5 Plantar Fasciitis Natural Remedies + 5 Key Stretches

plantar fasciitis - dr. axe
Roughly 10 percent of the adult population suffers from the type of heel pain known as plantar fasciitis. (1) Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the thick fascia tissues of the heels. It’s a common running injury and usually triggered due to overuse of the feet during exercise, or from working out with poor form. It can affect either one heel at a time (usually in the dominant foot), or both simultaneously.

Facts About Plantar Fasciitis:

  • Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in adults. It accounts for an average of one million patient visits per year to family doctors, orthopedics and general surgeons
  • Experts believe that the causes of plantar fasciitis are multi-factorial. Risk factors include overtraining, older age, excessive foot pronation, obesity or being overweight and poor form when working out
  • It’s most likely to affect middle-aged people and those who spend lots of time on their feet or exercising. In fact, about 83 percent of patients with heel pains are active working adults between the ages of 25 and 65 years old
  • Athletes (especially runners), people who have physically-demanding jobs and soldiers are most susceptible to developing heel problems and pains
  • The prevalence rates of plantar fasciitis among runners is between 4 to 22 percent, with higher rates occurring in those who don’t allow enough time between workouts for proper muscle recovery
  • Studies show that about one-third of all people with plantar fasciitis report experiencing painful symptoms in both feet
  • According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 90 percent of all patients with plantar fasciitis will improve within 10 months of starting simple treatment methods which can be done at home (2)

5 Plantar Fasciitis Natural Treatments

For the majority of people with plantar fasciitis, conservative treatments — as opposed to more aggressive treatments like surgery, shock wave therapy or steroid injections — can help decrease inflammation and pain.

1. Rest, Massage & Ice the Heel

The first order of business in treating plantar fasciitis involves taking time off from repetitive movements that trigger the condition and increase pain. You’ll likely need at least several weeks of rest to allow the affected tissue to heal properly, although the exact time period needed differs from person to person. While you’re giving your feet a rest, you can continue to perform low-impact sports that don’t cause pain, including swimming or bicycling.

Immediately after an injury or episode that causes swelling, icing can be helpful. Try elevating the affected foot and applying an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 4 times daily. Some experts even recommend freezing a water-filled paper cup and rolling it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes to massage the area. (3)

Once swelling subsides a bit after about 2 to 3 days, massage the heel and apply heat along with beneficial essential oils to further reduce inflammation. Warm oil massages are extremely beneficial for your feet because they increase blood and fluid flow, speed up the healing process and break up scar tissue or adhesions that can harden. Massage the painful heel with your hands in circular motions for 15 minutes or more daily. Try warming up a small amount of coconut or olive oil and then adding essential oils like rosemary oil, thyme oil, rose oil or lavender oil to decrease pain and swelling.

2. Practice Heel Exercises and Stretches

Studies show that in patients with plantar fasciitis, stretching exercises for the legs and affected heel are one of the most effective treatment options. Stretching the bottom of the foot, along with exercising and strengthening the legs (especially the calf and Achilles tendon), reduces tissue adhesion, improves form, helps improve range of motion and may decrease pain.

One study from the Baltalimanı Osteopathic Training and Research Hospital in Turkey found that 96 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis experienced improvements after performing specific heel stretches for 5 months. The study also found that symptoms improved after performing stretching exercises twice a day. Stretches included 10 repititions, holding for 20 seconds each time. The American Orthopedic Food And Ankle Society, along with the Mayo Clinic, recommend the following exercises and stretches to help treat plantar fasciitis: (3, 4)

  • Towel stretches: Pull on both ends of a rolled towel that you place under the ball of your foot. Move your foot and the towel around to help massage the affected tissue. You can use a warmed towel for extra relief.
  • Toe stretching: Cross your affected leg over your other leg and take hold of your affected foot. Pull your toes back towards your shin. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
  • Thumb massage: Try rubbing your thumb left to right over the arch of the affected foot. As healing progresses, the tissue will ideally become firm like a guitar string.
  • Squat stretches: Lean forward and spread your feet apart with one foot in front of the other. Flex your knees and squat down, keeping your heels on the ground as long as possible. Hold for 10 seconds at a time. Repeat 20 times.
  • Achilles tendon stretches: Place your affected leg behind your unaffected leg with the toes of your back foot pointed towards the heel of your other foot. Lean against a wall and bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight. Keep your back heel firmly on the ground and stretch it for 10 seconds at a time, up to 10 times daily.

