Plantar Fascia Stretches

Woman stretching on city steps
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Plantar fasciitis stretches may be prescribed by a physical therapist to help improve your overall foot mobility. Performing plantar fascia stretches regularly may be one component of your rehab program, along with choosing the right shoes.

Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include heel pain that is initially worse in the morning. Stretching the plantar fascia can help decrease the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Your doctor may also diagnose plantar fasciopathy, which is a degenerative change in the connective tissue. This is typically an injury that results from chronic repetitive loading/stretching of the tissue that causes micro-tears. There are typically changes in the foot muscle architecture as well in these cases, thus strengthening the feet is an important aspect of treating this type of injury as well.

If you have plantar fasciitis or plantar fasciopathy, you may benefit from physical therapy to treat your pain and to get your foot feeling normal again.

A physical therapist may use various treatments and modalities, and he or she will likely prescribe exercises to treat your condition. He or she can also tell you what to stop doing that may be making your symptoms worse. If you develop foot pain, starting physical therapy first is a good choice.

Here is a list of exercises that a physical therapist may prescribe for plantar fasciitis. Check with a healthcare provider before starting this exercise program to ensure that it is safe for you to do.

Long Sitting Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Loop a towel around the top of your affected foot.
  3. Pull the towel towards you until a stretch is felt across the bottom of your foot.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds then relax, and then repeat 10 times.

Achilles Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your hands straight out on the wall.
  2. Step back with your affected foot keeping it flat on the floor.
  3. Move the other leg forward and slowly lean in toward the wall.
  4. Stop when you feel a stretch through the calf.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds then relax, and repeat 10 times.

Stair Stretch

  1. Stand on a step on the balls for your feet.
  2. Hold the rail for balance.
  3. Slowly lower the heel of the injured foot until a stretch is felt.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Can Roll

  1. This exercise should be done without wearing shoes. Sit in a chair.
  2. Roll your injured foot back and forth from the tip of the toes to the heel over a can.
  3. Repeat 10 times in both directions.

You can help treat the pain and inflammation of plantar fasciitis by performing the can roll with an ice bottle in a technique called the ice bottle massage.

Toe Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your knee bent and your foot flat on the floor.
  2. Pull the toes back on the injured foot until stretch across the arch is felt
  3. Hold for 30 seconds then relax and repeat 10 times.

Plantar Fascia Toe Stretch

  1. Remove your shoe.
  2. Stand facing a wall, and place the ball of your foot on the wall. Your toes should be extended up the wall.
  3. Slowly press down, stretching your toe backward and elongating your plantar fascia.
  4. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat five times.

Your physical therapist may prescribe these stretches to be done regularly throughout the day. Stop if any stretch causes lasting increases in your pain. In that case, check with your doctor or physical therapist.

1 Source
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  1. Tu P, Bytomski JR. Diagnosis of Heel Pain. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(8):909-916.

By Laura Inverarity, PT, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.