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Exercises for Heel Pain or Tightness

Topic Overview

You may be able to relieve heel pain by stretching tight calf muscles. See a picture of a calf stretch exercise.

  • Stand about 1 ft (30 cm) from a wall and place the palms of both hands against the wall at chest level.
  • Step back with one foot, keeping that leg straight at the knee, and both feet flat on the floor. Your feet should point directly at the wall or slightly in toward the center of your body.
  • Bend your other (front) leg at the knee, and press the wall with both hands until you feel a gentle stretch on your back leg.
  • Hold for a count of 10 (increasing the count to 30 or longer as you continue over several weeks). Switch legs and repeat. Do this 3 to 6 times a day.

Foot-strengthening exercises done with a towel and weights. See a picture of a towel curls exercise.

  • Place a towel on the floor, and sit down in a chair in front of it with both feet resting flat on the towel at one end.
  • Grip the towel with the toes of one foot (keep your heel on the floor and use your other foot to anchor the towel). Curl your toes to pull the towel toward you.
  • Repeat with the other foot. To increase strength, later use 3 lb (1.5 kg) to 5 lb (2.5 kg) weights on the other end of the towel (such as a can of fruits or vegetables).

Foot-stretching exercises done with a towel. See a picture of a towel stretch exercise.

  • Sit down on the floor or a mat with your feet stretched out in front of you.
  • Roll up a towel lengthwise and then loop it over one foot (around the ball of your foot).
  • Take one end of the towel in either hand and gently pull the towel towards your body to stretch the front of your foot. Repeat with the other foot.

Some people may choose more intensive strengthening and flexibility programs, especially competitive athletes, people who want to return to a heavy sports program, or people who are highly motivated. A physical therapist or trainer can help supervise a program recommended by your sports medicine specialist or a foot specialist, such as an orthopedist or podiatrist.

Credits

Current as of: March 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine

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