Whether you are an active runner, weekend warrior, or just suffering from occasional heel pain, stretching is often key to keeping pain free. Over the past few years the Austin Runner’s and Heel Pain Blog and the Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists Bloghave amassed a long list of articles helping you to avoid heel pain and other foot and ankle related problems. One theme that has cut across most of these blogs is stretching and strengthening without getting into the details……so, here are the stretches we recommend to keep your heels happy. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat 3 times.
- Wall stretch: Also typically called the runner’s stretch, this may be a familiar one for many of you. It is a great stretch for your calf muscles. You begin by standing a few feet away from a wall and stepping forward with on leg, keeping it bent. Place your hands on the wall for support and push the heel of the foot that is behind to you to the floor while keeping the leg straight. You should feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg. Switch legs after completing one side.
- Heel drop: This stretch is great for both the Achilles and plantar fascia. Find yourself a set of stairs and hold onto the rail for safety. With both feet on the step, inch back until only your toes or balls of your feet are on the step. Slowly allow your heels to lower below the step until you feel the stretch. Only do this with one leg at a time, allowing the other foot to stay completely on the stair, if your muscles and tendons are especially tight as it allows better control.
- Towel stretch/toe stretch: The classic stretch we all remember from gym class may not be as easy to perform as it was in our youth. If you have the flexibility, you can reach out to touch your toes while seated to stretch your Achilles and hamstrings. The use of a towel around the balls of your feet allows you stretch your plantar fascia as well as the other groups. Additionally, the use of a towel can help your stretch your legs without putting too much stress on your back.