Treating Plantar Fasciitis With Calf Stretches 

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Today’s article comes from an ally of Physical Therapy, Dr. Kristina DeMatas, DO, The Sporty Doctor — with her perspective as an osteopathic physician on a common source of foot pain.


If you treat plantar fasciitis, then you are always looking to improve your stretching and rehab routine.  However, you might not realize that calf muscle stiffness can exacerbate plantar fasciitis. Calf stretches for plantar fasciitis are often your best bet when combined with eccentric exercises and foot stretching.

Understanding Plantar Fasciitis Calf Pain

Plantar fasciitis calf pain is like a double-edged sword because you feel discomfort in both your foot and calf. The calf muscles are often too weak or damaged so they cannot effectively support the foot. You’ll not only have foot and calf pain but difficulty flexing your foot. 

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Treating Plantar Fasciitis

You can take steps to heal your body with a calf stretch for plantar fasciitis. You also have other options that might be beneficial, such as wearing arch supportive shoes, PF socks, inserts, or a night splint to relieve heel pain. If you are overweight, then losing weight will put less weight on your feet.

Plantar fasciitis is a debilitating condition because it makes daily life difficult. You will feel pain in the bottom of your foot, Achilles heel pain, and tightness. Frequent stretching can help loosen the area and bring much-needed relief. 

Calf Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis 

One of the best ways that you can get on the road to plantar fasciitis rehabilitation is with exercises. The following stretches help bring much-needed relief from pain and inflammation.

Each one has been researched and studied. Plantar fasciitis stretches can bring much-needed relief to your discomfort when performed three or four times a week. 

This list of plantar fasciitis stretches are easy to follow and can be done in the comfort of your own home. 

Seated Towel Stretch

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This is a stretch that focuses specifically on the fascia and Achilles tendon up to the calf. You’ll need a bath towel to perform this stretch.

  • Sit down on the floor with your legs straight in front of you
  • Form a loop by holding the towel at each end with your hands
  • Place the towel loop around the bottom of your foot, it should cross the arch of your foot
  • Pull the towel back towards your body gently so that your foot is bent
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds 
  • Repeat three times with each foot
  • Repeat three times to feel a stretch in each foot and Achilles tendon

Wall Calf Stretch 

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Calf stretches, such as the following, ease foot pain. Sitting in one place too long is a source of discomfort. Getting up periodically to perform Wall Stretches will loosen calf muscles and ease foot pain.

  • Stand facing a wall 
  • Place your palms against the wall at eye level
  • Position one leg back with the heel on the ground 
  • Move the opposite leg forward and slightly bend the knee
  • Turn the back of your foot slightly inward but keep the foot flat on the floor
  • Lean the back foot inward
  • Lean back against the wall to stretch your calf muscles 
  • Hold this form for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat with each leg three times

Reach and Stretch

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Perform this exercise on your tiptoes. The position strengthens your calves. 

  • Position a chair so that you are standing beside it
  • Stand on whichever foot hurts while bending your leg at the knee.
  • Raise the arch on the bottom of your foot but keep your big toe bent.
  • Hold the foot position to feel the stretch
  • Bend your body at the waist while reaching outward with your far hand
  • Increase the stretch by reaching further forward
  • Perform two sets of 15 on each leg

Ballet Raises

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Who doesn’t dream of being a dancer? With these Ballet Raises, you can pretend while increasing the flexibility within your feet and calves. 

  • Stand behind the chair
  • Hold on to the back of the chair
  • Bend your knees slightly
  • Raise the arch of your foot while keeping your big toe on the ground
  • Hold the stretch position
  • Bend your body at the waist 
  • Reach out with your far hand
  • Perform a set of two at least 15 times

Step-Up Arch Extensions

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If you have flat feet you may be more prone to develop plantar fasciitis. The foot relies on the support of the posterior tibial tendon that holds up the arch. If the posterior tibial tendon starts to weaken, sustains damage, or becomes inflamed then the arch can start to fall. 

  • Use a stair to perform this stretch
  • Place the ball of your foot on the step
  • Slowly lower your heel down towards the step until your foot starts to stretch
  • Maintain the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds for each foot and then repeat three times

Monkey Foot Towel Lift

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The Monkey Foot Stretch is a fun way to strengthen your arches and calves. Your feet will also become more flexible the more you perform this exercise. 

  • Sit in a chair and place a towel near your feet
  • Hold your foot so that your heel bone is on the floor and then grab the towel with your big toe. 
  • Lift the towel using your toes and foot. 
  • Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times. 
  • Place a heavy item in the towel and try to lift the towel and the object

If your plantar fasciitis does not improve after these stretching exercises then it is time to find a physical therapist near you. The physical therapist will work with you to improve your condition and lessen your discomfort. 

We hope that you have found the above exercises beneficial. Calf stretching is a research-backed treatment that will ease your foot pain.  With diligence, you can improve your plantar fasciitis by undertaking the above stretches. 

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Interim Editor In Chief, PhysicalTherapist.com

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