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Exercises for Heel Pain or Tightness


Tight calf muscles can cause heel pain or make it worse. You may be able to help relieve heel pain by:

  • Stretching tight calf muscles with exercises such as standing calf stretches.
  • Doing foot-strengthening exercises with a towel and weights. Towel scrunches are one example.
  • Doing foot-stretching exercises with a towel. For example, try seated calf stretches.

Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about which stretches are right for you.

How to do the exercises

Calf stretch (back knee straight)

slide 1 of 3
slide 1 of 3, Calf stretch (back knee straight),
  1. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall. You can also do this with your hands on the back of a chair, a counter, or a tree.
  2. Put one leg about a step behind your other leg, with your toes pointing forward.
  3. Keeping your back leg straight and your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee and gently bring your hip and chest toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.

Towel scrunch

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slide 2 of 3, Towel scrunch,
  1. Sit in a chair, and place your affected foot on a towel on a hard floor (not a floor with carpet).
  2. Scrunch the towel toward you with your toes. Then use your toes to push the towel back into place.
  3. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  4. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other foot.

Make this exercise more challenging by placing a weighted object, such as a soup can, on the other end of the towel.

Calf stretch (seated, knee straight)

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slide 3 of 3, Calf stretch (seated, knee straight),
  1. Sit on the floor with your affected leg straight and resting on the floor.
  2. Place a towel around your affected foot.
  3. Hold one end of the towel in each hand.
  4. Pull back gently with the towel so that you feel a stretch in your calf.
  5. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  7. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other leg.


Current as of: July 17, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


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