Massage Self Treatment for Heel Pain Relief

Massage self treatment for heel pain

We would all like to find a simple and effective self treatment for heel pain. Search the internet and you will find many different recommendations, several of which claim almost immediate relief.

Be aware, however, that there is no guarantee that any one specific treatment will actually cure plantar fasciitis for good.

One point that most experts agree on is that once your foot has been injured and you have felt pain in your heel, immediate action should be taken. Implementing the RICE method is a great place to start. While you are doing that, begin to evaluate potential causes, treatments, and exercises for your ongoing handling of the injury.

Massage Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

Though it may not completely eliminate your heel pain, one type of treatment that may help reduce the pain in the short term is self-massage. Massaging invites additional blood flow to the area of massage, which in turn stimulates the natural healing abilities of our body.

We often tend to neglect those areas of our body that are hurting. Knowing this, it is important to set aside time to massage your feet and/or leg muscles every day.

Continuing to massage after the pain is gone is also an effective means of helping reduce the chance of repeated injury. If you don’t take care of yourself properly, the pain will return, perhaps worse than previously.

The remainder of this post describes three massage techniques for plantar fasciitis pain relief that you can perform on yourself.

Thumb Massage for the Plantar Fascia

The following two-minute video entitled Thumb Massage for Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis was produced by East Coast Physical Therapy. It shows how to use your thumbs to locate and massage specific pain areas near your heel.

Briefly, this is the technique that the video recommends:
1) Use your thumb to locate an area of pain around your heel.
2) Press on that spot with as much pressure as you can stand, but not so hard as to cause significant pain, and massage it with slow, small circles.
3) When the pain is no longer felt in that spot, move your thumb slightly to the left or right and locate another area where you feel pain.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Massage for a total of 5-6 minutes. Skip at least one day in between massages. If you don’t you will most likely cause more pain.

Achilles Tendon and Leg Muscle Massage

This second video, which is six minutes in length, demonstrates massage of muscles in the calf as well as the Achilles tendon. Massaging these areas relieves tension and breaks up adhesions that may reside there. Leg muscle massage helps loosen up the tendon and leg muscles to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on the calcaneus (heel) and plantar fascia.

The technique follows this pattern:
1) Warm-up the muscles first.
2) Once warmed, use the thumb to “pin” the Achilles tendon while moving the foot up and down, with intent to release any adhesions in the tendon.
3) After further warming of the soleus (lower calf) and gastroc (upper calf) muscles, form a V with your thumbs to dig in and massage the tibialis posterior muscle, which is located between the gastrocs in the upper part of the leg.
4) Finally, use a flat thumb pinning technique on the flexor digitorum longus, the muscle running down the leg behind the tibia (shinbone) and across the top of the foot. This muscle controls movement in the smaller four toes.

A final stretch is recommended following the massage. While sitting on the floor, pull your lower leg in toward your body. Once in that position, cup your hands under the ball of your foot and pull the foot upward. Repeat this motion 10-12 times.

Raining Faith Sport Massage developed the following video. It is entitled Self-Massage for Plantar Fascia Pain.

Calf – Tendon – Fascia Self-Massage

In Self Massage for Plantar Fasciitis, Dr. Bruce Mandelbaum, who works with Olympic athletes in his practice, explains how you can perform self-massage on the calf muscle, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia in a manner similar to how he works on athletes.

Dr. Mandelbaum stresses the use of cross-fiber friction techniques. Cross-fiber friction is accomplished using the thumbs, working them back and forth across the muscle or tendon. His claim is that this type of massage will help heal plantar fasciitis more quickly.

At the beginning of the video, he demonstrates how he uses these techniques on individual patients. He then shows you how to perform these same techniques on yourself.

His technique begins on the calf, using his thumbs to work the calf muscle upward from the Achilles tendon. When an area needing massage is located, he utilizes cross-fiber friction to break up the fiber. After working the calf muscles, he performs his massage on the tendon and finally on the plantar fascia, right where it meets with the heel.

To perform these same techniques on yourself, you use both thumbs to work cross-fiber across the muscles. Follow the pattern mentioned previously – the calf, the Achilles tendon, and then the fascia. As he notes in the video, this back and forth massage technique should be “a bit uncomfortable” for you.

