Fast Fixes for Aching Feet: Yoga for Plantar Fasciitis

 

I remember the morning I started to get out of bed and was in excruciating pain as soon as I tried to stand. When the pain persisted over several weeks, I headed to my local podiatrist who diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation or micro-tearing of the soft tissue along the arch of the foot. This tissue, or plantar fascia, is a thick, web-like ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot, helping you walk.

 

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

One of the most common orthopedic complaints, plantar fasciitis affects one-in-ten adults between the ages of 40 and 60. The pain typically starts in front of the heel on the big toe side of the foot, but without treatment, eventually spreads into the arch. It can be caused by a number of things:

  • over stretching and overuse,
  • structural factors, such as very high arches, flat feet, tight calves and hamstrings,
  • pregnancy,
  • being overweight or obese,
  • standing or running on hard surfaces for extended periods of time,
  • wearing shoes with soft soles and poor arch support

Overwhelmingly, poor fitting or worn footwear is the culprit. Simply changing your shoes to ones that are more supportive can go a long way to easing your pain. Your doctor may also prescribe inserts for your shoes, night splints and/or exercises, among other treatments.

 

Yoga for Foot Pain Relief 

In addition to your doctor’s recommendations, try sleeping with the bedclothes loose around your feet and ankles. This prevents the feet from pointing a down, a position that shortens the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. Additionally, keep a water bottle in your freezer and use it to roll the soles of your feet several times a day. The cold will reduce inflammation and help ease discomfort.

Since plantar fasciitis pain is most debilitating first thing in the morning, here are five exercises you can do in bed before your feet ever hit the floor.

1) Foot and Ankle Warm Ups

These simple movements will warm up the muscles in your feet to bring more blood flow to them. Try doing them while lying in bed first thing in the morning before you rise. 

1. Start by wiggling your toes.

2. Next, to engage your ankles as well as your toes, flex and point your feet a few times, spreading the toes as wide as you’re able.

3. To loosen the ankles further, make slowly rotate your ankles four time, first clockwise and then counterclockwise.

2) Hamstring Stretch

Stiffness or tension in the hamstrings and calves often worsen plantar fasciitis pain. Stretching the connective tissue from the backs of the thighs all the way down into the heels can bring relief.

1. Still lying on your back, bend both knees and place your feet flat on the bed a few inches away from your buttocks.

2. Bring your right knee into your chest, interlacing your hands around the back of the thigh.

3. On an inhale, straighten your knee to stretch your foot towards the ceiling. Press the heel your foot to the sky as you bring your toes towards your face. Observe the stretch sensation along the back of your calf and thigh.

4. Relax your foot, bending the knee back towards the chest. Repeat three more times.

5. Next, with your right leg still extended to the ceiling, point and flex your foot three times. Move slowly, especially if your hamstrings and calf are tight. 

6. Then, using your hands as resistance, press the thigh into your interlaced hands. Continue to draw the toes towards your face as you hold the stretch for three breaths. Release and repeat twice more.

7. Finish by bending the knee back into your chest and placing your ankle on your left thigh. Take a breath before moving onto the next exercise.

3) Toe Pull from Supine Pigeon

This exercise works to stretch the plantar fascia, the longest part of which connects to the big toe. You can also do this seated in a chair with one ankle cross over the opposite knee.

1. With the right ankle crossed over your left knee, flex your right foot slightly so the sole of the foot is pointing away from you. Rest the right hand on your right thigh for stability.

2. Then with your left hand, grasp the toes of the right foot. As you breath, draw the toes, especially the big toe, towards your heel.

3. Alternate between pulling the toe towards you and pressing it away towards your knee, manually pointing and flexing your foot about four times. Pay particular attention to the stretch in the inner arch and sole of the foot.

4. Release your foot back to the floor. Pause to notice how it feels. Then repeat both the hamstring stretch and big toe pull on the left foot.

4) Calf Stretch

This stretch helps to release tension in the calf and Achilles tendon which often accompany plantar fasciitis. You’ll need a yoga strap, towel or a bathrobe tie for this exercise.

1. Start by sitting up in bed with both legs extended in front of you. Bring a yoga strap or the tie to your bathrobe around the ball of your right foot.

2. Holding one end of the strap in each hand, gently pull both sides of the strap to bring your toes towards you. Stop when you begin to feel a mild stretch in your calf muscle and hold for about 30seconds.

4. Release the strap and relax your foot. Then repeat twice more.

5. Finish by remove the strap from your foot. Pause for a moment to notice how your calf feels before repeating on the left.

5) Foot Massage

Giving yourself a foot massage is a wonderful way to end your morning routine. Consider doing this at night before bed to sooth tired, aching feet, too. 

1. Sit on the edge of your bed or in a chair. Bring your right ankle to rest on your right thigh.

2. Using both thumbs, press along the sole of your foot, moving from the heel to the toes. Work in a line toward the big toe, paying particular attention to the inner arch.

3. Repeat this, moving up and down the foot in a line from the heel to each toe.

4. Next, bring both thumbs to the center of your foot. Slide the thumbs away from one another towards the edges of your foot to widen the sole. Continue, moving your thumbs up toward your toes and back down towards your heel.

 

5. Then holding the front of your foot with your right hand, use the knuckles of the left to briskly rub the entire sole of the right foot. Pay particular attention to the base of the toes, instep and heel.

6. Release your foot to the floor and notice how the right foot feel compared to the left. Repeat on the left.   

To end your practice, slowly come to standing. Pause and observe how your feet feel. You may still have some discomfort, but it should be mild enough for you to now be able to walk.

Setting aside time to do a few stretches before getting out of bed in the morning can ease the pain of plantar fasciitis. Check out this blog for tips on more ways to relieve plantar fasciitis pain.

Be well!

 

 published 7/6/20; updated 5/28/24

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