The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that stretches from the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. Overuse and overstretching can cause it to become inflamed; this plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions, according to MedlinePlus, and causes pain, especially in the heel, which makes walking difficult. Conservative treatment that includes heel and foot stretching exercises usually improves the condition with time.
Certain factors put you at increased risk for developing plantar fasciitis: flat feet, high arches, sudden weight gain and obesity, shoes with soft soles or poor arch support, a tight Achilles tendon, and long-distance and downhill running.
Symptoms and Prevention
Many people with plantar fasciitis develop heel spurs, which are bony growths on the heel bone, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Plantar fasciitis symptoms include pain in the bottom of your heel, slight swelling, redness and tenderness on your heel. Most people experience increased pain in the morning followed by gradual improvement during the day. Your pain may become a dull ache by the end of the day and show further improvement with rest. The best prevention for plantar fasciitis, according to MedlinePlus, is maintaining flexibility around your ankle, especially your calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
Plantar fasciitis usually improves over time, in six to 18 months, without treatment, according to Healthcare South. With treatment, the condition can improve more quickly, often in two months. Treatment also helps alleviate the pain and discomfort of the condition. Conservative treatment, that which excludes surgery, is the usual approach. Stretching exercises relieve the tightness of the thick plantar fascia tissue that causes the condition. Stretching also alleviates the tightness of your calf muscle and Achilles tendon.
Tennis Ball Stretch
Stretching exercises create a pulling feeling in your muscles without causing pain. Perform the tennis ball stretch while seated. Place the arch of your foot on the tennis ball and roll the ball back and forth with the arch of your foot. Perform the tennis ball stretch while standing as your condition improves.
Tips and Warnings
Exercises that relieve heel pain strengthen your foot and ankle muscles and stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. See your doctor to diagnose your condition before performing stretching exercises on your foot.