He also mentions, but does not show, using a roller on the calf to help warm it up prior to massage.

This video is about 3½ minutes in length.


In today’s work environment, many of us sit at a desk most of the day or we spend a good portion of the day standing.

Outside of work, some of you may run for exercise. Others, like myself, participate in karate or some other martial art. Still others play sports. One thing most of us have in common – we all may be abusing our feet.

Remembering that the likelihood of suffering with plantar fasciitis increases as we age and that it may be brought on by changes in activity level, it is important to understand the ties between our leg muscles and heels. Tight muscles in your feet, Achilles tendon, or calf muscles can be a cause of pain in your heel area.

For these reasons, knowing how to self-massage could be very important to maintaining healthy feet.

I invite your comments and/or discussion questions. Please use the comment box below.


Allyn Beekman has worked in the computer industry and higher education. At a point of semi-retirement, he struggles with plantar fasciitis. His goal is to share all avenues of treatment and exercise that will help eliminate heel pain.

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10 thoughts on “Massage Self Treatment for Heel Pain Relief

  1. Hi Allyn,
    These videos are really useful information and I have used most of the techniques shown at one time or another in the past. I was shown some of the massage exercises by a physiotherapist so that I could self administer the message in my own time and they certainly seemed to help with my plantar fasciitis. The other advantage of doing the massage yourself when it comes to digging your thumbs into painful areas is that you alone know how painful a particular area is, where as if a physio is doing it they might massage a bit hard and hurt you. However, going to a physio means you can have treatments like ultra sound which definitely helps heal injuries and you would not have access to such treatments at home. Plus someone else doing the massage while you lie there is just easier. The one thing I think I used more than anything is calf stretches to stretch my Achilles tendons and massage of the Achilles all seemed to help.

    Great post!


    1. I hear you, Neil! I’ve been recognizing that my Achilles tendon is very tight on the foot where I’ve experienced my problems, so these massage techniques have gotten a lot of use. My feet are particularly sensitive and the thought of someone else pressing on the sore spots does hold me back from wanting any type of foot massage, even from my wife.

      Thanks for pointing out the ultra sound as an additional technique.

  2. Hi Allyn,
    Your videos are great! I have suffered with Plantar Fasciitis and it is the worst pain ever. I went to a podiatrist who gave me too much ibuprofen or something similar and now I have Stage 3 Kidney disease. The exercise is much better than the Nsaids. I now just stretch the heck out of the bottom of my foot and wear Birkenstock Shoes. This seems to keep it at bay. I will try the massage. Thank you, Sharon

    1. So sorry to hear about the treatment that went bad. The massage is a much more natural way to help heal your plantar fasciitis pain. Keep stretching that fascia every day. You might consider some of the ball massage or water bottle massage exercises also.

      I assume the Birkenstocks help a bit also, similar to my Crocs.

    1. Hi Keye. I’m glad these helped. There are a ton of exercises that can be very helpful for runners. These massage techniques can be especially good if you do them regularly, helping relieve some of the pain and stiffness from running. To help your fascia, you might also try to incorporate the ball massage technique on an every-other-day schedule.

  3. Good information. Although it would be nice to have someone else doing the massaging knowing these techniques will allow a person to do them when they need to do them in the comfort of their home. Sometimes it does take awhile to get into physio.

    1. I have to admit that I am not the best at self-massage. Unfortunately, I really can’t handle anyone else touching my feet because I am extremely ticklish and tend to kick anyone who touches the bottom of my feet. So, I’ve had to work very hard to make some of these massage techniques work well on myself. I am still learning how to use my thumbs properly but I am finding some very sore spots in my legs using these techniques.

      I’ll be adding more massage information later – with others doing the massage.

  4. I know that massaging the foot in different areas can be very beneficial to other parts of the body, so I’m greatful for the detail of the information and the video

    1. Hi Debra. I didn’t add the trigger point map of the foot on this post but I’ll be adding another post about that specifically. It is amazing how the various parts of our body are connected. Thanks for your comment.

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