Stretch of the Week: Kneeling Plantar Fascia Stretch (Feet #1)

Let’s get this stretching party started!  This is the first in a to-be-weekly series of stretches.  I have wanted to do this kind of post for a long time, and am finally getting it started.  In fact, after a photo shoot with KMN last week, I’m even more excited – and will be organizing lots of photos and future posts today.

Please, please, PLEASE: Check out the Stretch of the Week: Start Here! post before you get started.  And I must emphasize: Some stretches aren’t right for some people.  If you are in pain, or something feels wrong, just stop.  There will be another stretch next week.  And if you don’t feel anything?  Awesome.  You don’t need the stretch.  Move right along, and have a good day.  If you love it – bookmark it!  Over half a year, you’ll likely accumulate enough stretches to put together a regular post-workout stretching routine without any trouble at all.

Background: As a runner, my feet have a history of being tight.  I talk here about using a tennis ball to roll out the bottom of my feet, and I battled a flare of plantar fasciitis earlier this year.  Although I really don’t like having anyone touch my feet, on the rare occasion that KMN gave me a foot massage, the aftermath would be awesome.  Seriously.  My feet didn’t hurt day-to-day, but after rubbing out the tight spots a bit, they would feel totally rejuvenated.

Then, about six months ago, one of my yoga instructors set us up in a very simple foot stretch at the start of one of her classes.  It seemed pretty silly at first, but once I was into the pose, I realized I could only hold it for about 15 seconds before I had to come out.  Whether it was whim, intuition, or stretch-o-philia, I added this stretch to my daily stretching regimen.  After about a month, I realized that I hardly needed the tennis ball any more – instead of finding a whole collection of sore spots on each foot, I would only find one or two, and could roll them out in a jiffy.  In fact, my husband gave a foot massage the other day – and after a few minutes, he stopped: “You don’t really need this, do you?”  Me: “Nope.”

And it’s all thanks to this stretch.

Contraindications: I wouldn’t recommend this stretch for anyone with acute pain in the plantar fascia (or anywhere along the bottom of the foot), or for those with pain in the furthest back (toward the ankle) toe joints.

The plantar fascia runs along the arch of the foot.

The plantar fascia runs along the arch of the foot.

"Furthest back toe joints", aka proximal phalanges.

“Furthest back toe joints”, aka proximal phalanges.

Set-Up: Kneel on the floor (slightly soft surface)

Shins and tops of feet on floor
Knee in line with center of foot
Tush resting on feet
Torso sitting up tall and straight over tush

Stretch: Raise your tush slightly, flex your feet, and tuck your toes under (onto the floor).  Keep your knees on the floor.  EASE your weight back over your feet, sitting your tush back onto your feet.  Hold.

PF Stretch

Length of Hold: Start with a very short hold, perhaps 10-15 seconds.  I think there are benefits to holding this pose for a slightly extended stretch (beyond the “normal” 10-20 seconds) – you can ease into it and allow the feet to relax gradually.  For those with tight feet (OK, that’s just about everyone), this can take some time. I’d suggest slowly working your way towards a 60-90 second hold.  My tolerance for this stretch has increased considerably, but still changes day-to-day.  Some days my feet are quite tight, and I can handle only 60 seconds.  Other days, I’m able to make it to 90 seconds.

Release: Lean weight forward, relax tops of feet onto ground, sit weight back again.  Sigh deeply.

Modifications:  This is a pretty intense stretch; feel free to lean forward slightly to shift a bit of the weight off your feet (watch for knee pain).  Gradually try to work your way back, until you are sitting directly over your feet.  If leaning forward is still too intense, then simply sit in a comfortable position on the floor, take one foot into your lap, and gently pull back on the toes (toes toward knees) to stretch the bottom of the foot.

Go ahead – sit down, and give it a try!  Then give me some feedback.  [Unless you just got out of bed.]

Do you think you have tight arches/feet?

How did the stretch feel while you were doing it?  How did your feet feel afterward?

Take it, or leave it?
[This is for my own data gathering purposes.  I won’t be offended if you don’t like it.]

17 thoughts on “Stretch of the Week: Kneeling Plantar Fascia Stretch (Feet #1)

  1. Stephanie@nowirun.com

    I’m hesitant to try any new stretches right now… my feet are a little touchy after the marathon. I do, however, sometimes have sore arches when I run and I can’t stand it!
    This is a great idea for a series… thanks, Coach Holly! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Excellent point – if your feet are tender, try the sitting version, or do some self-massage on a tennis/golf/lacrosse/massage ball. Better yet – get Glenn to give them a little rub-down! 🙂

      PS Now that I finally have a day with a short break, I cannot WAIT to get over to your page and read about the marathon!

      Reply
  2. Allison

    I WILL DO THIS STRETCH! I am so bad at stretching—I need to do this more, but I am always in a hurry after running, so I just take a shower and move on. And then I wonder why my IT band is constantly inflamed and hurting.

    Ok—doing this stretch this weekend and will report back!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Unfortunately, I can’t actually stand in your living room and make you stretch. 🙂 But given what others have shared, it sounds like making the TIME to stretch is a huge hurdle for lots of people; so I’ll be writing a post on that, too! But do give this footie one a try – especially if your barre classes involve lots of toe pointing!

      Reply
  3. Erica G

    LOVE this stretch! And I learned my left foot is tighter than my right. So easy to add into a daily routine.

    I must vote for what stretch you recommend for tight piriformis muscles??? I have some go to’s but would be interested if there is something “better” out there.

    Thanks for doing this Holly.

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      I’ll definitely be doing plenty of hip (including piriformis) stretches – those are definitely in the highest demand!

      And it’s totally normal for your feet to be different – so interesting how asymmetrical human beings really are!

      Reply
  4. Hilary

    Agree with everyone (I need to stretch more, going to try this one and yes, something for the piriformis would be great).

    Reply
  5. Char

    That’s a nice stretch. I did it today after my long run and it felt great when I’d finished. Will definitely be using it more often.

    Reply
  6. Meagan

    I thought this stretch felt really good (and didn’t realize how tight my feet were)! I could only hold it for about 15 seconds, like you warned might be the case. I’ve been blessed with having no foot problems since I started running, thank goodness. I am going to pass this stretch along to my running buddy (who is 8 months pregnant). She has been having some pain in her arches and has been rolling her feet on a frozen water bottle after each of her runs. Maybe this stretch will help!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Glad I could find a solid inaugural stretch for you. 🙂

      Dear Meagan’s Friend: I hope this helps you! Just be a bit careful – if your feet are already tight/inflamed, don’t push it too much. Also, you will almost certainly have to lean forward a bit, since that extra 8 months of baby will add lots of extra pressure that most of us don’t have. 😉 You can even try the stretch starting on all fours, then tucking your toes under, then gently leaning back until you feel a slight discomfort in your feet.

      Also – I had a bout of plantar fasciitis awhile back, and STRONGLY suggest taking all of the PF healing suggestions, trying them, then only sticking with the ones that make you feel better. [I found that icing made my feet tighten up even more, so I skipped it and opted for rolling on a tennis ball.] Good luck!!!

      Reply
  7. Tony

    Have had mild PF for a few weeks now – tried lots of different stretches. This one seems to have nailed it – PF almost on way out!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Dear PF: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Good riddance!

      Dear Tony: Thanks for stopping by – glad you found a stretch to help your PF. PF is a nasty bugger, and no two treatments seem to work the same for people – so finding the right one for you is a great thing! Remember to keep up the stretching a few times a week to ward off further attacks!!!

      Reply

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