Exercises to Strengthen Your Heels, Calves, and Ankles

Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that’s caused in part by a weak, unsupported fascia (the ligament that spans your heel, arch, and the ball of your foot). It should come as no surprise, then, that strengthening the arch of your foot (and surrounding muscles and ligaments) is one of the best ways to counteract the painful symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis.

The only surprise you might find is how effective these simple exercises—which can be done from the comfort of your own home, and are absolutely free—can be at reducing heel pain. After a diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis, many people fear surgery, medication, and chronic lifelong pain. But before you go down the road of any of these expensive and sometimes risky options, give these foot exercises a try!

Best Exercises for Heel Pain

Wall and Book Calf Raise

Why it works: This calf exercise helps stretch and strengthen the muscles of your calves. It also reduces heel pain by stretching the plantar fascia and your Achilles’ tendon, meaning mores support for your arch!

How to do it: Put a phone book (or other thick book) two feet away from a wall. Position yourself so you are standing on the book firmly, but your heels hang just over the back edge. Then, place your hands directly in front of you against the wall (shoulder width) and slowly lean forward. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Then, straighten your back while staying in position against the wall. Lift yourself up and down on the balls of your feet 10 times. Next, shift your weight to just your right foot and repeat the lifting motion. Switch to your left foot and repeat the exercise.

Pebble Exercise

Why it works: Grasping at small objects with your toes strengthens the muscles and ligaments in the sole of your foot. It can be difficult to effectively exercise these particular muscles–which is what makes this foot exercise such a fun–and helpful activity!

How to do it: Take a seat and place a coffee cup (with a handle) a few inches in front of you on the ground. Next, scatter a few marbles or pebbles in front of you, within reach. Use your toes to pick up the marbles or pebbles, and place them into the mug. Repeat for 10-15 minutes. As you get stronger and the exercise gets easier, try using smaller pebbles, or do the exercise for longer.

See a video of proper technique for the pebble exercise, and find ideas for more exercises here.

Washcloth Exercise

Why it works: This exercise treats heel spurs and heel pain caused by Plantar Fasciitis by stretching and strengthening the plantar fascia.

How to do it: Grab a basic hand towel or washcloth and take a seat in a chair. Set the towel down flat, in right front of your toes. Using only your toes, try to pull the towel underneath your feet. It sounds simple, but give it a try! It’s very effective in strengthening the plantar fascia ligament. Make sure to divide your efforts equally between both feet (even if just one has symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis), and repeat the exercise three times a week, for 5-10 minutes.

Click here for more free, easy heel exercises that can be done from the comfort of your own home–and can dramatically decrease the amount of heel pain you experience because of Plantar Fasciitis.

Combining Efforts to Reduce Your Heel Pain

While simple foot, calf, and heel exercises and stretches can have a dramatic impact on the amount of pain you experience due to Plantar Fasciitis, most people find that a combination of efforts is the most effective approach to this condition. A four-pronged approach including exercise, icing, diet, and orthotic support treats Plantar Fasciitis from all angles by building up the strength and flexibility of your ligaments and muscles, reducing inflammation through icing, managing weight and reducing inflammation through proper diet, and keeping your heels and fascia supported and cushioned through cost-effective slip-in orthotics.

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