5 Massages For Healing Plantar Fasciitis Pain At Home

Kaitlyn Feldvari

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that will ultimately affect 1 in 10 people during their lifetime. While the condition can be especially bothersome for professional athletes, the rest of us aren’t immune to the many physical stressors we face in everyday life. 

While there are many treatments, it’s often a long-term battle.

In this article, we’ll show you step by step how to heal your pain at home with a plantar fasciitis massage.

How massage can help plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the more common causes of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis occurs due to inflammation of the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot known as the plantar fascia and frequently involves pain in the arch or heel of your foot and many times both.

Thankfully, massage done consistently has been proven to help relieve symptoms of plantar fasciitis. It helps by increasing blood flow to the area, and thus recovery.

Your goal is to soften and shorten the plantar fascia to increase blood flow to the area. If you can increase the flow of nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood, you’re creating a healthy environment to slow or even stop tissue degradation.”

Doug Nelson, licensed massage therapist in Champaign, Illinois, and founder/president of Precision NMT seminars

A study by SA Health found that “cross friction massage of the plantar fascia and stretching of the gastrocsoleus complex showed the greatest overall improvement in terms of reducing the pain and disability.”

For best results, it’s recommended to massage your feet twice a day, but one massage is better than none. That said, the best massage routines aren’t massage alone, and podiatrists agree—stretching in addition to your massage routine can help further reduce pain and improve overall mobility. 

Just as you need to go to the gym and eat healthy more than once to start seeing results, regular massage is crucial for best results.  

5 massages for alleviating plantar fasciitis pain at home 

Here are 5 massages you can do at home. 

1. Scraping along the plantar fascia 

Earlier we mentioned that increasing blood flow to the plantar fascia is crucial to recovery. Healthy blood flow means more nutrients are being delivered for faster recovery. Scraping has been shown to increase blood flow by 4x, making it your best option compared to manual hand massages.

The reason it works so well is because of the refined scraping edge. It’s much more pointed than your fingers, but not so pointed that it becomes sharp and leaves lasting damage. This is also evidenced by the petechiae (bright red spots) that often form when scraping. Note that it doesn’t and shouldn’t hurt!

Scraping is unlike any other recovery tool. The bright red spots (known as petechiae) that occur during scraping is an indication that scraping is completely different to other recovery techniques. Note: These subside within 48-72 hours and do not hurt!

If you’re looking to supercharge your massage efforts for plantar fasciitis using a muscle scraper, the Eclipse from Sidekick can help further aid in recovery. 

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Apply a small amount of lubricant to your foot (Sidekick’s purchases each come with an emollient gel or spray).
  2. Use your Eclipse Muscle Scraper along the plantar fascia of your foot. 
  3. Perform this motion for 20-30 seconds. 
  4. For any areas you find particularly tense or sore, you can hone in on these areas for a little longer. 

If you don’t have a muscle scraper, here are some exercises you can use with just your hands. Note that these may not be as effective given that they don’t increase blood flow as well as a muscle scraper.

2. Thumb presses 

Special thanks to Dr. Mecca Fayad of Form Health for her help in creating this video!

One of the easier massages to perform, thumb presses are an excellent starting point, particularly on areas that are tender and painful. We don’t recommend going to the point of pain, so keep it light and gentle if necessary.

Steps:

  1. While sitting down, bend your legs, bringing your feet within reach of your hands. 
  2. Starting on the side closest to your big toe, apply pressure from the heel all the way up to your toe with your thumbs in a straight line. Apply just enough pressure to where you ‘feel it’ but not so much to where it hurts. 
  3. Once you’ve reached your big toe, return to the top of your heel and repeat the process for each of your remaining toes. 

3. Thumb pulls 

Special thanks to Dr. Mecca Fayad of Form Health for her help in creating this video!

Similar to thumb presses, thumb pulls (also known as a splay massage) can help further reduce tension in your foot. The areas closer to the heel (specifically at the insertion point of the plantar fascia) will likely be more sensitive, so you can go lighter on those areas. You can add a bit more pressure higher up the foot as those areas are usually less sensitive.

Steps:

  1. Sitting in a similar position as you did for thumb presses, for this massage, you’ll use your thumbs to massage your foot in an outward direction.
  2. Starting in the middle of your foot, put both thumbs together right above your heel. 
  3. Move your thumbs outward from the middle of your foot to the side like you would when opening a bag of chips. 
  4. Continue moving up your foot while performing multiple thumb pulls.
  5. Perform thumb pulls all the way up your foot and repeat for 2-3 minutes.

4. Toe pull stretch 

Special thanks to Dr. Mecca Fayad of Form Health for her help in creating this video!

For those who have plantar fasciitis, the morning is often the time when you’re most stiff and have the highest degree of pain. This technique is perfect in the morning because it’s gentle and gets some small movement in your feet after stiffening throughout the night. 

Steps:

  1. Sit down with both feet extended, as shown below.
  2. Grab your toes and pull them towards your body, holding for 5-10 seconds each time.
  3. If you cannot reach your toes with your legs fully extended, feel free to adjust your leg positioning so that you can comfortably pull your toes towards you with minimal pain. 

5. Ice and heat massage  

Both ice and heat therapy have also been proven to help alleviate symptoms of plantar fasciitis. There is a catch, however. Heat, in some cases, may aggravate the pain for some. In this case, experiment with both ice and heat massage to determine which type of massage is most beneficial for you. 

Steps:

  1. Sit down comfortably in a chair with your bare feet touching the floor.
  2. Place an iced or heated roller ball under your feet.
  3. Move your foot back and forth for 30-60 seconds, applying just enough pressure to where the movement is not overly uncomfortable. 
  4. You can do ice and heat massage separately or together while determining which process is most effective for your specific situation. 

Finding relief for plantar fasciitis with massage 

While having access to massage therapists to aid in recovery can be helpful, the reality is, it’s not always affordable or convenient. We believe in taking control of your recovery as much as possible. By incorporating several of the massage recommendations above, you can help relieve your pain caused by plantar fasciitis at home and tackle your physically demanding day. 

Ultimately, massage is a great way to help manage your pain in conjunction with other treatment options. If you’re looking for more treatment options, make sure to check out our post on the best tools for plantar fasciitis for maximum relief. Plantar fasciitis can be frustrating, but know that lots of people have conquered it and you can too.

Got a massage technique that we missed? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Kaitlyn Feldvari

Kaitlyn Feldvari is a former volleyball athlete, Personal Trainer and holds a BSc in Kinesiology. She is also the Product Manager at Sidekick.

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