Unconventional yet effective exercise for plantar fasciitis

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Plantar Fasciitis relief

Plantar fasciitis affects both men and women. However, it is most often seen in active baby boomer men aged 50 - 70. According to podiatrists, it is most frequently diagnosed ailment pertaining to the foot. Falsely thought of as being caused by a heel spur, that is not always the case. In reality, heel spurs are diagnosed both with and without plantar fasciitis. If you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, or suspect that you have it, you have probably already tried treatments such as changing shoes, inserted heel cups and taken ibuprofen. But have you thought about using a golf ball? If you have not, it may be time that you gave it a try.

You will know it if you have plantar fasciitis. The most common complaint is pain in the bottom of your heel. It can be dull and nagging; however more often it is very sharp. Imagine stepping on a child’s Lego block on a wooden floor in your bare feet. The thought brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it? Well that is how thousands of people feel with every step. Ouch!

This disorder occurs when the plantar fascia in the sole of your foot becomes tight. As tension increases, tiny tears form. The more tearing that occurs, the more inflammation will be seen. This cycle of tension, tearing and inflammation results in the classic heel pain. If untreated, plantar fasciitis can keep you from staying active. That can lead to weight gain and a plethora of health issues. It can also cause back, knee and hip misalignment due to compensation from trying to walk without stepping on your heel.

Symptoms and aggravators

  • Most often worse in the morning when you take your first steps
  • It can be aggravated by standing or sitting long periods
  • Can get worse after climbing stairs
  • Is exacerbated by intense activity


Risk factors

  • Foot arch problems (both high arches and flat feet)
  • Long-distance running, especially running on uneven surfaces
  • Sudden weight gain or obesity
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Shoes with poor arch support or soft flat soles
  • Diabetes and arthritis can also inflame tendons

Common treatments

  • Pain relievers such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
  • Night splints to wear at night
  • Resting whenever possible
  • Wearing shoes with adequate support and cushioning
  • Ice application to the area twice a day for 10 - 15 minutes
  • Wearing a heel cup or shoe inserts (orthotics)
  • Steroid injections into the heel
  • Gentle stretching of the plantar region

Use of a golf ball for stretching
This is possibly one of the most unconventional yet effective exercises for plantar fasciitis. It involves using a golf ball to massage the bottom of the foot. It helps reduce inflammation by stimulating blood flow in the bottom of your foot. At the same time it gently breaks up the scar tissue that develops over time. The exercise is performed by placing the bottom of the foot on top of the golf ball and gently rolling the ball back and forth or small semi circles around the instep. This can be done while seated or standing while leaning against a wall. The exercise can be performed for up to one minute at a time followed by a period of rest. It can be then be repeated to maximize the relaxation effect. I keep a golf ball at my desk and take it out several times a day and run my stocking foot over it. It truly is the pause that refreshes.

Take home message
If you notice your heel pain doesn't go away after a short period of time, go see your doctor. It is possible that additional therapy is in order. In the words of Dr Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” Take care of your feet and they will take care of you.

U.S. National Library of Medicine