How to Relieve Heel Pain in 4 Simple Stretches

Updated on June 13, 2017
Susan Hambidge profile image

Susan likes to seek out alternatives to using conventional drugs whenever practical.

What Causes Pain in the Heel?

A sharp pain in the heel of the foot, often more acute after lying down for a long period of time, can be caused by damage, irritation or tightening of the plantar fascia ligament. This ligament is a band of tissue running along the sole of the foot that connects the toes to the heel. Damage to the plantar fascia, called plantar fasciitis, can be caused by standing for prolonged periods, by doing a lot of walking or running, and by weight gain - including during pregnancy. Tightness in this ligament, along with tightness in the calf muscle, causes a pain in the heel that stops sufferers putting their foot down flat. Often after a few minutes of hobbling around, the pain subsides as the muscles and tendons warm and stretch. If this is what you are experiencing, and there are no underlying medical issues, you may find stretching helps.

My husband, Derek, is a personal trainer, coach and fitness instructor who has helped many people manage their aches and pains by stretching. While not medically trained, he believes that gentle movements can help with many ailments. Pain in the heels is a common complaint that responds well to a couple of easy movements that take just minutes to do.

#1 - Roll Foot Over a Cold Bottle

Take a bottle filled with iced water, or a can of drink taken from the fridge, and sit down. Place the drink container on the floor and roll the bottle or can under the sole of your foot from heel to toes applying a small amount of pressure. The idea is to massage and stretch the base of your foot where the plantar fascia is situated. The cold helps reduce any irritation. You can do this with or without socks, whichever feels best for you.

The same movement can also be done with a tennis ball. Roll the ball backwards and forwards under your foot to treat foot pain.

Stretch Your Planta Fascia With a Bottle

Roll a plastic bottle under the sole of your foot
Roll a plastic bottle under the sole of your foot | Source

#2 - Stretch the Calf Muscle Against a Wall

This calf stretch helps get rid of heel pain. Stand close to a wall and put your painful foot out behind you. Place the foot flat of the floor. Bend the other knee and reach forward so both hands are on the wall. As you bend your knee, the painful foot should stay flat, and the leg straight, so you feel the stretch down the calf and to the ankle. Hold this for 15 seconds then deepen the stretch by bending your knee more. Count to 15 and stand back up straight. Take things slowly.

Stretch the Calf Muscle

Use a wall to hold a deep stretch to the calf.
Use a wall to hold a deep stretch to the calf. | Source

#3 - Use a Towel to Stretch the Foot

Sitting on the floor, loop a folded towel around your foot near the toes. Gently pull the toes towards yourself keeping the leg straight out in front. The stretch should be felt in the sole, calf and back of ankles (achilles). Hold for 15 seconds, then pull a little further to deepen the stretch for a further count of 15.

This can be done sitting up in bed to get you walking in the morning after sleep. Do the movement slowly to avoid damaging the muscles and ligaments. You can do this with or without training shoes on.

Treat a Painful Heel With This Stretch

Gently pull the toes towards you.
Gently pull the toes towards you. | Source

#4 - Use a Step to Perform a Deep Calf Stretch

Using a step you can do a deep stretch which really helps with pain in the heel. This might be a movement you try after you have already eased the pain using the other methods. Steadying yourself on a wall or chair back, stand on your toes on the edge of a step. With all the weight on one foot, lower the heel slowly. The stretch should be felt down the calf, along the achilles and along the sole of your foot. Hold for 15 seconds, then try and lower your heel further for another 15 seconds.

Make sure you hold onto something so you do not lose balance and strain the leg. This should be done in footwear.

Deep Calf Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis

Use a step for a good calf stretch.
Use a step for a good calf stretch. | Source

Stretch For Several Weeks for Best Results

Do these stretches several times a day to start with as you lengthen and loosen the muscles and ligaments. The pain should subside and eventually go if you stick with it. Keep the movements slow and fluid at all times. As the heel-ache goes, keep doing the stretches from time to time to keep the discomfort from returning. If you experience any acute pain, stop immediately and seek medical help.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Susan Hambidge


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      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 9 months ago from Brazil

        I have been suffering from pain in my feet in the morning. I will try these stretches. I was worried it may be arthritis so I am anxious, to try these.

        I am so glad I found your article.

      • Fullerman5000 profile image

        Ryan Fuller 10 months ago from Louisiana, USA

        These are some great tips for people to try out. I for one know that I will be trying these out to relieve some pain that I do get from time to time. Thanks for sharing these. Great work.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 10 months ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        I think these are excellent solutions for pain and stiffness, all in one Hub and I will refer to it again. Thanks for writing this.