Books and Towels: Relief for Plantar Fasciitis?

Let’s talk about feet. Or, more precisely, heels.

In my client pool, I work with a group of former runners, most of whom were sidelined by a shared culprit: plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a type of chronic pain, often starting with a stabbing pain at the heel with the first, barefoot step out of bed. PF can progress from a tightening of the plantar fascia, to irritation, scarring and degeneration of the collagen around the heel, and, at times, bone spurs. One of my clients described it as “the Devil’s brutal morning bite.”

As a massage therapist, I have no silver bullet for plantar fasciitis. Most of my PF-specific work focuses on releasing the posterior calf muscles: gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior. If that group, and the encasing fascia can relax, the calcaneal tendon will lengthen, and the plantar fascia won’t be pulled so damn tight. I also do work at the plantar fasciia, and the supporting musculature of the lower leg. There’s other factors to consider: gait, hip alignment, pronation, training volume, and muscular imbalances can contribute to developing plantar fasciitis. In the past, I’ve suggested that my clients stretch their calf by pulling their toes towards their shins or change their footwear. But things might be changing, with a single exercise, involving my most beloved objects– books and towels.

… the new study, published in August in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, finds that a single exercise could be even more effective. It requires standing barefoot on the affected leg on a stair or box, with a rolled-up towel resting beneath the toes of the sore foot and the heel extending over the edge of the stair or box. The unaffected leg should hang free, bent slightly at the knee.

Then slowly raise and lower the affected heel to a count of three seconds up, two seconds at the top and three seconds down. In the study, once participants could complete 12 repetitions fairly easily, volunteers donned a backpack stuffed with books to add weight. The volunteers performed eight to 12 repetitions of the exercise every other day.

Other volunteers completed a standard plantar fasciitis stretching regimen, in which they pulled their toes toward their shins 10 times, three times a day.

After three months, those in the exercise group reported vast improvements.

 – Gretchen Reynolds, “Ask Well” – New York Times

You can check out the rest of the article here: After doing so, I yelled, “Books and towels!” at my computer in appreciation. While I have some skepticism, I’m more enthusiastic about a strengthening exercise than increasing pain medication. Towels and books are a hell of a lot cheaper (and less invasive) than cortisone injections.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s