Beat Plantar Pain

Need to save a sole in distress? Massaging your legs may soothe a sore plantar fascia - the band of tissue that runs along the sole of your foot.

"The plantar shares an attachment site with your calf muscles in the calcaneus [heel] bone," explains sports therapist Sophie Vowden, "so tight knots in the calves can pull on the calcaneus, subsequently pulling on the plantar."

In a 60-strong study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy, subjects undertook the following regime to soothe the pain.

Picture credit: Nucleus Medical Art, Inc./ Getty Images

Basic Stretches

Participants did these four times a week for four weeks. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat four times.

Plantar Fascia Stretch

Sit with knees bent, one on the floor and one pointing up. Holding under your big toe, pull your foot towards your shin; you can then massage the plantar fascia. Make sure you "massage towards the heel to avoid aggravating the fibres", says Jimmy Michael, director of the Osteon Clinic, London (osteon.co.uk).

Step Stretch

Stand on a step, legs straight, with the balls of your feet positioned on the back edge. Let your heels drop down, feeling the stretch in your achilles tendon. Repeat with your legs slightly bent to work the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. 

Gastrocnemius Stretch

Stand facing a wall, then put your hands against it at eye level. Move one leg back with your heel on the floor and foot turned slightly inwards. Keep that leg straight as you slowly lean forward. Repeat with the other leg. 

Soleus Stretch

Repeat the gastrocnemius stretch, but this time bend the back leg as well as
the front one, keeping the back heel pressed to the floor. This stretches the smaller soleus muscle underneath the bulkier gastrocnemius.

Myofascial Trigger Point Manual Therapy

Half the participants also used this therapy and reported less pain and greater improvement in physical function than the stretches-only group. Try it twice a week.

Pressure Release Technique

The trigger point that causes plantar pain is usually found on the inner side of the meatiest part of your calf. Sit resting your foot on the opposite knee and apply pressure with your thumbs around the area until you find a knot or tight spot. Hold the pressure there for 90 seconds, draw thumbs apart five centimetres to release the pressure, then repeat three times. This should relieve the tightness. Visit tinyurl.com/5sezarb
for a video on how to do this.

Neuromuscular Technique

The trigger point refers pain to your foot by way of a taut band - a tense bunch of muscle fibres down the inside of your calf. Sit resting your foot on the opposite knee, with the thumb of your opposite hand on the base of the taut band at your ankle. Put the palm of your other hand flat against your ankle, fingers curled around. Push down with your thumb and slowly stroke it upwards, following it with your other hand. Repeat three times. See the video at tinyurl.com/3ksqbst.