This story originally appeared in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Pointe.
Until recently, stretching was thought to be one of the best ways to counter plantar fasciitis, or heel pain caused when connective tissue under the foot becomes irritated. Just mention the condition and ballet dancers are likely to groan, since it often develops as a result of tension placed on the plantar fascia when repetitively landing jumps and rolling down from relevés.
Now, new research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports singled out one specific exercise as possibly more effective than stretching. In the study, one group did a stretching regimen of pulling the toes toward the shins for 10 reps, three times per day. Only after one year of stretching did most participants find pain relief in their heels. However, the group who did the following exercise regularly reported less pain after only three months.
1. Stand on one foot on a stair or sturdy box, with the heel of the affected foot extending off the back edge and the toes resting on a rolled-up towel. Let the other leg dangle freely with a slight bend at the knee.
2. Take 3 seconds to relevé the standing foot.
3. Hold for 2 seconds at the height of the relevé.