I'm a Yoga Instructor, and These 5 Stretches Relieved My Plantar Fasciitis Pain From Running

Oct 14 2020 - 3:23pm

I dealt with the pain of plantar fasciitis [1], which is inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament that runs from the toe to the heel, causing pain and stifness, back in the spring of 2019 when the warmer weather inspired me to start running more. The physical therapist I saw recommended some exercises to help heal, but to be honest, they didn't work. The only thing that helped was taking a break from any type of running or jumping in my CrossFit classes.

Fast forward to spring 2020 and when my CrossFit gym had to close because of the pandemic, the warmer weather once again inspired me to run outside [2] — it was essential for my mental health. I knew I had to take it slow in order to prevent my plantar fasciitis from flaring up, but unfortunately after that first week, I was back in pain, and even walking from the bed to the bathroom was excruciating.

As a yoga instructor, I knew thorough and consistent (that was the key!) stretching would help relieve the pain, so I made a point to take a few minutes after every run to do these five poses — and they weren't just for my feet! That's because Erin Adams, DPT, physical therapist and certified manual trigger-point therapist from Fit 2 Perform [3] said, "Stretching is very important in the healing process, and not just stretching the area of pain. Because, in fact, sometimes stretching the bottom of the foot in the initial acute stages could actually exacerbate the pain. You must stretch and open up the whole leg chain: toes, foot, ankle, lower leg, and even the hip."

Adams recommended these stretches be done multiple times a day and held for shorter, more manageable amounts of time to avoid causing more trauma to the area. For example, do three sets of 20-second holds in the beginning stages of injury before progressing to tolerating one- or even two-minute holds weeks or months later when the pain has lessened. To be honest, I only did these once a day after running, and sometimes before bed if I felt especially tight.

Six months later, I've been running five to seven miles, four to five days a week, and I have very minimal pain thanks to these five stretches. If you suffer from this common running injury, don't poo-poo stretching! It worked for me, and I'm so grateful I can still run. If your plantar fasciitis is causing you pain and running isn't possible, Adams suggested meeting with an experienced physical therapist to get help.

Extended Wide Squat

Purpose of this stretch: I like to start with this relaxing stretch because it helps open both my hips at once as well as my lower back. I feel like when my hips or lower back are tight, the tightness just travels down my legs. When I lean my torso forward in this stretch, I like to focus on pressing my heels down to stretch the backs of my ankles and the bottom of my calves. I also love doing this while brushing my teeth before my early morning run.

Runner's Lunge

Purpose of this stretch: While this is a great stretch for releasing tension in my hip flexors (especially my psoas muscle), I love pressing the heel of my straight leg back to stretch one arch of my foot at a time. This is a great stretch to get the calves warmed up before Down Dog (which is the next stretch I do).

Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog

Purpose of this stretch: I love stretching my feet and calves in Down Dog, Three-Legged Dog, and Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog because I can focus on one side at a time.

Toe Breaker Pose

Purpose of this stretch: Many of my yoga students are runners, so I always include Toe Breaker pose in the sequencing. It's the ultimate stretch for the arches of the feet, but also stretches the front of the thighs. This stretch is intense!

Seated Heart-Opener

Purpose of this stretch: While this simple and relaxing backbend opens the chest, neck, shoulders, and abs, I also love this stretch for my shins and the front of my feet.

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