What are you stretching?
Review from Part One
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.
Various techniques for stretching
Weight bearing stretches:
Wall stretch: The typical runner stretch involves leaning up against a counter, a post, a wall or a tree and holding this position with the knee kept in a straight position (extended) and leaning forward until there is tension found in the calf muscle. Ideally the tension should be in the calf muscle and not the heel or the arch. Typically, this position is held for 15-30 seconds. If possible try to relax the calf muscle because it's more stretchable while it is relaxed. Then, bend the knee (slightly flexed) and repeat the stretch. You can alternate between the knee straight and slightly bent (extended and the knee flexed) and spent 3-5 minutes for the stretch.
Pro stretch device. These are available online and in sporting good stores. These are a good tool to help you stretch more effectively.
Heel tilt stretch: You can do this standing beside a wall or a cabinet. Raise your forefoot up and positioned at an angle against the wall with your heel down on the floor and you lean towards the wall. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds and perform several of these.
Non-weight bearing stretches can include stretching first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. You can use a towel, jump rope or something to hang over the forefoot area and pull back and stretch gently holding this position for 10-30 seconds, repeating several times. This should not be painful but gently stretch out the calf.
Towel stretch: Before getting out of bed in the morning, take a towel and hook it over your forefoot then gently pulled back causing tightness in your calf. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds. Try to relax your calf as you do this. It should be firm but not cause pain.
How many stretches:
Spending several minutes over 4 times a day is optimal. It's hard to stretch too much- if you're warmed up prior to stretching.
Timing for stretching
Ideally you should stretch when you're body is warmed up. This could be after hot shower or hot bath or any time in the afternoon or evening. First in the morning your muscles are a bit tighter and may be less stretchable so you have to be more gentle.
There are many easy stretches that can help significantly with plantar fasciitis. These stretches do not require much time or special equipment. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis you can read more about this condition and other heel pain issues at our heel pain center.