If you’re dealing with pain due to heel spurs, you probably want to know how to make it better. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments you can do at home, including exercises and stretches.
In this article, we’ll focus on the stretches and PT exercises you can do to relieve heel pain and get your heel back to feeling 100 percent.
If you do some of these exercises every day, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
What are Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs are bony growths that develop around your heel bone, which makes sense given the name. They often begin at the front of your heel bone and point toward your arch.
Heel spurs are calcium deposits that have built up over a long period of time. Typically, they are related to issues like poorly fitting shoes or strains in your foot muscles and ligaments. Although you may experience pain from heel spurs, that isn’t always the case.
While you can manage heel pain just by resting your feet, taking anti-inflammatory medication, or wearing orthotics, a good option is to also strengthen your heels with stretching and exercises.
One of the reasons you might be experiencing pain is because you haven’t put your calves through a full range of motion on a regular basis.
It’s important to start stretching them so that all of the muscle is getting used.
What Are Exercises and Stretches I Can Do For Heel Spurs?
If you’re not sure what exercises or stretches to do to help alleviate your heel pain, read on!
We have several different options you can try to figure out the best ones for you. Since there are seven, you may even want to do a different one for each day of the week.
Calf Stretch on Step
If you’re looking for a more challenging stretch, this exercise is a good option. It’s not a good idea, though, if you’re a bit unstable on your feet.
Simply stand on a step and ensure that the heel of your foot (or the heels of your feet) are off the edge of the step.
Gently drop your heel down and put as much weight as you can on your leg(s). You might want to consider holding onto the railing or another object to ensure that you maintain your balance.
It is harder to do both feet than just one, so it’s probably a good idea to start with just one foot.
Try to hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat roughly three times for each leg. Make sure that you don’t bounce as you complete this stretch. It should be nice and gentle.
Wall Calf Stretch
This is your basic calf stretch. Because it stretches both your calves and Achilles tendons, it can be a great option if you’re dealing with other pain in addition to heel spurs.
You can do this exercise three times a day, five days a week if you wish.
To begin, start by facing an empty wall and place your hands at roughly eye level. Step forward with the leg that doesn’t hurt (or doesn’t hurt as much) and bend that front knee forward, keeping your back heel on the ground.
Try not to let your knee go past your toes and stop when you feel a stretch in your back leg. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and then switch to the other side if needed. Feel free to repeat 2-4 times.
If you want to work different parts of your calf muscles, bend your back knee just a little bit and complete the exercise as opposed to keeping that back leg straight.
This is a helpful variation on the standard wall calf stretch.
Toe Towel Grab
If you prefer to be seated for stretching, this is a good option.
Begin by sitting on the floor with your feet stretched out and have a towel, resistance band, or yoga strap nearby. Grab the towel and make a u-shape with it around one foot.
Make sure that you can hold onto both sides about equally and then gently pull your toes toward you, stopping when you feel a stretch in your calf. Make sure that you do this slowly so that you don’t hurt yourself. Then repeat on the other side.
This stretch is particularly helpful if you’re really tight in your calves or hamstrings and you want to loosen up these muscles to alleviate pain in your heels.
Golf Ball Roll Stretch
Another great way to exercise your muscles is to roll items underneath your feet.
One option is to roll a water bottle, pop can, golf ball, or foam roller back and forth on the bottom of your foot. Try to put even pressure on your foot from the heel to the arch to the ball.
It’s especially good to freeze a water bottle or golf ball because this will help with inflammation.
Just make sure that you stretch your foot a little bit first and don’t immediately put the ice-cold item underneath your feet.
You can also do towel curls to exercise the bottom of your feet by sitting down and placing your foot on your towel.
Use your toes and foot to bring the towel toward you and then push it away from you. Repeat with the other foot.
If you want to make this exercise a little more challenging, you can put an object like a book or a soup can on the other end to give you some resistance.
Walking the Dog
Start in the downward dog yoga position where you make a triangle with your body with your hands out in front of you. For the traditional downward dog, you would just stay in that position and hold with your feet flat on the ground.
As the name “Walking the Dog” suggests, you will begin walking, moving your feet up and down. This exercise will stretch your hamstrings, calves, and arches, which will all be beneficial in alleviating heel pain.
This stretch is very simple, but effective.
Simply stand with your feet firmly on the ground and then raise your heels as high as you can without stretching too much. Repeat this (up and down) 10 times.
Because this is a quick exercise, you might consider doing it right when you wake up in the morning before getting up and moving around because it will stretch the plantar fascia, which can help with your heel pain.
How Often Should I Do These Exercises?
The answer to this question really depends on you.
It’s probably a good idea to do a couple of exercises once a day, but you could also do just one exercise per day. Figure out what exercises work for you and do those.
Is It Possible to Do Too Many of These Stretches and Exercises?
Obviously, be reasonable about how much you’re exercising.
You shouldn’t be doing all of these exercises 2-3 times a day.
Pick a couple of exercises to do each day and consider doing them in the morning and the evening. Remember you don’t have to do them all at once.
What are Other Tips to Manage Heel Pain?
One of the best things you can do to help alleviate foot pain is to make sure that you’re wearing the proper shoes for heel spurs. Anything that is too narrow or tight will just make heel pain worse. This is especially true if you’re a female who wears high heels.
If you need to get a new pair of shoes that will be wider, has more room in the toe, and/or has less of a heel, do that. You may also want to consider getting over-the-counter inserts or custom orthotics or purchasing shoes that will provide more support.
Also, be careful as you start to resume your previous exercise routine and ease back into activity and exercise. Be sure to elevate your foot when you can and try to stay off your feet as much as possible to give your heels time to relax and rest.
In the end, heel pain—or really any kind of pain—is never comfortable, but there are ways to make it better. Incorporating some of these exercises and stretches into your daily routine will help relieve your heel pain and get you to feeling better!