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Some of the best exercises for heel pain involve increasing the flexibility of tight muscles. Stretching the plantar fascia, which is found on the bottom of the foot, for example, can relieve tension in the heel and reduce discomfort. Other exercises for heel pain include stretching the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and hamstrings.
The best exercises for heel pain depend on the specific condition. Pain in the heel is often caused by tight muscles, however, so stretching is nearly always important. Flexibility exercises should always be pain free and usually need to be repeated regularly throughout the day. Muscles will quickly return to their shortened state if the exercises are performed infrequently. In most cases, a stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds and repeated several times.
One of the most common causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis; this is a condition involving inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot. There are a number of exercises for heel pain that can address this condition including actively stretching the plantar fascia tissue, especially in the morning when it is at its tightest. To stretch, put a towel around the ball of the foot and pull upward while keeping the knee straight.
Stretching the two main calf muscles, which attach to the Achilles tendon, is also sometimes important in reducing heel pain. To stretch the first of these muscles, the patient should stand with his or her foot up against a wall and knee straight. The hips should slowly be pushed forward until a stretch is felt along the calf. To stretch the other calf muscle, the same exercise should be repeated but with the knee bent.
Another of the many exercises for heel pain involves stretching the Achilles tendon. This can be achieved by standing on a step with the heels hanging over the edge. Relaxing the lower limb, the heels should slowly be dropped until a stretch is felt along the back of the lower leg.
It is also important to stretch other parts of the leg, especially the hamstrings. These muscles are found along the back of the thigh and are commonly tight in athletes. The muscles can be stretched by putting one leg in front of the other and bending the back knee while leaning back. A strong but comfortable stretch should be felt along the back of the thigh. The quadriceps muscles, found at the front of the thigh, should also be stretched regularly.