Study: Strengthening Or Stretching for Plantar Fasciitis?

Alongside rest, ice, and the use of specialized orthotics, stretching and strengthening the feet are two of the most common natural remedies used for plantar fasciitis.

A study published by researchers from the departments of bioscience and human movement sciences at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo examined whether stretching alone or stretching and strengthening the feet and hips was a more effective treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Summary of the Study

This study consisted of 83 participants between the ages of 20-60 who had medical diagnoses of chronic plantar fasciitis.

Before and after treatments participants ranked their pain on a visual analog scale for morning and evening heel pain, and underwent tests to evaluate foot and ankle function and lower limb stability and dynamic balance.

They were split into three groups to undergo an 8-week treatment consisting of:

  • Group 1: Daily stretching including the wall stretch with knee extended and flexed, the plantar fascia stretch, and one other foot stretch
  • Group 2: All of the stretches of Group 1, plus six strengthening exercises
  • Group 3: All of the exercises from Group 1 and 2, plus four hip strengthening exercises

So which treatment was the most effective? The results might surprise you!

Results: All Treatment Groups Saw Similar Improvements in Heel Pain and Function

Heel Pain Stretching Study Results

Each of the treatment groups saw some improvement in heel pain and function, however using exercises to strengthen the hips and feet was not found to be more effective than stretching alone.

This adds to growing evidence that stretching the feet is one of the best natural treatments for plantar fasciitis and related conditions.

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