How to Recover from Plantar Fasciitis

I’ve dealt with plantar fasciitis and I get asked pretty frequently what I did for it. Below is my own personal recovery regimen. It’s not medical advice and shouldn’t be taken as such. If you have symptoms (mainly, a painful or burning sensation in the heel, particularly in the first steps upon waking or standing), begin an active, not passive recovery process as soon as possible. I shut down my training within three runs of my first symptoms and still dealt with the injury for more than half a year.

I will reiterate that this was my own course of treatment. I’m sure that many others will offer their own paths to recovery in the comments. In fact, I encourage it. However, these, too, should be taken as personal paths to PF recovery. With that out of the way, here are a couple quick thoughts on PF.

First, recovery is a long, long process that you need to stick with even after symptoms abate!

In the short term:

  • Try wearing supportive shoes. I like light, flexible shoes, but ran in the Salomon XT Wings 2 with an aftermarket insole for 4-6 months. Cut out or limit uphill running for a while. Same goes for speed work. If you’re engaging your calves, you’re tightening the PF.
  • Wear a night brace. I couldn’t get used to fabric ones that really bent my toes up. A hard boot is so worth it.
  • ALWAYS wear a supportive shoe until you’re 100% healthy. That means in the house, in the shower, and for your very first and very last steps of the day. First thing in the morning is key. If you’ve got PF, you’ll have noticed pain or at least severe tightness in your arch when you take your first steps.
  • Stretch your calves. Stand on some stairs with the edge of your toes at the ball of you feet. Transfer 60-70% of your weight to one calf. Hold for 90 seconds… or, as I prefer, 3×30 seconds with a 2-3 second release between stretches. Repeat with your other foot, even if it’s uninjured. Repeat this 3 times a day.
  • Ice the affected area 1-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes each time.
  • I took ibuprofen per directions for a couple months. I’m not sure I would do this if I had a recurrence.
  • Roll a tennis ball under your arch for a few minutes 2-3 times a day. Over time you’ll feel you need to increase the pressure to get any result. Eventually, you can move on to a golf ball. Do this on a light to medium weight carpet. It does not work well on hard floors as the ball tends to scoot away.
  • I used KT Tape with good success.

As part of both the short and long term:

  • I was told that I needed to learn how to reengage and strengthen your glutes. For a while, I did sidelying hip abductor exercises. Once you start doing the sidelying hip abduction exercise, you’ll be able to feel your glutes when running… practice engaging them. I found it was easiest to do so on slight inclines.
  • Work on your core strength. I did plank circuits.
  • It was also recommended that I work on ankle mobility.

Long Term:

  • GRADUALLY work back to normal support in shoes and amount of shoeless walking.
  • Graduate to more intense core and glute exercises.
  • Eventually, I switched to eccentric calf strengthening. Basically, it’s the same as the stretching, except I started out with two feet together. I’d get on my toes, slowly drop down (2 count), and then raise back up. I started with 3 set of 20 with the sets spaced at least 15 minutes apart if not much longer. You can build up the number in a set to 40 or 50… and then move on to doing single leg raises and drops.

Call for Comments
Have you dealt with plantar fasciitis? If so, how did you approach treatment? How long was your path to recovery?

There are 98 comments

  1. Jamal

    hi all. i had pf in left foot 3 years back from attending a gym (bare foot) for 4 months. i had 6 plus shots. custom built orthotics, i stretch , ice take NSAIDS. its fine if i dont put any stress. But if a walk more than a mile. this sensation starts again. if i try to run. it recurs. i believe plantar fasciitis is a disease that is difficult to happen but when it hits some one. its gona stay for ever. all approaches to resolve it are either temporary or subject to one condition or other. what i mentioned above can help increase quality of life but it can never ever be 100% reversed to what it was b4 this ugly disease.

    1. Rosie

      I have PF at the moment and on the advice of my doctor am seeing a podiatrist. I have been told never ever ice the injury as it stops the blood flow needed for healing and as there isn’t a lot of blood flow in the area to begin with so use heat bags. I’ve also been told to soak my foot in warm water with iodised salt added. I’m not sure why iodised salt but will be asking at my next visit. Along with the exercises mentioned I’ve noticed a huge improvement in just a week. I am treating both feet just as a precautionary measure and I figure why not. Oh and keep a ball or a jar next to the bed to stretch your foot before placing weight on it. I also use a cream for bruises and nurofen gel on top of that.

      1. Julia

        Rosie,
        Hello, I’ve had plantar fasciitis for over a year without really being aggressive in treating it until the last couple months as it has gotten worse.
        So yours is getting better from soaking your foot?
        I just started wearing a boot at night and started a new series of stretches a week ago, but haven’t noticed a change in pain.
        The icing does help when my feet are in pain as it does seem to numb them :).
        How often do you stretch a day, soak your feet and anything else?

        1. Julia

          Also, when I roll a tennis ball under my foot or put a band around the bottom of my foot and pull forward while sitting down I don’t really feel much, do you? So it makes me not feel like doing these things. I was also told to pick up marbles with my toes which I do, but doesn’t seem to do anything.

