It doesn’t always take a global pandemic to find yourself staying at home for much longer periods than you may be used to. (We have to admit that it’s a very powerful and effective method, though.)
It is, of course, extremely important to follow guidelines during a health crisis, as well as any other time in the future when staying indoors may be better than going out. Unfortunately, heel pain doesn’t care about such guidelines.
Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to help relieve pain in your heels, however. For many people, some easy stretching and exercise at home can help take the edge off of heel pain—plus it can provide a boost to your overall well-being!
While we will always recommend getting outside and getting some exercise when situations allow, here are some heel pain exercises you can perform right at home.
At Morning, In Bed
For those who get a sharp jolt of heel pain as soon as they get their feet out of bed (often due to plantar fasciitis), a good place to start some heel pain exercises is while still on your blankets.
The plantar fascia shortens during rest, and moving it out of this state requires it to stretch and “warm up” again, which can cause pain if it is aggravated or injured. Doing some gentle morning stretching can help mitigate this initial pain.
Here are a couple considerations. You will need a belt or towel within easy reach for one of these.
- Point and Flex. This provides a good, gentle start to the day. Sit upright in bed with your legs in front of you. Point your toes downward as far as you can—within your comfortable range of movement—and hold for a few seconds. Release, then flex your toes upward as far as you can. Repeat this down and up 10 times, slowly and deliberately (it’s not, like, toe jumping jacks).
- Belt Stretch. Sit upright in bed with your legs in front of you. Wrap your belt or towel around the upper part of one foot (not just the toes), with each hand holding onto an end of the strap and a hand on each side of your leg. Hold your upper body posture straight, and gently pull on the strap to flex the ball of your foot back. Use your arm strength, not your foot muscles. Hold 20-30 seconds, then repeat with the opposite foot. Repeat the entire routine up to 10 times.
Using a Wall
You have plenty of them. Might as well get as much benefit from them as you can!
- Wall Squat. Stand in front of a wall, with hands against it at shoulder height and width. Put your feet together, then position your right forward so it is about 4 inches closer to the wall than your left foot. Keep your weight evenly distributed across both feet, then slowly squat down until you feel a good stretch in your calf and heel. Hold for about 15-20 seconds, then repeat with your left foot closer to the wall.
- The Book Stretch. Place a couple of thick, stable books (or one BIG, stable book) on the floor about 2 feet from the wall. Carefully stand on the books so your heels hang over the back edge. Put your hands to either side of your face at shoulder width, and slowly lean forward so your hands are supporting you against the wall. Hold for 15 seconds, then (with hands still on the wall) straighten your back. Raise and lower on the balls of your feet 10 times. Shift so that you are standing only on your right foot, lean toward the wall, hold 15 seconds, straighten, do 10 lifts on your right foot, and then repeat with your left foot only.
Both of these exercises are good for stretching your heel muscles, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles—all of which are connected and can cause excess strain when too tight.
Exercises you can do while watching TV.
- Pebble Pickup. While sitting, place a mug on the ground, just a little bit in front of your feet. Then distribute 10-12 pebbles, marbles, or other small, smooth objects within reach of your feet. Pick up each object with your toes, then place them in the mug. Use both feet! It might be harder than it looks, but keep practicing.
- Crossing Toe Flex. While sitting, cross one leg over the other, grab your big toe, and gently pull it toward you. Hold for 15-30 seconds, repeat three times, then perform all over again after crossing the opposite way.
Find Lasting Help for Heel Pain
Doing what you can at home can certainly help, but most cases of heel pain require more specific or direct treatments for more substantial relief. You might also need lifestyle changes, footwear changes, laser therapy, splints, custom orthotics, or other forms of treatment, depending on your particular situation.
We remain here to help our patients as needed, and are following (and often exceeding) all recommendations to keep our office sanitized and exposure risks low.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss particular options regarding an appointment, please do not hesitate to call us at (541) 776-3338. We wish to help our patients with their foot and ankle conditions however we can—as best and safely as we can—even in challenging times.