3 Plantar Fascia Stretches: Freedom from Foot Pain

Sporty active woman practicing yoga with concept of healthy feet-taking care of your feet and plantar fascia.

To stretch or not to stretch seems to be one of the biggest questions in physical medicine and rehab. For anyone who has ever experienced plantar heel pain and gone to a podiatrist most likely, they were told to “stretch the calves.”  But how effective is calf stretching in minimizing heel pain?  And is there potentially a more effective way to reduce stress on the plantar fascia? Perhaps plantar fascia stretches are in order.

 Illustation of Toe Connection

The Calf: Plantar Fascia Connection

The calves or calf muscles are a group of strong muscles found in the lower leg. They insert into the heel bone of the foot via the Achilles tendon. Like all tendons in the human body, there is a blending of the tendon fibers into the surrounding tissue, joint capsule, and fascia. 

In fact, this blending of the Achilles tendon into the foot is so extensive that many consider the Achilles tendon to be a part of the plantar fascia. This means that any tightness or restriction in the calves, Achilles tendon, or ankle can increase stress on the plantar fascia and even cause plantar fasciitis. This is the reason why calf stretching is often recommended for those diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.

The Plantar Fascia: Great Toe Connection

Recent research has suggested that perhaps calf stretching alone is not as effective as once thought and that recommending stretches that are specific to the plantar fascia will improve results. So how does one stretch their plantar fascia? For this, we need to understand the anatomy of the plantar fascia.   

The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, originating at the heel and inserted into the base of each toe. Because the plantar fascia crosses the toe joints (also known as the MPJs), when you dorsiflex or extend the toes up, you put a stretch on the plantar fascia. Simply pulling your toes up and holding for 30 to 60 seconds is a form of a plantar fascia stretch.

Three Ways to Combine Calf and Plantar Fascia Stretches in Yoga

If we go back to the research, what was seen is that combining the well-accepted calf stretch with a toe-extended plantar fascia stretch is what provided the greatest benefit to those with plantar heel pain.  

So how do you perform calf and plantar fascia stretches?  Below we share three variations of this stretch. Each stretch should be held for 30 to 60 seconds and repeated five times.


1. Plantar Fascia Stretch: Lying Calf Stretch (Supta Padangusthasana)

Lying Calf Stretch or a variation of Supta Hasta Padangusthasana as plantar fascia stretches for healthy feet.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor. 
  2. Ground your left leg and draw your right knee into your chest. 
  3. Place a strap around the arch or ball of your right foot. Then extend the leg toward the ceiling at an angle that allows your knee to be straight with your left leg firmly grounded. There should be a moderate stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Pull your foot down using your strap to create a stretch in the back of the leg.  
  5. To include the plantar fascia in the stretch, dorsiflex or extend the toes down toward the face.  

2. Seated Calf Stretch (Paschimottanasana)

Seated stretch or Paschimottanasana Pose - a seated calf stretch providing a plantar fascia stretch.

  1. In a seated position with the legs directly in front of the body, loop a yoga strap or belt around your feet.
  2. Pull on the strap and gently lower the chest toward the leg, creating a stretch in the back of the leg. 
  3. To include the plantar fascia in the stretch, dorsiflex or extend the toes toward the face.   

3. Plantar Fascia Stretch: Standing Calf Stretch  Image depicts a standing calf stretch that provides a healthy plantar fascia stretch.

  1. Place the left foot against the wall, with the toes extending up the wall.
  2. Step the opposite leg behind you about 12 to 18 inches. 
  3. Begin to bend the front knee toward the wall, creating a stretch in the bottom of the foot and calves. 

If you have consistently performed the above stretch for several weeks and still experiencing persistent foot pain, then I recommend seeing your podiatrist for a more thorough evaluation.

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Emily Splichal.

As a Podiatrist, Human Movement Specialist, and Global Leader in Barefoot Science and Rehabilitation, Dr. Splichal has developed a keen eye for movement dysfunction and neuromuscular control during gait. 

Originally trained as a surgeon through Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and Mt Vernon Hospital in Mt Vernon, NY, in 2017 Dr. Splichal put down her scalpel and shifted her practice to one that is built around functional and regenerative medicine.    

Functional and regenerative medicine and the role of anti-aging science as it relates to movement longevity is where Dr. Splichal’s passion is focused.  Currently enrolled in a Fellowship for Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), Dr. Splichal’s recommendations typically include PRP or stem cell therapy, photomodulation or red light therapy, dry needling or acupuncture, vitamin supplementation, sensory stimulation of the nervous system, fascial work and integrated exercises.   

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