Flat feet, also known as pes planus or fallen arches, can occur at any age. Whether it’s from genetics or an injury, having no arch can throw your mechanics. While flat feet are most often asymptomatic; occasionally, pain and stiffness can occur. When it comes to flat feet, exercises can help build strength, support your arch, and improve your foot and ankle mechanics with movement. Keep reading for the best exercises you can do for flat feet.
The following 6 exercises focus on building intrinsic strength in the muscles of the foot and ankle that support the arch; along with stretches to keep the foot flexible and provide relief from any pain. Choose the ones that fit your needs best (or all of them eventually) and progress as needed from there. If you’re not sure where to start, it’s always worth consulting a physical therapist first for personalized recommendations.
This movement is simple, yet can feel difficult to coordinate with flat feet. It will help significantly by targeting the muscles in the foot that help support the arch.
There are two primary shin muscles that support the shape of the arch: the posterior tibialis and anterior tibilais. If either of these muscles are weak or irritated, it can affect your arch. A simple strength and range of motion exercise like this one can help promote blood flow for healing and give you some much needed relief.
This exercise helps build the small muscles in the foot. These muscles are essential for foot health.
There are several other options for strengthening the foot that you can try too. These include picking up objects with your feet (such as marbles), drawing the alphabet with your toes, walking in sand, and even yoga.
This video demonstrates the next two exercises:
This simple exercise is great for boosting circulation for pain relief. It’s important to regularly move and stretch the foot and ankles when they are stiff and sore.
Alternatively, you can pump your ankles more freely when sitting on the edge of your bed (with the feet dangling) or rotate the ankles in circles. The ultimate goal is to loosen up the foot and ankle in any way that feels comfortable for you.
Stretching both the bottom of the foot and the calf/achilles tendon at the same time can give you some great relief from stiffness and pain related to flat feet. There are a number of ways to stretch the foot and calf- here is one of the easiest ways.
Other effective stretches include a runner’s lunge. These stretches are also great for plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis.
A gentle stretch of the tibialis posterior can give you some pain relief too. Just be careful not to overstretch this crucial muscle. Note: Do not force this stretch if you have knee pain.
Self-massage to the bottom of the foot and shin are both great options for loosening up any stiff problem areas. You can position your foot in sitting to use your hands along the bottom (or sit in a chair and lean forward to reach the lower leg muscles). A common massage favorite is using a hot or cold massage ball.
If you’re having trouble tolerating the other exercises above, you might start with a foot massage first to reduce symptoms and increase tolerance. Additionally, you can try other home treatments such as heat, ice, TENS, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
The misalignment that flat feet causes, such as overpronation, can unknowingly cause pain within the lower body, such as knee pain, hip pain, and back pain. Additionally, over time your feet are at a higher risk of developing pain and stiffness. Additionally, flat feet may aggravate other foot issues such as arthritis or neuropathy. Here are some of the specific benefits for starting an exercise program for your feet:
Once the ligaments in your foot have been stretched to cause a flat foot, it is very hard (often even impossible) to restore your foot alignment (or to fix flat feet). The biggest goal with an exercise program is to better manage symptoms and improve the foot’s ability to absorb impact with daily activities.
You can expect relatively quick relief of any symptoms related to pain and stiffness within 4 to 6 weeks. If you’re holding onto the hope of rebuilding your arches, expect to see any potential changes between 6 and 12 weeks. Regardless of the outcome, there are always benefits to a regular home exercise program.
If you’re wondering what kind of potential your feet can gain from exercise, schedule a round of physical therapy for the best results. A physical therapist can also recommend the best shoes, insoles, or orthotics for providing adequate arch support. If your symptoms are getting worse and affecting your quality of life, always get in touch with your doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible for further medical advice.
Sources:Flat Feet Products