5 Plantar Fasciitis Stretches for Runners to Alleviate the Pain

5 Plantar Fasciitis Stretches for Runners to Alleviate the Pain

Plantar fasciitis is an annoying foot injury that sidelines runners daily.

But it doesn’t have to mean the end of your running journey!

Most runners can do plantar fasciitis stretches to alleviate the pain and prevent it from returning.

In fact, we recommend 5 easy plantar fasciitis stretches you can start doing today to ease your pain!

But before we go into how to treat plantar fasciitis, let’s talk about what it is, and how to know if the pain you’re experiencing is in fact plantar fasciitis.

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What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a pain in the heel of your foot that’s often sudden and sharp, but can also be a dull ache too.

As you can see in the following image, the area of pain is usually between the heel bone and the base of your toes.

Image credit: rolfingchattanooga.com

The pain is from inflammation in the connective tissue between the heel and the base of your toes called the plantar fascia.

Common causes of plantar fasciitis in runners include:

  • Overuse or increasing mileage too quickly
  • Bad running sneakers (that are not a proper fit for your foot, or that are cheap, or worn out, or have no arch support…or any combo of those things)
  • Poor running form, or an altered running form, resulting in overpronation

Any of these causes (or a combination) can cause the plantar fascia tissue to become inflamed and angrier than a scorned lover, resulting in the frustrating foot pain runners hate.

What are Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Runners use their feet a lot (duh, right?) so it can be hard to tell a regular running twitch from a legit plantar fasciitis symptom.

The difference usually lies in the pain level, and pain frequency.

A “runner’s twitch” will come and go. Went for a long run and your heel hurts a little from pounding the pavement for hours, but it goes away the next day? That’s probably not plantar fasciitis.

But a sharp and persistent pain you feel every morning for weeks? That may be plantar fasciitis.

According to The Center for Integrated Medicine, 52% of plantar fasciitis pain is felt at the bottom of the heel.

Image credit: http://thecfim.com/truth-plantar-fasciitis

Common symptoms plantar fasciitis include:

  • Sharp pain in the heel or arch
  • Dull ache in the heel or arch
  • Pain in the heel or arch when getting out of bed
  • Pain when pushing off during running or walking

Runners with plantar fasciitis may experience stronger pain at the beginning of a run (which may subside after warming up or mid run).

Plantar fasciitis pain is very frustrating.

Runner’s often wonder: will I be able to run again?

Are My Running Days Over if I Have Plantar Fasciitis?

No, not necessarily.

Don’t fear, there are options to try before giving up long runs for lounging!

Runners who stretch and strengthen the foot can reduce plantar fasciitis symptoms, or make them go away completely.

Of course, everybody and every body is different, so please consult with your doctor or physical therapist if you have questions specific to your body or situation.

How do I Treat Plantar Fasciitis?

Most runners don’t search for the treatment to an injury unless they have pain now…so you’re probably experiencing frustrating foot pain, right?

If your current symptoms match the symptoms described above, then you should start doing these 5 easy plantar fasciitis stretches.

5 Plantar Fasciitis Stretches to Ease the Pain

Before starting these stretches, remember 1 important rule: gentle stretching is the goal, never cause pain while stretching!

1.) Step Stretch

Image credit: myhealth.alberta.ca

Why Do the Stretch:

This move stretches the Achilles tendon and the calf (double whammy, nice!) to reduce tightness in muscles near the plantar fascia.

How to Do the Stretch:

You can do this stretch with or without sneakers. If you do it barefoot, make sure your feet have enough grip on the stair so you don’t slip (safety first!). Don’t wear socks, it’s too slippery that way.

To start, stand with your toes on the stair and your heels hanging over the edge of the stair (so face as if you are going upstairs).

Then, slowly lower your heels below the stair so you feel a gentle stretch in your Achilles tendon and your calf muscle. Then, lift your heel back up so it’s level with your toes.

Do 10, then rest. Repeat 2-3 times.

2.) Calf Stretch

Image credit: https://www.healthline.com

Why Do the Stretch:

Calf stretches elongate the calf muscles to decrease pulling and tightness on the plantar fascia in your foot. As with many running injuries, tight muscles near the site of pain are often contributors to the issue.

How to Do the Stretch:

Easy peasy for runners! You probably do this stretch sometimes, but now, you’ll need to make sure your heels stay flat on the ground to get the best stretch.

Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds, then rest, then repeat 2-3 times. Don’t go back and forth constantly like the image (the image is meant to show you how to get into the stretch properly).

3.) Icy Water Bottle or Ball Rolling Stretch

Image credit: https://mamabee.com

Why Do the Stretch:

Stretch the plantar fascia tissue to provide pain relief and increase length of the muscle (to prevent tightening, which is part of the cause of the pain). It’s like a little massage for your foot (without paying $80 for a massage!).

How to Do the Stretch:

Grab a tennis ball (or a lacrosse ball, or a massage ball).

Sit in a chair.

Place your foot on top of the ball (as seen in the picture above). Start rolling slowly, using your body weight to increase pressure as needed.

Go slow, and make sure NOT to put too much pressure (you want gently massage the tendon, not cause more damage.)

Want to reduce inflammation while you’re at it?

Use a water bottle with frozen water inside instead. Boom. Massage + ice at the same time.

Do this plantar fasciitis stretch for 1-2 minutes daily for best results.

4.) Toe Stretch

Why Do the Stretch:

As we’ve discussed, the cause of plantar fasciitis pain is often a tight plantar fascia tissue. Toe stretches gently stretch the plantar fascia to release tightness.

How to Do the Stretch:

This is a 2-parter.

Part 1: The Big Toe Stretch

Image credit: http://beatplantarfasciitis.com

This one is super easy.

Sit down on the floor and put your heel on the floor with your toes lifted off the ground.

Then, grab your big toe and gently pull it backwards.

Hold for up to 30 seconds, then repeat 2-3 times.

Part 2: The Full-Toe Stretch

Plantar Fasciitis Stretches - Full Toe Stretch
Image credit: http://beatplantarfasciitis.com

Sit in a chair and cross one leg over the other, resting your ankle on your thigh.

Next, intertwine your fingers in between all your toes (as seen in the image) and slowly spread the toes out and back until you feel a gentle stretch in the plantar fascia on the bottom of your foot.

Hold for up to 30 seconds, then rest. Repeat 2-3 times.

5.) Kneeling Sole Stretch

Plantar Fasciitis Stretches for Runners - Kneeling Sole Stretch
Image credit: https://www.runtastic.com

Why do the stretch?

This move spreads your toes and stretches the plantar fascia tissue that runs from your heel to the base of your toes.

How to Do the Stretch:

If you have kids, or were ever a kid yourself, you have probably knelt like this many times before. Granted, it’s a little more challenging to do in older age (and with plantar fasciitis pain), so please move slowly.

Plantar Fasciitis Stretches for Runners - Kneeling Sole Stretch Movement
Image credit: https://www.athleticsweekly.com

First, kneel down on all fours.

Then, slowly curls your toes under your heel (see picture).

For some people, this position provides enough of a stretch, but if not, then slowly push off the ground with your hands and come to a sitting position (keeping your back straight).

Hold for 60 seconds, then repeat 2-3 times.

How do I Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?

There are a few ways to prevent plantar fasciitis from rearing it’s ugly head.

Keep in mind that this depends on the cause of your initial pain (though all are good advice, in general).

  • Stop Overuse: follow the 10% rule and never increase weekly or long run mileage by more than 10% week over week
  • Get Fitted for Quality Running Sneakers: Go to your local running store and get fitted properly. Wear the right shoes for your foot and pronation (and running stores know their stuff where this is concerned…buying random sneakers off the internet or in the discount section is a bad idea)
  • Stretch & Strengthen:
  • Use a compression sleeve like SB SOX Compression Foot Sleeve.

Compression sleeves or socks provide fast pain relief and are absolutely worth trying if you have pain.

These compression socks are super affordable (under $15) and get 4.5 stars out of 6,000+ reviews on Amazon!

What About Plantar Fasciitis Exercises?

In addition to plantar fasciitis stretches, there are exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles surrounding and related to the plantar fascia.

Some exercises include:

  • Toe curls
  • Doming
  • Calf raises
  • Shin strengthening move
  • Downward dog (a yoga move)

Are You Sick of Running Injuries?

Every running injury is frustrating.

Especially when you train so hard to crush your running goals!

Sign up for the free 6-Day Injury Prevention Guide and learn exactly what it takes to prevent running injuries from sidelining you!

It’s chock full ‘o juicy advice and injury prevention secrets.

It’s free, what is there to lose? 🙂

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