Skip to main content

Daily stretching forms an integral part of a fitness regimen. It contributes significantly to maintaining an optimal range of motion in the joints and minimizing muscle stiffness. This article offers insights into the recommended stretching activities for relieving heel pain, focusing on the correct techniques and timing.

The Value of Stretching

The daily allocation for stretching should ideally be 30 minutes, divided into three sessions of 10 minutes each. During each session, a variety of four stretches are recommended, with each stretch lasting for a duration of 2 to 3 minutes. These exercises play a pivotal role in reducing inflammation and pain while improving range of motion. Should these methods, along with anti-inflammatories and shoe modifications, prove ineffective, medical interventions such as surgery may be necessary to address heel cord pathology.

Commencing the Stretching Program

Before starting your stretching program, it’s vital to undertake preliminary measures such as Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate (R.I.C.E.). These activities work in tandem with stretching exercises to restore ankle range of motion and strength. Following this, specific stretching exercises can be initiated.

Wall Plantar Fascia Stretch

  1. Ensure you have your shoes on.
  2. Position your heel on the floor near a wall, and brace your toes against the wall.
  3. Gradually move your knee towards the wall until a stretch is felt. Remember, the knee should not touch the wall.
  4. Maintain this position for 60 seconds before taking a rest.
  5. This sequence should be repeated 2-3 times on each leg.

Wall Calf Stretch

  1. Start by pushing against a wall with one foot forward and the other one behind.
  2. Focus on stretching the back leg.
  3. Ensure that the heel of the back leg stays on the ground.
  4. Point your foot towards the front.
  5. Keep your back knee straight and move your hips towards the base of the wall.
  6. Hold this pose for 60 seconds before resting.
  7. Repeat this sequence 2-3 times on each leg.

Other Stretching Techniques

Step Calf Stretch

This stretch involves standing on the edge of a step. Hold onto something for balance. With both knees straight, allow your heels to drop below the step. Hold this position for 60 seconds before resting, and repeat this sequence 2-3 times.

Getting Out of Bed Stretch

Perform this stretch without shoes. Sit down and cross one foot over the knee of the other leg. Place your fingers across the base of your toes using the hand on the affected side. Pull your toes back towards your shin until a stretch is felt in the arch of your foot. You can confirm you’re doing it correctly by feeling tension in the plantar fascia with your other hand. Hold this position for 60 seconds before resting, and repeat this sequence 2-3 times on each foot.

Specific Stretches for Heel Cord Pain

Gastroc & Soleus Stretch

This involves holding a stretch for 30 seconds and repeating the process five times. Known as the runner’s stretch or calf stretch, it requires using a wall or chair for support.

For the Gastroc stretch, keep the leg to be stretched behind you with the back heel on the floor, slightly turned outward. Lean forward until a gentle stretch is felt in the calf.

The Soleus stretch requires both knees to be bent with the involved foot in the back. Gently lean into the wall until a gentle stretch is felt in the calf.

Toe-to-Wall Stretch

To reduce stress on the Achilles tendon, perform the toe-to-wall stretch. Facing the wall, place your toes up against it. Lean forward, keeping your heel on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat the process five times.

Plantar Fascia Stretch

To perform this stretch, stand with the ball of your foot on a stair. Reach for the bottom step with your heel until a stretch is felt along the arch of your foot. You can hold onto the railing for balance. Alternatively, you can use a foam roll or hard round surface to massage and stretch the plantar fascia. This should also be held for 30 seconds and repeated five times.

Ensuring Efficacy

Initially, the pain level may slightly increase during the first week of exercising. Nevertheless, the stretching program should be continued for a minimum of four weeks. If no improvement is noticed after four weeks, it’s recommended to consult a physician or therapist. If the pain is diminishing, continue the program for 2-3 weeks after symptoms have ceased. However, it’s vital to consult with a physical therapist or doctor if symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop.

Understanding the Heel

The human foot, a marvel of biological engineering, is instrumental in our daily lives. The heel, in particular, is an essential component, bearing the weight of the body and providing balance and stability.

Structure of the Heel

The heel’s prominence lies at the foot’s posterior end. The calcaneus, or the heel bone, forms the basis of this projection. The sole is lined with a layer of subcutaneous connective tissue that can be up to 2 cm thick. This acts as a shock absorber, stabilizing the foot during movements.

Subcutaneous Tissue and Vascularization

This subcutaneous tissue is equipped with pressure chambers filled with fibrofatty tissue, ensheathed by tough connective tissue comprised of collagen fibers. These pressure chambers act as additional buffers against external shocks. Notably, the sole of the foot possesses a highly vascularized nature, meaning it has a dense network of blood vessels. This vast circulatory system provides further stabilization to the septa, the dividers between the individual pressure chambers.

Role of the Achilles Tendon

The triceps surae, a collection of muscles that includes the soleus and the two heads of the gastrocnemius, is connected to the heel via the Achilles tendon. This muscle group is responsible for plantar flexion, which involves stretching the foot downward. Interestingly, there is also a fourth head called the plantaris muscle, featuring a slender tendon attached to the heel bone.

Compressive Forces and the Foot

The foot’s design enables it to distribute the compressive forces applied to it along five rays. There are three medial rays (on the side of the big toe) and two lateral rays (on the side of the little toe). These rays traverse the foot in such a way that the lateral rays extend over the cuboid bone to the heel bone, while the medial rays extend over the three cuneiform bones and the navicular bone, ending at the ankle bone.

The Heel, Ankle Bone, and Arches of the Foot

Interestingly, the ankle bone sits directly over the heel bone. The rays, although adjacent near the toes, override one another near the heel. This design allows for the creation of the foot’s arches, formed by the medial and lateral rays. These arches play a crucial role in optimizing the distribution of compressive forces across uneven terrains.

Weight Distribution and Support

The heel plays a crucial role in providing posterior support, sharing this function with the balls of the large and little toes. It bears the brunt of the loads, effectively carrying the weight of the body. This distribution and sharing of weight make the heel a crucial component in walking, running, and even standing.

The Bottom Line

These stretching techniques are not a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for persistent health problems or any additional queries. Indeed, while these stretches are designed to alleviate heel pain, they must be performed under the correct guidance and supervision for optimal results.

Leave a Reply