3. Wear Supportive Shoes & Footwear

Your shoes can really impact your walking or running form. Shoes also impact your ability to withstand force and pressure. If you experience heel pain frequently, it’s a good idea to consult an expert, such as a physical therapist or trained employee in a sporting goods store. They can measure your feet and help you find the best type of sneakers or shoes for your foot type. Your shoes can offer extra cushion and arch support which lower risk for injury while exercises or going about your day. (5)

If you’re a runner, make sure to buy new shoes after about 500 miles of use to avoid wear-out and injury. Avoiding high heels, sandals and going barefoot on hard surfaces can all help control heel pains and symptoms. Another option would be to consider to wearing specialized foot orthotics or splints. Your doctor or physical therapist might recommend wearing a splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot. These can even be worn during sleep without much effort at all (called a “night splint”). Night splints help keep the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position which increases flexibility. Heel cups are another useful support device, made of cushions that are custom-fitted to your arches in order distribute pressure to your feet more evenly.

4. Maintain A Healthy Weight

Reaching and sustaining a healthy body weight (meaning a BMI between about 19 to 25 for most people) can help minimize the amount of stress placed on your heels. The higher your body weight, and the weaker your lower leg muscles, the more pressure your heels experience. (6)

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing stress, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising can all help with weight loss and maintenance. Some of the best foods for weight loss and controlling inflammation include: fresh fruits and vegetables (these are rich in magnesium and potassium), raw foods, green juices, wild-caught fish, probiotic foods, nuts and seeds, and healthy proteins like cage-free eggs and pasture-raised poultry. Just be sure to choose organic produce to avoid the dirty dozen.

5. Consider Visiting a Physical Therapist

If pain doesn’t subside after following the advice above on your own, visit a physical therapist. A therapist teach you how to perform heel exercises to stretch the plantar fascia in the most effective way. If you’re new to running or exercising, a therapist can also work with you to learn proper form. Therapists can also help you learn how to strengthen your Achilles tendons, calves and lower leg muscles, along with your ankles and lower back, to stabilize your body weight over your heels better.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms & Diagnosis

Plantar fasciitis symptoms usually develop gradually over several weeks or months, especially after beginning an exercise program or becoming active in a new way.
plantar fasciitis - dr. axe
The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include: (7)

  • Pain in the heel, especially when waking up and taking the first few steps of the day
  • Worsening bone and joint pain after exercising, lifting weights or carrying heavy objects
  • Tenderness and sometimes swelling throughout the feet
  • Trouble walking normally and completing everyday tasks without pain
  • Reduced pain when stopping repetitive movements or exercising for a period of time

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Most form of heel spurs or pains, including plantar fasciitis, are caused by an inflammatory process that results in changes in the tissues of the heels. Plantar fasciitis is characterized as a disorder of degenerative changes in the foot’s “fascia” tissue, which help support the arches of the feet, bear the weight of the body and absorb shock and pressure. Plantar fascia are thick, elastic and connect the heel bones (called the metatarsal bones) to the toes which creates the arch of the foot.

When someone develops plantar fasciitis, they experience tiny micro-tears in the heel fascia due to injury or overuse that lead to inflammation and swelling (fluid build-up called perifascial edema). In the process of the body trying to heal the micro-tears, the heel pad increases in thickness and loses flexibility, normal range of motion and the ability to absorb shock. The affected heel becomes unable to “push-off” the ground normally or withstand the body’s weight. This means that every time someone tries to get up and move around they feel pain and compensate by either staying inactive or changing posture.

This often triggers a vicious cycle leading to more tissue damage. This abnormal repair process often leads to collagen degeneration, structural changes and ongoing swelling.

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis, heel pains and heel spurs include:

  • Being an athlete or someone who exercises often; overuse of the tissue in the feet can lead to a higher susceptibility for injury.
  • Having a job that requires a lot of standing and walking (being a waitress, maid/cleaner or landscaper for example).
  • Exercising with poor form, on hard surfaces, and not properly warming up.
  • Being a runner, especially someone who runs with worn0out shoes or improper form. Studies show that plantar fasciitis is the third most common running injury (behind patellofemoral pain that affects the knee, and iliotibial band syndrome which affects the shins). (8)
  • Having biomechanical problems with alignment of the feet. This can include muscle dysfunctions and inflexibility that might be the result of injury, or also genetically inherited. Examples include: tight calve muscles, excessive pronation of the foot, or decreased ankle flexion due to having a tight Achilles tendon.
  • Obesity or being overweight. People above a BMI of 30 are at the highest risk.
  • Starting an exercise program or physically-demanding job too quickly without giving the feet time to adjust.
  • A history of other inflammatory diseases including diabetes, arthritis and tarsal tunnel syndrome (9)
  • Lifestyle factors that promote inflammation and higher risk for injury, including eating a poor diet, smoking, having very high stress levels and getting poor sleep.

Plantar Fasciitis vs. Heel Spurs: How Are They Different?

