It’s estimated that around 20-30 percent of the human populace around the world suffer flat feet / fallen arches.
Flat feet or Pes Planus is a medical condition affecting both children and adults. If you’re an athlete or a gym nut, you will probably be especially aware of this ailment. It can have debilitating effects on one’s health.
But What Causes Flat Feet?
In some individuals, the tissues or tendons that hold the joints under the foot together loosen.
This loss of tension causes the “arch” of the foot to collapse, making the foot look flat. Hence, the name flat feet.
Pes Planus can be hereditary, i.e, you can receive it from your parents. Normally, the arches in the foot tighten and develop when a child is 2 to 3 years old but children who inherit Pes Planus never form these arches even when they grow up.
On the other hand, some individuals may develop flat feet over the years due to aging, injury (both of which weaken tendons overtime), wearing high heels and shoes that don’t provide enough support.
Though in most cases it’s considered harmless, it has the potential to cause severe pain in the knee, ankle, hip and eventually lead to arthritis. How?
In order to understand that, you need to know the two basic functions of the arch. Firstly, it acts like a spring, cushioning part of the force exerted by the ground and up into the rest of the body.
Secondly, it helps align the different bones of the leg. With flat feet, the bones do not align and that leads to various forms of problems in the joints.
If you have flat feet, you know by now how difficult it can be to walk, run and carry out exercises for long durations. Whether you inherit it or develop it over the years, you definitely want to improve your condition to restore your foot’s natural structure and strength.
If like the rest, you believe flat feet is an irreversible condition then you are mistaken. Researches conducted by bio-med experts Do-Young, Jung. Eun Kyong, and Koh. Oh-Yung, Kwon in 2011 have shown that flat feet can be cured to an extent through specific exercises.
There are mainly two types of exercises for flat feet that help develop arches: Stretching exercises and Strengthening exercises.
How To Fix Flat Feet With Stretching Exercises
Stretching exercises aim to stretch the aforementioned muscles under your feet to restore their natural alignment. At first, try foam rolling your calves. It is a form of self massage that helps relax tight muscles before stretching them. Gradually stretch your calves and hold them for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times with each leg.
Another exercise that you can try is the “toe spread”. What you have to do is prop your leg up and fan your toes out. Contract and relax your toes repeatedly keeping them as wide apart as possible. Then try to make a space between your toes and hold that position for 10 seconds without contracting or relaxing them. Repeat this exercise with both feet 10 times.
Toe spread exercise (starts from 1:54 minutes)
You may also try the pointing toe exercise. Here, you have to point your toes while flexing your foot. After flexing, hold that position for 5 seconds and then let your toes relax. Repeat this 10 times on each foot. You may also try tracing alphabets or numbers using just your toes. Prop your leg up and, without moving it, try to trace any alphabet or number.
Another stretching exercise you can attempt is the following: place a can underneath your foot and roll it from the heel to your toes to stretch the area where your arch should be. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes on both feet (each at a time).
Exercises for flat feet video:You can also try side walking to stretch the longitudinal arch. Author Mark Sisson advices doing 5 side walks each day to improve flat feet. Stand up and place your foot shoulder wide. Then bend your knees a little and shift your weight on the outer side of the feet while raising up on your toes. When you feel a stretch in your arches, hold the position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
How To Strengthen Your Flat Feet With Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening exercises focus on the weak components of the foot. Its main aim is to strengthen loose tendons while alleviating pain caused by flat foot.
The Towel Grab exercise targets the soles of your feet. Start by placing a towel or handkerchief on the floor. Spread it nicely to make sure its flat. Stand over it while trying to get a hold of it using only your toes and the bottom of the foot. Once you have picked up the piece of cloth, flatten it again on the floor using your toes and foot. Repeat this exercise for about 5 to 6 times on each foot.
Towel grab exercise video:
Another easy to follow strengthening exercise is “toe raises”. All you have to do is sit on the floor while bending your knee while keeping the foot flat along the floor. Make sure your toes are all facing forward. Now, gradually try and pull your toes towards your ankle without moving or raising your heels from the floor. Once you have pulled your toes, hold the position for 10 seconds and then release. Let your feet relax and repeat it again on both feet for 10 times.
Toe raise exercise (starts from 4:26):
The Single Leg stand exercise is a good way of getting rid of flat feet, but it requires you to have good balance. You will need to stand on one leg while keeping your hands to your sides for balance. Now raise the heel of your foot while keeping your toes in contact with the ground. Lower your heels again and repeat this exercise 10 times for each foot one at a time.
Single Leg Stand exercise:
By far, the simplest way of strengthening your arches is by walking on your tip toes. Simply tip toe for 5 to 6 minutes without the heels touching the ground and it should greatly help. This exercise is so easy that it shouldn’t be a problem to perform every single day.
If you love the sand, this workout is a good way to strengthen your feet. All you have to do is walk bare foot in the sand. Author Mark Sisson says that its the best way to strengthen flat feet. If possible, try running on your toes barefoot. This will further strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your feet.
Lastly, footwear is just as important as exercises for restoring the natural structure of your feet. Physiotherapists advice wearing proper supportive pair of shoes to maintain the health of your feet. Wearing an enclosed sneaker with an orthotic device inserted within will provide your feet more structural support which it requires. You should also make sure that the shoe comes with a firm sole to prevent compression of the orthotic.
And by all means avoid sandals or high heels as they will not provide your feet ample support.