Injury resources
Get the App
6 min

Plantar fascia strengthening - Calf raises for plantar fasciitis

Learn why the calf raises exercise is one of the best strengthening exercises for the plantar fascia and how they help plantar fasciitis.
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer
Apr 17, 2024
Medically reviewed by
Maryke Louw
Calf raises is one of the best exercises to strengthen your plantar fascia and help you recover from plantar fasciitis. Here's how to use them.

People commonly use stretches to help them recover from plantar fasciitis. But one often overlooked component of treatment is plantar fascia strengthening.

Many people fear that exercising their foot and plantar fascia will cause more pain or worsen their injury.

However, research shows that strengthening your plantar fascia may help ease your pain and improve your function quicker than stretching. It can also help prevent re-injury.

Strengthening exercises help reduce plantar fasciitis pain and prevent it from recurring.
Strengthening exercises help reduce plantar fasciitis pain and prevent it from recurring.

The best type of strengthening exercises for your plantar fascia

What the science says

Type 1 collagen fibers are connective tissue fibers that make up your plantar fascia. Studies have found that high-load strengthening exercises stimulate collagen production in injured tissues.

Researchers have also found that progressive high-load strengthening programs can help restore your plantar fascia to health quicker than stretching (within 3 months). A progressive program starts with easy low-load exercises and slowly builds in intensity and load as the tissue strengthens.

The best type of high-load exercise for the plantar fascia is calf raises. They are versatile and can be adapted to increase or decrease the load as needed.

How to strengthen your plantar fascia

Before we provide instructions on how to do specific plantar fascia exercises, we recommend these guidelines...
Don't start too soon!
Initially, it would be best to let your symptoms settle down and reduce the load on your plantar fascia. If you start strengthening exercises too early, they can make your pain feel worse. Gentle stretches or ice massage are often more helpful in the first week or two.
Start at the right level for your injury
It's crucial that the exercises you start with match your plantar fascia's current strength and sensitivity. If you start at a too difficult level or load your plantar fascia more than it can cope with, your pain will likely worsen.
Choose calf raises that suit your body
Some researchers suggest placing a rolled-up towel under your toes while doing the exercises. The rationale is that pushing your toes up places more tension on your plantar fascia — further loading and strengthening it. However, the evidence to support this isn't robust, and in our experience, this position may irritate your toes. Regular calf raise exercises work just as well and are less likely to irritate the foot.
Pain with plantar fascia exercises
It may be slightly uncomfortable while you are doing the exercises. However, there should be no significant increase in your pain after doing the exercises or in the 24 hours following them. If you experience more pain the next day, reducing your repetitions or choosing an easier version of calf raises is best.

Fortunately, the Exakt Health app helps you know what exercises to do, when to start, and when to progress to the next ones. So, you never have to guess, and you can be confident that you won’t worsen your condition.

Plantar fasciitis icon
Start your Plantar Fasciitis recovery today!
Download the app
Man using the Exakt Health app to rehab his plantar fasciitis

Plantar fascia strengthening exercises

These are examples of how you can adapt your calf raise exercises to suit your plantar fascia's stage of healing and progress the load over time. There are many other variations that you can use to incrementally build strength in each stage and safely transition to the next.

Calf raises for early plantar fasciitis rehab

If your plantar fascia is very sensitive, start with only a few repetitions and build from there, or start with calf raises in sitting.

Calf raises for mid-stage plantar fasciitis rehab

Whenever you switch to a higher-load or more complex type of calf raise, ease into it with a reduced number of repetitions and observe how your foot responds.

Calf raises for late rehab

This is the time to build proper high-load strength. Still, don't increase the weights too quickly — only add to it once it feels super easy.

Final rehab - Sports-specific exercises

Suppose you're looking to get back to running or jumping sports. In that case, you must include exercises that rapidly load your plantar fascia in the final rehab stages — for instance, hopping or jumping.

These exercises mimic the loads you will experience while running and jumping. They ensure that your plantar fascia has the strength you need before you start your sport, limiting the risk of re-injury.

The Exakt Health app guides you through the rehab process step by step. It provides straightforward advice on when to progress, maintain, or take your exercises back a level — helping to minimize flare-ups and keep you on track with your recovery.

Plantar fasciitis icon
Get your evidence-based rehab plan for Plantar Fasciitis!
Download the app
Woman using the Exakt Health app exercise plan for her plantar fasciitis.

Why does strengthening help your plantar fascia?

Load vs. capacity

When you stand, walk, run, or jump, your plantar fascia needs to be strong enough to withstand the forces (load) passing through it.

When you load your plantar fascia with more than it can tolerate (beyond its capacity), it becomes injured, inflamed, and sore.

If this is a once-off situation, and you rest it properly, it will heal, and you will feel better within a few days to weeks.

However, if you overload it repeatedly and don’t give it a chance to recover between each injury, the plantar fascia starts to develop changes in its structure.

Plantar fasciitis causes your plantar fascia to lose strength, making it less resilient and easier to strain.
Plantar fasciitis causes your plantar fascia to lose strength, making it less resilient and easier to strain.

How structural changes affect your plantar fascia's strength

If you continue to aggravate your injury over a long period, the connective tissue fibers change. Eventually, the plantar fascia loses its smooth and organized structure and, as a result, also some of its strength.

Over time, the plantar fascia begins to behave and respond to stress and strain more like tendinopathy. And, instead of tissue inflammation causing most of your symptoms, the loss of tissue strength causes the majority of your symptoms.

When your plantar fascia loses some of its strength, it is less resilient. And it can’t take on the same loads as before, meaning smaller loads can injure it and make it flare up easily.

It explains why you may experience worsening plantar fasciitis symptoms over time. And why it may seem like even light, everyday activities can set the pain off.

When the plantar fascia is injured, even light activities like walking can cause it to hurt.
When the plantar fascia is injured, even light activities like walking can cause it to hurt.

Can calf raises cause plantar fasciitis?

Yes, calf raises can cause plantar fasciitis if you do them without shoes or increase the weight or number of repetitions too quickly. This is why we advise that you always wear shoes when doing your calf raises and don't rush to progress.

More about plantar fasciitis


Plantar fasciitis can be tricky to manage because it has so many different causes. Getting an early diagnosis and starting proper treatment at the right time is key.

If you’ve left it a little late, don’t worry! The most important thing is to get started. The sooner you start, the better.

One of the best ways to help you recover is a well-structured, progressive strengthening program.

Exakt Health is here to help. The app takes you through the plantar fascia rehabilitation program step by step, adjusting the intensity according to your feedback and stage of healing.

Plantar fasciitis icon
Start your Plantar Fasciitis rehab plan today!
Download the app
Woman using the exercises in the Exakt Health app to recover from plantar fasciitis.
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer is a freelance healthcare writer and digital content strategist for healthcare businesses and medical content agencies. She has a BSc in Physiotherapy and worked as a physiotherapist for more than 14 years, specialising in sports injury rehabilitation, chronic pain management, and women's health. Kim combines her clinical experience and digital marketing skills to create relevant and helpful content that improves patients' lives.
More about plantar fasciitis
Email icon
Stay up to date with our newsletter
Subscribe to newsletter
Runners looking at their phone, reading the Exakt Health newsletter
More about plantar fasciitis