Weight loss is hard enough as it is – but when you have plantar fasciitis it can seem near impossible.
And being overweight can cause or worsen plantar fasciitis.
But there is good news:
There are a variety of exercises of all types that can aid with your weight loss, without causing your plantar fasciitis to flare up.
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Cardio exercises are often the go-to weight loss exercise. Doing cardio burns calories and promotes a healthy cardiovascular system.
Here are our top plantar fasciitis-friendly cardio exercises:
1. Stationary Cycle
Stationary cycles mimic the movements of riding a regular bicycle, but can be done indoors. Because you are not putting your full body weight on your feet, it is much easier on the feet than running.
2. Hand Cycle
Some gyms have a piece of equipment that is very similar to the stationary cycle, but it has hand pedals instead of foot pedals. This allows you to get your heart rate up and exercise the muscles of your upper body, without any impact on your feet.
Swimming is a great, low-impact exercise that can easily be done with plantar fasciitis. Swim laps at your local rec center, or try a water aerobics class. Make sure that you wear supportive water shoes or spend minimal time barefoot outside of the pool.
Any type of rowing is a great way to work out when you have plantar fasciitis. Most gyms (especially CrossFit gyms) have rowing machines, which involves pulling on a handle to spin a flywheel. Actual rowing in a boat or kayaking is also a great exercise that is easy on the feet. Kayaks and rowing boats can usually be rented at your local lake for $10-$25.
The elliptical is a common alternative to running on a treadmill, and it is much lower-impact. If your feet are particularly sensitive, the elliptical still may cause pain. If this happens, try a different type of cardio or rest your feet for the day.
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Conditioning exercises are similar to cardio exercises, but their goal is to get your heart rate higher with short bursts of intense activity. While many conditioning exercises involve bearing weight, jumping, or other jarring movements, here are a couple that are easy on the feet.
6. Battle Ropes:
Battle ropes are available at some gyms and fitness centers. To do this exercise, stand in an athletic position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip one rope in each hand, and bring them up and slam them down one at a time, creating a ripple through the rope. You can also raise and slam both ropes at the same time, or wave them side to side. Perform each movement for 30 seconds, and rest 30 seconds, repeating three to five times.
While running sprints can be hard on the feet, doing sprints on your favorite cardio equipment can be both effective and pain-free. Using the stationary cycle, hand cycle, rowing machine, or elliptical, alternate going as fast as you can for 30 seconds, and resting for 30 seconds.
While heavy weight-bearing exercises can be hard on the feet, there are many bodyweight, machine, and upper body exercises that can safely be performed even with severe plantar fasciitis. Strength exercises burn calories and build lean muscle, which helps your body burn more calories throughout the day while giving you a “toned” look.
Strength Exercises for Lower Body:
Plantar fasciitis limits the types of lower body exercises that can be done without causing pain, but these should help you strengthen your muscles without compromising your feet:
8. Leg Curl
Most gyms will have a machine for leg curls, which works your hamstrings. This exercise involves pulling your foot towards your rear end, flexing against the resistance of the machine.
9. Leg Extension
Leg extensions are another resistance exercise that can be performed on a machine at the gym. To do this exercise, you will flex your leg and extend it against resistance, working your quadriceps.
10. Band Swings
You can work your adductors and abductors (outer and inner thighs) by standing with a band looped around your foot, and swinging it to the side. Band adduction involves swinging your foot against the band inward towards the centerline of your body, while band abduction involves swinging your foot outward away from the centerline of your body.
Strength Exercises for Upper Body:
11. Bench Press
The bench press is a functional exercise that primarily works your arms and chest. This exercise is performed lying on your back, which makes it safe and comfortable to do when you have foot pain.
12. Pull Ups
Pull ups are a great exercise for your upper back and arms, and can be done at the gym – or on the monkey bars at the park!
Dips strengthen your triceps, chest, shoulders, and back.
14. Push Ups
Push ups can be done from the comfort of your own home, and they work your arms, chest, and core. If regular push ups are too hard or if bearing weight on your toes is uncomfortable for your plantar fasciitis, you can perform push ups from your knees.
15. Sit Ups
Sit ups require no equipment, and can easily be done from anywhere.
16. Ab Wheel
Ab wheel rollouts are done with a piece of equipment called the “ab wheel or “ab roller”. This exercise is performed on your hands and knees – simply roll the ab roller out in front of your body slowly, and then pull it back.
17. Reverse Crunch
Reverse crunches are another exercise that you can do from home. Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees at a 90 degree angle and your shins parallel to the ground. Pull your knees towards your chest and roll your pelvis backward, raising your hips from the floor.
Stretching is not only a form of exercise: studies show that stretching of the feet can help reduce pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
18. Ankle Circles
To do ankle circles, sit or stand with one foot elevated a few inches off the ground. Rotate your ankle around in circles slowly several times, and reverse directions. Ankle circles are great for stretching your ankle, Achilles tendon, and foot.
19. Plantar Stretch
The plantar stretch is one of the best stretches for plantar fasciitis. Perform this stretch in the morning and evening on both sides.
20. Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is a yoga pose that stretches the entire posterior chain as well as the feet.
The cat/cow stretch is performed on the hands and knees, so it is comfortable to do even if you have severe heel pain. This stretches your abs, back, and opens up your chest.
22. Wall Stretch
The wall stretch is another perfect stretch to help relieve pain from plantar fasciitis. Learn how to do the wall stretch.
Other Types of Exercises
There are many other exercises that combine different aspects of strength, stretching, and cardio.
Here are a few you can try that are gentle on the feet:
Yoga is a great, relaxing exercise that helps lengthen and strengthen your muscles. Taking an in-person class is ideal to start, and there are lots of great videos online to help guide you through easy workouts.
Supermans are a move that strengthen your back. To do this exercise, lie face-down on the ground, and lift your arms and legs from the floor, flexing your back. Hold for a moment, and relax back to the floor.
Pilates involves mostly bodyweight strengthening exercises, but don’t think you won’t work up a sweat! It usually does not involve much time on your feet, so it’s perfect for plantar fasciitis!
Other Tips for Losing Weight with Plantar Fasciitis
There you have it, 25 exercises that will help you stay fit and healthy, even with heel pain! If you are still worried that you might experience heel pain from doing these exercises, icing your feet after you work out can be a big help.
A healthy diet is also key to losing weight, especially when you have to keep your exercise routine moderate. Focus on eating lots of lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies.
Plantar fasciitis and obesity do not have to be a never-ending cycle. Break free from both by doing easy-on-the-feet exercises two to three times a week.