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Treating plantar fascitis caused by minimal shoes

Five treatments for plantar fascitis caused by minimal shoes are: arch massage, toe yoga, first toe stretch, towel scrunches and standing calf stretches against a wall.

Although minimalist shoes are healthier and provide all the support you might need, many of our clients gravitate to thick soled orthotic shoes and are surprised to learn that they should have gone minimal, not maximal, to reduce and avoid foot and leg pain.

We often see physical therapy clients experience an increase in pain in the arch of their foot when they change to new or different shoes. The clients are in pain and make an appointment when the pain impedes running, walking, or even exercising all together. Our clients commonly invest in orthotics as a last ditch effort to stem the pain, purchasing inserts or special shoes that provide increased cushioning and arch support due to this pain. The shoe industry and parts of the medical field are built around telling people they need to get more stuff, bigger arch supports, directional shoes…the list goes on. It becomes an insidious problem until the client finally seeks professional help from a physical therapist.

The primary tissue affected by shoe choice are the plantar fascia. Plantar fascia tissue extends from the balls of our feet to our heel and helps support the arch in our foot. It is a common source of arch and foot pain that is typically felt at the bottom of the foot, specifically at the heel. Often people feel the pain more in the morning due to relative immobility overnight causing increased stiffness of the tissue.

Because minimalist shoes don’t have added arch support like other more traditional shoes, minimalist shoes allow for more mobility within the foot and increased tension on the plantar fascia. In contrast, traditional shoes weaken feet and cause more pain because they don’t require mobility and strength within the foot.

Four exercises to reduce pain from plantar fasciitis and feel confident trying out minimalist shoes.


  1. Arch massage: Use a lacrosse ball or frozen plastic water bottle. While seated place your foot on top of your lacrosse ball or water bottle. Roll your foot over the item at a pressure you find tolerable to provide massage from the balls of your feet to your heel.


  1. Toe yoga: While seated keeping both feet flat on the ground lift just your big toes and hold for 5 seconds. Lower your big toes then lift all your smaller toes and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this cycle 10 times.


  1. First toe stretch: while seated with your ankle crossed on your knee hold your foot with one hand. Use your other hand to stretch your big toe by extending it backward and curling it forward 10 times each. Perform this 3 times on each foot. Make sure to keep your foot fully relaxed to whole time and perform the toe movement with your hand.


  1. Towel scrunches: Place a bath towel in front of you. While seated use your toes to grab the bath towel and pull it towards you until you reach the end. Perform this 3 times per foot


  1. Calf Stretch Stand facing a wall with one leg behind you. Keeping your back leg fully straight and the toes of your back foot pointed towards the wall and firmly on the ground lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back foot. Ensure you keep your heel on the ground the whole time. Hold this position for 30 seconds and switch sides. Perform for a total of 1.5-2 min on each side


If the exercises above have not provided any relief or you have had foot pain for over two weeks, it’s time to give us a call to setup an appointment, or schedule through our website. Either our office in downtown Washington, DC between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square, or at our office in Navy Yard and Capitol Riverfront, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill DC has the best area physical therapists who are capable of getting you on the track to recovery.

One-on-one appointments at Rose are about one-hour with a physical therapist, never a technician. And Rose Physical Therapy in Washington, DC accepts most private health insurance so that the best physical therapy is also affordable for you based on your insurance plan.