Best Plantar Fascia Stretches for Runners
If you’ve been a runner for any length of time, either you or someone you run with have probably dealt with heel pain due to plantar fasciitis. The good news is that research has shown that plantar fascia stretches are helpful for treating this type of heel pain.
A 2006 study from the University of Rochester found that specific plantar fascia stretches and exercises helped to improve heel pain and function in people suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis. These plantar fasiciitis stretches for heel pain were found to be more effective than the traditionally recommended Achilles tendon or calf muscle stretches.
The study took patients that had been suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis for longer than ten months and divided them into two groups. The first group was instructed on a traditional Achilles’ tendon stretching protocol where they would stretch the heel and Achilles’ tendon for a total of ten 10-second repetitions three times a day. The second group was instructed on a non-weight bearing plantar fascia stretch where the patients dorsiflexed the toes until the plantar fascia was tight and then performed a cross-friction massage on the plantar fascia.
After 8 weeks, both groups of patients were questioned on changes in their plantar fascia pain. The group of patients that performed the plantar fascia cross-friction massage had better improvement of their heel pain compared to the group that performed the traditional Achilles’ tendon stretches. After 8 weeks, the Achilles’ tendon stretching group was instructed on how to perform the cross-friction massage technique and both patient groups were then followed for the next two years.
The researchers found that both the original cross-friction foot massage and the Achilles’ tendon stretching group that subsequently performed the plantar fascia cross-friction massage group continued to have improvement and lessening of their heel pain. In fact, most of the patients reported that they had the most significant improvement of their heel and plantar fascia pain within the first six months of starting the exercises.
Although the University of Rochester study found that plantar fascia stretches were helpful with treating the heel pain from plantar fasciitis, we still recommend incorporating some plantar fascia stretches into your daily routine to help prevent plantar fasciitis from recurring.
Another study done by Danish researches and published in 2014 in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that eccentric strengthening exercises of the plantar fascia could also help with plantar fasciitis and heel pain symptoms.
This study took two groups of patients that had plantar fasciitis confirmed on ultrasound. The first (control) group did the typical plantar fascia stretches while the second group of patients did eccentric foot and ankle strengthening exercises every other day. These plantar fascia exercises simply consisted of body weight heel stretches with a towel placed under the toes of the foot to flex the forefoot and place increased tension on the plantar fascia as the patients lowered their heel. The researchers found that at 3 months, the patients doing the plantar fascia strengthening exercises had less pain than the patients doing the plantar fascia stretches. However, looking at the data from 1 month and 6 months, both groups were essentially equal in their improvement of their plantar fascia pain.
Plantar Fascia Stretches
Here are some helpful videos we have found showing how to do cross-friction massage of the plantar fascia:
Massage for Plantar Fasciitis
This video doesn’t show the cross-friction massage for the plantar fascia until halfway thru the video, but it does show a few different techniques, so well worth watching
This video demonstrates some massage and myofascial release techniques for the calf muscles as well as the plantar fascia stretches.
Plantar Fascia Massage
If this plantar fascia stretches helped you, leave a comment below and let us know!
DiGiovanni BF, Nawoczenski DA, et al, “Plantar Fascia-Specific Stretching Exercises Improves Outcomes In Patients With Chronic Plantar Fasciitis”, JBJS, Vol 88-A, 8, 2006:1775-81
Rathleff MS, Mølgaard CM, Fredberg U, et al. High-load strength training improves outcome in patients with plantar fasciitis: A randomized controlled trial with 12-month follow-up. Scand J Med Sci Spor 2014