09 Jan Fix Flat Feet
Looking to fix flat feet? We got you! But before we get into the exercises that can help address this “problem”, we first want to address that flat feet in and of itself is NOT a diagnosis and NOT the sole cause of your pain! Pain is multi-factorial and while having “flat feet” or dynamic overpronation can place the most stress on certain structures, our bodies are extremely strong and capable of handling that stress most of the time. That being said, this article is going to show you a series of exercises that will not only help strengthen your foot arch but even potentially reverse the appearance of your flat feet!
Fixing Flat Feet?
Flat feet get blamed for a myriad of conditions. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, patellofemoral pain, knock knees – you name it. And while having flat feet may in fact be associated with many of these conditions, it’s near impossible to put the sole blame of the condition or diagnosis on simply having flat feet. In many situations, it could be argued that the condition (ie plantar fasciitis) may have occurred first and contributed to the development of flat feet! More on this in a bit. So, if we can’t place the blame solely on our flat feet for our pain, do flat feet need any fixing?
I would argue no.
Think about this – your flat feet didn’t just develop overnight. It took years and years for you to even notice you had flat feet. My guess is that you didn’t even notice them until someone told you, or you started developing pain and someone said it was because of your flat feet. Our bodies get into trouble when the loads we place on them are more than what they can handle. When it comes to “flat feet”, this could be after changing into a new pair of shoes that have more “give” than your older pair, thus allowing your foot to pronate more and stress certain tissues more than what they are used to. Or it could be that your training volume increased as you prepped for an upcoming race or event, and certain tissues were stressed more than what they are used to.
When it comes to “fixing” your flat feet, we can work on those external factors discussed above while at the same time strengthening those same structures that need to have more strength and capacity to handle the loads that you are placing on them. The following exercises will do just that. Strengthening some of your foot intrinsics while also improving ankle ROM to potentially alleviate excessive stresses on certain foot structures. Give em a shot, they’re harder than they look!
Flat Feet Fix: Mobility
The number one cause (or result?) of flat feet is a lack of ankle dorsiflexion mobility. Ankle dorsiflexion is the ability for your ankle to point upwards. In a standing position, this is our knees going past our toes. When we take steps, go up or downstairs, or even squat or lunge, our ankles go into relative dorsiflexion with each step or rep. As you can imagine, ankle dorsiflexion occurs a lot in day to day life!
If you have limited ankle dorsiflexion, your body will find a way to compensate to achieve the task at hand. Our bodies are smart and if we have to go down a few flights of stairs, we’re going to do it! This means that to get our knees over our toes when we are going downstairs, that motion must come from another body region. That region is your arch!
Your arch will dynamically collapse (what it’s supposed to do and is normal) and allow your foot to pronate to give you that extra range of motion. When this is repeated over and over again, eventually it can lead to the arch sitting in a lower position – ie flat feet!
To address these ankle dorsiflexion mobility deficits, we want to improve the mobility of two different structures:
- The calf muscle or gastroc-soleus complex
- The ankle joint or the talocrural joint
3D Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobilization
This is one of the easiest ways to work on your ankle mobility. The beauty of this exercise and demonstration is that you get to personalize and individualize the movement to your needs! Follow along with Craig as he shows you:
- Different angles to address
- Being mindful of the position of your arch
- What to do with your heel
- How it sound feel and what you’re looking for
Static Calf Gastrocnemius Stretch
Static Calf Soleus Stretch
Flat Feet Fix: Strengthening
While mobility work is absolutely critical to “fixing” flat foot, all the mobility work in the world wouldn’t do anything if the muscles themselves that take the loads when the arch collapses or pronates are not strong enough! Strengthening these muscles takes some isolated work at first to learn how to maintain a strong and stable arch known as an active short foot. But the real key to strengthening your feet is to actually use the muscles in your feet during any and all standing exercises (duh!). This may seem obvious, but it’s extremely easy to stand on one leg, squat or lunge without an active short foot. So once you’ve mastered the short foot holds exercise below, maintain an active short foot with all the other standing single leg exercises that follow!
Short Foot Holds With Theraband
Single Leg Woodpeckers
3 Way Single Leg RDL
Single Leg RDLs with KB Hand Offs
Single Leg RDL With Ball Toss Sideways
You Are More Than Your Flat Feet
By addressing ankle mobility deficits and strengthening the muscles of your arch, there is a high chance you work on decreasing the amount of stress placed on any tissues in your foot or lower leg that may be stressed due to overpronation, or flat feet. And hopefully, after reading this article, you will know that you are more than your anatomy! Simply having flat feet isn’t a death sentence!
READ: You Are Not Your MRI