Stretching is a great way to reduce the strain and pain caused by plantar fasciitis. However, it is important to know what to stretch and how to properly perform these exercises.
What are you stretching?
The system of the calf muscle and Achilles tendon heel bone or calcaneus, then plantar fascia is all connected. But this entire network the plantar fascia really doesn't stretch much, the heel bone and Achilles do not stretch and that leaves the calf muscle including gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. These are the primary target of our stretching exercises.
Anatomy – The plantar fascia spans from the heel to the forefoot and extends into the base of the toes. The calf muscle, including the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, combine and attach at the heel to form the Achilles tendon. The soleus muscle attaches to the tibia and fibula below the knee and the gastrocnemius muscle extends and attaches above-the-knee.
It is important to think of the leg and foot including the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle as one functional unit. Or think of these muscles as one cable extending from above-the-knee along the back of the calf to the heel bone and then extending out to the forefoot. Of this entire complex, the most stretchable portion includes the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
The calf muscles are the most flexible components of this functional unit. As a result, this portion of this functional unit is where stretching is most important.
See more about plantar fasciitis and treatments.
Our next post (Part Two: Stretching for plantar fasciitis) will feature the different kinds of stretching techniques that can be used for plantar fasciitis.