Debilitating foot pain can leave you feeling angry, frustrated, and like you’re missing out on life. Luckily, there’s an at-home fix that can change everything.
“Plantar fasciitis occurs from three main factors: weakness in the foot muscles, tightness in the calf muscles, and spending extended periods of time on your feet,” explains Ricardo Colberg, MD, a nonsurgical orthopedic physician at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Alabama. These factors put excessive pressure on the heel, where the plantar fascia (the band of tissue along the bottom of the foot) starts, causing it to become strained and inflamed. According to Dr. Colberg, because the bottoms of the feet tend to have poor blood flow, the body struggles to heal the chronic inflammation on its own, leading to constant pain.
Fortunately, it’s easy to correct the problem at home. “We recommend strengthening the foot, stretching the calf, and wearing a comfortable shoe or insert that will support the foot, which works for 90% of patients,” says Dr. Colberg. These strategies take pressure off of the plantar fascia, which eases the inflammation and allows the tissue to heal, typically within six months.
To get the benefits, try these two stretches three times a day. Start with just a few reps — the movements will likely cause “hurt so good” soreness but should not be overly painful.
Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall, placing your palms on the wall. Extend your affected foot behind you, bending your front knee so both heels remain on the floor. Hold for up to 20 seconds.
Heel raises: Stand behind a chair, holding the back for balance. Lift your unaffected foot off the floor. Keeping your unaffected foot in the air, rise onto the toes of the affected foot, then slowly lower. Repeat up to 12 times.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.