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Ways to relieve plantar fasciitis

March 09, 2013
  • Help relieve heel pain with a calf stretch that involves keeping both heels on the ground while pushing against a wall.
Help relieve heel pain with a calf stretch that involves keeping both heels… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests this exercise to stretch the calf and relieve plantar fasciitis:

Lean forward with your hands on a wall and one leg forward. Slightly bend the front leg at the knee while keeping the back leg straight. With both heels on the ground, push against the wall. If you can feel your calf stretching, you're doing it right. Hold for about 10 seconds, and repeat 20 times for each foot.

An Internet search can turn up all sorts of self-help tips for heel pain. But some options are better than others.

While many sites recommend stretching the plantar fascia by slowly rolling your foot foot back and forth on a tennis ball, podiatrist Michael King has doubts. He hasn't heard of many people getting much help from the tennis ball trick, and he warns that a person who rolled too hard could actually do more damage. It would be better, he says, to roll your foot gently on a frozen plastic bottle. The bottle would more evenly distribute pressure, he says, and the cold could help ease the inflammation.

Night splints that stretch the calf muscle while you sleep can also help relieve plantar fasciitis, University of Virginia sports medicine professor Jay Hertel says. As he explains, the calf attaches to the heel bone, and a stretched calf can lead to a relaxed plantar fascia. For extra relief, he recommends calf-stretching exercises during the day.

—Chris Woolston

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