Heel spurs are commonly mistaken for plantar fasciitis because they share many of the same symptoms. A heel spur is simply the presence of an extra protrusion on the bony surface of the heel, while plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia. Both conditions change how connective tissue form and operate near the arch on the bottom of the feet. It’s also possible to have both at the same time, although this isn’t always the case, since many individuals with plantar fasciitis do not have a spur despite feeling pain. (10)

With plantar fasciitis, strain on the plantar fascia leads to irritation, swelling and then a weakness of the arch. Heel spurs can also cause inflammation and pain. Heel spurs form in response to repetitive damage and strain on the heels. Cells that specialize in forming bone migrate to the inflamed site and start depositing calcium. This deposit then forms a protrusion of soft-tissue buildup over several months known as the heel spur.

Like plantar fasciitis, heel spurs are commonly caused by walking or running with poor form, over-exercising on hard surfaces, wearing poorly-fitted or badly-worn shoes and being overweight. Both can cause throbbing, redness and swelling in the feet, plus they commonly force people to become less active. Similar treatments help with both conditions, including massaging the area, resting and icing, stretching, wearing supportive shoes and eating a healthy diet.

Complications & Precautions for Plantar Fasciitis

Worried that your heel pain due to plantar fasciitis might cause long-term damage? Fortunately, most people are able to heal and overcome plantar fasciitis naturally, leading to recovery and low risk for permanent damage. About 90 percent of people with plantar fasciitis improve significantly after two months of initial treatment, especially if they include stretches and exercises.

Make sure to take time off from exercise if pain persists in order to avoid further injury. Keep track of your symptoms and prevent future problems by replacing sneakers and shoes regularly, avoiding running on uneven and hard surfaces, and staying at a healthy weight. If your symptoms last for more than 6 months, definitely visit your doctor. He or she may suggest specialized splints, medications, and/or steroids to reduce inflammation. Surgery for plantar fasciitis is very rarely needed and is only a last-resort option, so it’s a good idea to get a second opinion if this is the treatment approach recommended.

Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Pain Takeaways

  • Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions, impacting millions of people each year and accounting for more doctors visits than any other foot problem.
  • It is caused by inflammation of plantar fascia tissue in the heel, as a result of factors including over-exercising, running with poor form and wearing shoes that aren’t supportive enough.
  • Although it can be very painful and annoying, plantar fasciitis is mostly preventable and highly treatable with rest, icing, massage and targeted stretches and exercises. Symptoms usually go away with several months and only very rarely are interventions including medications and surgery needed.

Read Next: The Tool that Targets Plantar Fasciitis Pain

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No comments yet - you should start the conversation!

  1. Natalie says:

    Are bone spurs able to be repaired without surgery?

    • Eddie Caldwell says:

      K-Taping well worth consideration. We have had some very successful treatments in combination with massage, stretching, ice, advice etc at the Northern Institute of Massage, Bury, UK.

  2. Diane Curtis says:

    Can any of your products such as bone broth aid in the healing of these types of foot problems?

  3. Kathleen King says:

    I had plantar fasciitis and found that rolling a frozen water bottle under my foot as often as possible worked the best. I’d do it before and after every workout and then again throughout the day any chance I had. At first I couldn’t workout at all, so I’d do whenever I could in addition to physical therapy. I also wore arch support flip flops (Vionic) around the house, if I wasn’t wearing shoes, which also had arch supports in them. I was never barefoot. Once I was consistent with those practices, the plantar fasciitis went away. The last tip that worked for me is when sleeping, if I’m on my stomach and my foot is pointed, it becomes painful, so I have to move down so my foot hangs off of the bed so it’s at a 90 degree angle. I tried the boot, but I found that to be too annoying. It’s been two years since I had it and if my foot acts up, I use a lacrosse ball and lean on that to massage my foot before my workouts. The plantar fasciitis is gone but occasionally the arch of my foot gets tender and the lacrosse ball works it out.

  4. Karen says:

    Do you of anyone with MS that your diet is helping

  5. Sonia E Carrington says:

    Low Level Laser Therapy works best.

  6. Kathy says:

    I had plantar fasciitis for over a year and none of the physical things I did helped.
    I went to the doctor for something else and found I was very depleted in Vitamin D and B12.
    Shortly after supplementing these 2 vitamins it went away.

  7. alice Marsh says:

    It can be caused by antibiotics such as Levequin and Cipro.

  8. Shari says:

    What cured my plantar fasciitis was wearing higher heels!!! I took a month break from exercising and wore only 2 inch heels!!! It took the pressure off my heels!!!

