When your feet hurt, exercise is usually the last thing you want to do. And sometimes, if you have plantar fasciitis, it's nice to just sit down with your feet on a bag of ice and let that cold sensation relieve the pain in your heels.
The right exercise can actually improve your condition and reduce your pain. While high-impact exercise can strain your plantar fascia, stretching and low-impact exercise can help loosen your calf muscles, arches, and Achilles tendons to actually reduce this strain. And exercise is also a great way to lose weight, which also reduces the demands on your fascia.
Exercise programs can vary greatly – in fact, customizing your exercise to what you enjoy doing makes you much more likely to stick with it. But if you are designing an exercise program for yourself and suffer from plantar fasciitis, make sure to include the following in your plan.
One very effective arch stretch is the towel scrunch. You'll need a hand towel or kitchen towel. Place it on the floor, and then stand so one foot is on the towel. Slowly scrunch up your toes so that you pull the towel towards you, hold that position, and then slowly push your toes back out to the starting position.
Achilles Tendon Stretches
For this stretch, you'll need a step or curb. Stand on this edge on the balls of your feet with your heels extending over the edge. Lower your heels past the step and then pull them back to the starting position. Remember that you don't need to lower yourself very far – you should feel the stretch in your calf and tendons, but it should not be painful.
For your calves, do the opposite stretch from the Achilles tendon stretch. Raise yourself up on the balls of your feet and then slowly return to the starting position. If you can, doing this stretch on the same step as your Achilles tendon stretch will make it even more effective; however, begin by mastering it while standing on a flat surface first.
Low-Impact Exercise Options
While the stretches you should include are fairly specific, you have a much broader range of exercise to choose from. When choosing your exercise, the key is to avoid activities and sports that involve sharp impact to the legs. This includes not only jogging and running but sports that involve running as well, such as tennis or basketball.
If you are just starting out, walking is an excellent exercise choice. It can be enjoyable and relaxing while still improving your health. For more intense activity, try bicycling, swimming, rowing, or cross-country skiing. For more information on your condition, talk to a professional.