4 Most Effective Exercises to Fix Flat Feet

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4 Most Effective Exercises to Fix Flat Feet

Not all feet are created equal. Feet come in various shapes and sizes and everyone’s feet are different. When it comes to arches, the area between the heel and ball of the foot, there are three types: low, normal, and high.

About 60 percent of people have normal arches, 20 percent have low arches, and the remaining 20 percent have high arches (source). If you look at an adult foot from the inside, you’ll see the arch, which is the upward curve in the middle.

In flatfooted individuals, the arch may not be as noticeable since it is very close to the ground. Several tendons in the foot and lower leg come together to form the arch. When these tendons do not pull together properly, it results in fallen arches or flat feet.

 

Causes of Flat Feet

 Low arches in adults can be caused by several different factors, including:

  • Stretched or torn tendons
  • Inborn abnormalities
  • Dislocated or broken bones
  • Nerve issues
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Certain health problems like rheumatoid arthritis
  • A damaged or inflamed posterior tibial tendon

 

Symptoms of Flat Feet

Many flatfooted people lead normal lives, experiencing no symptoms and requiring no treatment. Some, however, may notice problems such as:

  • Leg and back pain
  • Feet that fatigue easily
  • Having difficulty performing certain foot movements
  • Swelling in the inside bottom of the feet
  • Painful feet, especially in the arches and heels

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s recommended to pay your doctor a visit.

 

Potential Problems of Flat Feet

Because low arches are more flexible and biomechanically imbalanced, people with flat feet are more susceptible to common foot problems such as:

  • Overpronation
  • Bunions
  • Heel spurs
  • Posterior tibial tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Medial knee issues

 

How to Test for Flat Feet

It’s easy to find out if you have flat feet by taking the wet test:

  1. Pour some water into a shallow container.
  2. Get the bottom of your foot wet.
  3. Step on a flat surface where your footprint will show, such as concrete or a piece of cardboard.
  4. Step off and look at your footprint. If the imprint is filled in in the arch area, then it’s likely that you have flat feet.

 

How to Correct Flat Feet

So you took the wet test and it turns out you have flat feet. Now what?

As mentioned earlier, flat feet do not always cause problems so treatment may not be required. But there are some exercises you can do at home to “fix” flat feet.

These exercises and stretches correct flat feet by strengthening the arch and increasing its height, creating a natural arch in the foot. Set aside at least 10 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week to do these exercises.

Calf raises
Calf raises – image via Workoutlabs

 

  • Calf raises. Not just for strong calves, standing calf raises also strengthen other muscles and connective tissues in the feet, including the arches.
  1. Place the balls of your feet on a thick surface such as a phone book or wooden board. Let your heels touch the floor.
  2. Slowly lift your heels off the floor and pause at the top.
  3. Return to the starting position by slowly lowering your heels. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps. If this is too difficult, you can do this exercise while seated.
Towel curls
Towel curls – image via WebMD
  • Towel curls. Towel curls are great for building strong foot muscles.
  1. Place a towel on the floor.
  2. Take a seat at one end of the towel and scrunch it towards you with your toes.
  3. Now, push the towel away from you by also using your toes. Do 2 sets of 10 reps. You can make this exercise more challenging by placing a weighted object on the other end of the towel.
Hip flexor stretches
Hip flexor stretches – image via fix-knee-pain
  • Hip flexor stretches. Most people with flat feet have tight hip flexors that limit range of motion and pull on different parts of the body, including the arches.
  1. Sit down on a padded surface like a carpet or yoga mat.
  2. Bring the soles of your feet together in front of you.
  3. Using your hands, gently push your knees towards the floor. You should feel a nice stretch in your thighs and hips. Keep your back straight. Hold for 20 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times.
Towel stretches
Towel stretches – image via WebMD
  • Towel stretches. This stretch targets the Achilles tendon, which, when inflamed, results in overpronation and fallen arches.
  1.  Sit on the floor and loop a towel around the balls of your feet.
  2. Keeping your torso and knees straight, pull the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Do 1 set of 10 reps.

 

In addition to the above exercises, proper footwear is essential in fixing flat feet. Because your foot collapses inward when you run, extra stress is transferred to your feet and knees, increasing your risk of injury. Running shoes designed for low arches help raise the arch of the foot, reducing the pressure placed on your feet and legs.