How I invented SoleStretch

My name is Bill Flickinger. I am a physiologist by training and have spent my career working in the medical device field.

I invented the SoleStretch™ Foot and Leg Stretcher to improve my own flexibility when I had developed Plantar Fasciitis. I had gotten a bad pair of orthotics. In less than a week, I could barely walk across the room.

Bill Flickinger with SoleStretch

After several months and different inserts, I was at the podiatrist being fitted for a new pair of orthotics when he said to me: “If your calves weren’t so tight, you would not have this problem.” He went on to tell me that the muscles in my foot were tight and not supporting the arch properly. This was adding to the stress on the plantar fascia. He said I needed to mobilize my foot and stretch the muscles on the back of my leg. I said that it hurt more to do the stretches he had recommended. In any case, the stretches did not address my foot. I told my sister about this and found out that she too had plantar fasciitis. She agreed that the stretches hurt her feet. There had to be a better way.

I recalled that when I had tennis elbow, the state-of-the-art in physical therapy was to not put any stress on the muscles and tendons being stretched and to not use the antagonist muscles in the stretching process. This helped heal the tendons more quickly and reduced the tendency of the muscles to contract against the stretch, an action known as the stretch reflex. In this way, the whole range of motion can be achieved.

What I needed was a way to stretch the calf muscles in a controlled fashion and that would loosen the intrinsic muscles of my foot at the same time. I started by taking weight off of the foot. I ruled out pushing against a wall and hanging the heel off a step, which I knew could tear the Achilles tendon. That meant putting my foot out in front of me while I was seated. Next, I needed a way to stretch my muscles. I knew that an active stretch, using my shin muscles to dorsiflex my foot would add stress on those muscles and did not really stretch the leg through its range of motion. A towel around the arch of the foot worked to some degree but did not stretch the foot and did not pull the foot far enough to fully stretch the legs.

The first SoleStretch was born when I realized that I needed something that could reach under my toes and could be pulled toward my trunk to stretch the foot and leg. I made a mock-up and it worked. I got a full stretch across the range of motion of my foot and ankle. I even felt the stretch in my hamstring. Within 2 weeks, I was out walking for fitness every day and using SoleStretch to keep my feet and legs flexible. My feet and ankles were aligned and it felt great. I couldn’t find anything like it to buy. I made additional devices and gave them to friends and family. They felt the same relief. I showed them to runners and owners of running stores, trainers, physical therapists and eventually to podiatrists. They all said the same thing, that should work and it appears better than anything else available.

I believed so much in it that I started the company, self-funding to get the SoleStretch Foot and Leg Stretcher to market so that it could help others.

Bill Flickinger

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