  9. Jennifer says:

    The article says how there is heel pain. However I have had this in both feet (it’s actually back again) and my pain is in the bottom of my feet. Hence the name plantar fasciitis.
    I did KT taping which helped the most. As well as icing the bottom of my feet, and massage.

  10. MaryAnne says:

    Dr. Axe,
    I have some vision problems and can not read long articles on the screen, so often Print them to be read later. When I try to print the articles from your site, I always get an “Over Print” of other sentences on top of the article, usually at the top 1/4 of the page. Is there any way that this can be avoided or do you need to change settings from your site to allow us to be able to print. Yours is the only site that I have this problem on.
    Thank you for the interesting information that you share with us!

    • Rosalind Graham says:

      Hi MaryAnne. I also have trouble printing the articles so I jsut copy and paste into a word document. If you are unsure how to do this I hope the following info will help. Run your curser over the article so it highlights in blue and then right click the mouse and select “Copy”. Go into Word and right click the mouse again and select “Paste”. You can then make the pictures smaller and then Save into a folder or print off. I have a folder just for Dr Axes Articles. Hope this helps.

  11. Carol says:

    Mine was so severe, the only relief I got was through shots, PT and sleeping with my feet hanging off the end of my bed. Sounds crazy, I know, but it allows the feet to hang at a natural position without the sheets pulling down. The K-tape was crazy good. My favorite stretch at home is a 10″ piece of 1″ PVC, I sit on the edge of the chair and roll it under my feet. The massage feels great and it stretches out some of the stiffness that causes the pain. I also stand about 2 and a half to 3 feet from the wall, lean forward onto my palms for a minute, drop to my elbows until that is comfortable, then to my chest. A nice progressive stretch.

  12. Sandi says:

    Interesting that you don’t mention what I find to be the #1 cause of plantar fascitis. It is trigger points in the soleus muscle which cannot be stretched in the same manner that is used to stretch the other calf muscle (the gastrocnemius). You can work the foot and heeel all day long and not resolve the problem until you get rid of the triggr points in the soleus and learn how to stretch it properly.
    I am a massage therapist and you don’t even mention seeing this group of professionals who can be very helpful in working with someone. Massage the calf; do NOT massage the foot. Once you have gotten rid of the trigger points and gotten the calf muscles in good shape you can then massage the foot…..but chances are you wont’ need to. It will have become a non-issue.

  13. Sherry says:

    Lemongrass essential oil for plantar fasciitis works wonders as well as for strained/sprained ligaments/tendons. Use 2-3/day on heel and inner arch and sole of foot/feet.

  14. Sue Flannery says:

    I see Sherry said (6/9/16 at 8:07) to use Lemongrass EO. If I don’t have that, but have Deep Blue (& we have the deep blue lotion), would that help? I tried to lotion on the arch one night and could not tell any difference, but only did it once. ANY OTHER oils?

    My pain is the arch, not the heel.

    I liked what Sandi said above on the stretching the calf. I am actually doing that now too as of a few minutes ago (as I type this and stop every sentence and stretch).

    I also bought a arch support velcro thing at a foot doctors office that I slept in the last 2 nights and wearing flip flops with an arch support. I went on line 2 days ago and ordered orthotic type flip flops. I either wear flip flops or have been walking barefoot most of the time (always thought that was the best, but I now see that i am wrong). These Okabashi flip flops with arches help and are the only thing that gives me relief.

    I have not tried the k-tape YET. I did use an anti-inflamtory last night, but hate to use OTC drugs (would rather use natural stuff).

    Thanks for all the comments, they do help! I really can feel the stretch in my calf with that counter stretch! Thanks Sandi!!!!

  15. Gail says:

    What worked for me: stretching the foot towards the shin is good but even better (and this sounds completely backwards!) is stretching the foot forward–even grabbing the toes and pulling them towards the ball of your foot–do this several times and hold; NOT walking barefoot (which is hardest of all because I LOVE being barefoot); and NOT massaging the tendons–massaging the calf if great, but not the foot itself–it exacerbates the issue; icing helps and last of all, having my husband massage my feet EXCEPT the plantar area. Hope this helps!

  16. Anne says:

    My plantar fasciitis was so bad I had to have surgery. I exhausted all other remedies but nothing helped. My foot still hurts everyday. I don’t know what else to do!

  17. Jennie says:

    Good Feet store !! Relief immediately and put them in my tennis shoes, sandals, ski boots ! No more pain!

  18. Laina Gossman says:

    here are some foot exercises that really help! many are the same that you have explained in the article, plus a few extras. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r14hGOiFyC0

  19. Gloria Dircks says:

    I keep getting an error when i submitted my info to
    purchase the leaky gut healing program, from the webinar. I wou lk d like to recieve the bonus items
    Dr Axe talked about too. Thanks, Gloria- 262-344-1998

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