It's important for us to start with a huge DISCLAIMER here. Please see a physician before starting any kind of exercise regimen. What I am listing below is a very general outline of what usually works for patients after a thorough evaluation to confirm the cause of their symptoms. It may not work for everyone or every case and you should seek a formal evaluation and assessment of your concerns. In general, any time you feel numbness and/or tingling in your face, head or jaw, down your arms, or have an upset stomach, abnormal bowel/bladder movements, please discontinue the exercise and seek professional advice.
Flat feet and collapsed arches have been a common complaint among our patients lately. Although we've posted general videos on how to tape your arches and a few basic exercises, we are now sharing our three favorite exercises for people with flat feet!
Why do we have/get flat feet?
There are a few main causes of flat feet. The first is a hereditary laxity in your foot joints. So yes, it's possible that one of your parents is the reason you are plagued with flat feet. But flat feet are also something that can develop over time. Weakness and compensation from the hips and/or core can play a huge role in the mechanics of the feet. Also, poor walking strategies and bad habits like sitting on your foot can be contributing factors.
What are the common symptoms of flat feet?
Visibly lacking an arch
Cramping feeling especially with prolonged standing, extended walking periods and sprinting
Weakness when jumping or running
Inflexible and stiff midfoot/arch
What would we do about it in office?
Here at Rehab and Revive, we want to take a look at the nervous system, the mechanics of the feet and other related structures and, of course, good, old-fashioned habits like postures and how you are sitting.
We typically work with the whole chain, beginning with proper rib cage alignment. Addressing the hip and pelvis' ability to extend and rotate during repetitive motions like walking also play a key role in improving foot mechanics. There are times when the knee is off-axis and causing funking compensations, so that needs to be addressed with manual therapy.
Last, we of course address the feet. Manual therapy on the feet and ankles as well as exercises to strengthen, stabilize and then mobilize the foot are the cherry on top!
Below are three of my favorite flat feet related exercises!
Ankles are our most important pivot joint. If we inappropriately or inadvertently hand just slightly away from the center of our middle arch or if we lack the strength/stability to land correctly, the foot will pronate. This process can start at a very young age when we don't have a strong enough core to control what our legs are doing.
Crawling is one of the most important developmental processes. Walking too soon can start the collapse of our ankles and weakening the knee and the foot! Ankle alphabets can help combat that! Give it a try!
We so frequently squeeze our feet into tight shoes or heels. This causes the cuneiforms and the surrounding muscles to stop splaying. Splaying of the toes is so important. This is when the cuneiforms speak out and forward. The toes will subsequently mirror this. This cuneiform exercise gives your foot the space to spay that it's been craving!
Now that you have all of this movement and range, we need to cinch it up with the proper muscle use and stability. Forcing your feet to perform fine motor skills such as scrunching and flattening a towel is crucial! There's a lot to be said about having strength AND stability to now allow for that clawing mechanism!
These are just a few of my favorite exercises for my patients with flat feet. No single program works for everyone, so even if these don't work for you, there may be many others that do! If you find yourself struggling with symptoms caused by your flat feet, it may be worth it to see your local PT and get it checked out!
Remember, we can and we will get better together!
Dr. Justin C. Lin