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The influence of foot position on stretching of the plantar fascia

updated

Tags: stretch, odd, plantar fasciitis, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, muscle, foot, leg, limbs, pain problems, overuse injury, injury, tendinosis

One article on PainSci cites Flanigan 2007: Complete Guide to Plantar Fasciitis

PainSci summary of Flanigan 2007: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible.

Believe it or not, after DiGiovanni et al’s research — which reported that arch stretching works better than calf stretching for plantar fasciitis — someone actually studied arch stretching using cadavers to confirm that what seems to be the obvious way to stretch the foot arch is in fact the best way. In other words, strong ankle and toe dorsiflexion.

It seems a bit silly, and we may roll our eyes when science goes to great lengths to confirm the obvious, but it’s amazing how often “obvious” things turn out to be wrong. Always good to check.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: A recent study found nonweightbearing stretching exercises specific to the plantar fascia to be superior to the standard program of weightbearing Achilles tendon-stretching exercises in patients with chronic plantar fasciitis. The present study used a cadaver model to demonstrate the influence of foot and ankle position on stretching of the plantar fascia.

METHODS: Twelve fresh-frozen lower-leg specimens were tested in 15 different configurations representing various combinations of ankle and metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint dorsiflexion, midtarsal transverse plane abduction and adduction, and forefoot varus and valgus. Measurements were recorded by a differential variable reluctance transducer (DVRT) implanted into the medial band of the plantar fascia, and primary measurement was a percent deformation of the plantar fascia (stretch) with respect to a reference position (90 degrees ankle dorsiflexion, 0 degrees midtarsal and forefoot orientation, and 0 degrees MTP dorsiflexion).

RESULTS: Ankle and MTP joint dorsiflexion produced a significant increase (14.91%) in stretch compared to the position of either ankle dorsiflexion alone (9.31% increase, p < 0.001) or MTP dorsiflexion alone (7.33% increase, p < 0.01). There was no significant increase in stretch with positions of abduction or varus (2.49%, p = 0.27 and 0.55%, p = 0.79).

CONCLUSION: This study provides a mechanical explanation for enhanced outcomes in recent clinical trials using plantar fascia tissue-specific stretching exercises and lends support to the use of ankle and MTP joint dorsiflexion when employing stretching protocols for nonoperative treatment in patients with chronic proximal plantar fasciitis.

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