  2. Andyboxing

    PF is a nasty condition, I got rid of mine within a year by massaging ,rotating stretching the feet in morning before they touch the floor. Then using an exercise band sit with my back against the wall with legs stretched out and apply the band (or towel) to the balls of the feet and pull the feet towards you so much it pulls the leg off the floor,hold 30 seconds repeat 3 times at least. Do this at least 3 times a day, this takes the tension and stretches the calf muscles. Not forgetting to throw all old footwear away and get supportive shoes and insoles to start with, over time you will be able to wean yourself off them.

  3. Richard

    “Not sure I believe in orthodics. Want to hear more from people who’ve had success with minimalist shoes and alternative medicine.”

    Why not hear more from a doctor? Its crazy the number of people on here that are trying to self-treat based on other peoples conditions – guys, go see a specialist and get their advice! Your PF could have developed for reasons different from someone else’s so treatments will no doubt vary case by case.

    1. Michael

      My doctor recommended “Superfeet” orthotic inserts and I can say that the difference between using/not-using is night and day. Wearing shoes with no insert or walking barefoot is painful but when I put shoes on with these inserts it’s gone. I believe it is a combination of having the proper arch support as well as the padded heel. Too much walking will lead to pain but I go a full day without the severe pain I would have otherwise. They are approx $45 on Amazon but I’ve purchased 4 pairs so I could put them in all of my shoes. Hope that helps.

  4. Peter

    NOT walking barefoot or doing barefoot exercises from our early childhood is what makes our feet weak and prone to PF and other tendon problems. That we need more cushion and support in order to get rid of the problem caused by cushion and support is the only thing the “experts” can tell us at this point. If we keep putting cushions on toddlers’ feet from the day they are born, we shouldn’t be surprised that their feet are brittle like dry twigs. “Experts” also tell us that there is a pill for everything and that we can combat diseases by ingesting more poisons. The “experts” are the product of our sick civilization and they only tell us what can be done within its limits.

  5. Kidron

    I just wanted to say thank you for the tips. I can’t afford to go to a doctor like everyone says I should. So I appreciate first hand perspectives. I am wearing Dr Scholl’s (I think that is the brand) plantar fasciitis support gels in my shoes, and inserting them in shoes that are already cushioned really well. Still hurts, though. I ice it but only usually get the chance to do it once a day instead of 3, due to work and busy schedule. I still run, although slower and with a slight limp. I’m working on it. I have hardwood floors unfortunately so the ball thing might not work although I can try it at work, where I have carpet. Thanks again!

    1. Andrea

      You should absolutely not run through any pain that causes you to change your stride. Limping through your run can significantly change your running mechanics and cause problems in other areas where you over-compensate. You can try a run/walk program to maintain fitness while you heal your PF. As soon as your stride changes, move to a walk. After your first mile you can stop and gently stretch your calves. See if you have tightness in your calves that is causing your PF. If so, you can do upper and lower calf stretches 3-5 times every day after a brief warm-up. PF takes time and patience to heal, but it can be done. If you’re already limping it may take 3-6 months, but running through it will only make it worse.

  6. Stewart smith

    I have had plantar fasciitis for a while now, I’ve been to the hospital who diagnosed it as pf they referee me to the physio which helped and the pain went away but the pain is back now worse than it was when I had plantar fasciitis, does anyone know what it is, I have tried everything and nothing’s working

  7. Tom F

    I have had PF for about a year now. Like others, I’ve tried a lot of recommended exercises. Ice, stretching up against the wall, rolling tennis ball, arch supports in every pain of shoes. The one thing I haven’t tried is to lay off tennis for a while, and that may be next if I cannot get over this.

    I had tennis elbow which was very painful as well. I finally had to quit tennis for 6 months along with a steroid injection. That healed it. I may have to stop tennis again, but this time for PF, because it just won’t go away.

  8. Mathew

    I came up with a nice treatment.. roll a ball wkth you feet to losen up the plantar fascia and then use a infrared lamp wich will heat up the sole or heel.. the infrared light has a warmth that penetrates deep into tissue.. after that roll the ball again with your feet.

  9. Buddy dye

    Ive had pf since 2009!!! I have seen over 4 doctors.. ive had shots, pills, stretches, inserts, boots, braces, you name it! Nothing works any suggestions i am so frustrated, and i stand for a living

    1. Jessica

      I stood for a living until about a year ago. I stretch, wore a boot at night, had shots, roll a ball at my desk, have orthotic slippers, you name it, I did it. Finally had surgery…so far, so good. Mind you I suffered for about 6 years and MRI showed significant damage. I cannot wait to have the other foot done. It is not ideal but I am glad I worked with my doctor and am finally getting some relief.

  10. Mark

    PF.. what a crippling condition. I ice and use a wood Foot massage device I bought at TJ MAX. It looks like golf balls assembled in rows and about 6 rows of these. Vigorous massage on this contraption works along with ice and an infrared light with a vibrating head also helps. Also I use a boot at night.

Post Your Thoughts