantar fasciitis and it is thought to happen because during the night as you sleep, your feet relax and there is no longer any tension on your plantar fascia, so it is no longer being gently stretched. When you stand up, your plantar fascia is abruptly under tension again, and the suddenness of the action on top of an inflamed ligament causes pain.

One of the major recommendations that you will hear from doctors and physios is to do a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises and lower legs in order to bring about long term benefit. I can certainly vouch for this as being effective and so can many of the other people with PF that I speak with. It is not a short term fix and I haven't found it to be hugely useful if I'm having a pain attack from it. But gradually over time carrying out physical therapeutic exercises can help shorten overall recover times and prevent recurrence. In my case. as a chronic sufferer, I definitely know when I have been skipping my exercises because I feel the pain beginning to return.

The whys

There are several reasons why strengthening and stretching exercises are effective:

  • Like most of our body, our feet get more inflexible as we age and this exacerbates the tension that causes PF pain

  • PF can be worsened by tightness in nearby body parts, and having tight calf muscles or achilles tendon are both thought to be big risk factors - loosening those can help PF

  • Strengthening exercises in the foot can better support your natural arch support and help in particular with flat-footedness that is caused by muscular weakness.