Flat feet. Fallen Arches. You definitely know if you have it and if you suspect you do, one very simple way to tell is to press your bare foot into an area of damp grass or on a wet paper towel and then step onto a dry spot on the sidewalk. If you see the entire bottom of your foot in the footprint, it’s a pretty good indicator that you have flat feet. There should be an open area in the inner foot print between the base of your toes and heel.
Flat feet affects all ages – even babies who are just learning to walk. But in the case of young children, the issue will usually correct itself as the child grown and the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles strengthen with use and walking. For adults, however, no matter what the reason for the flat feet, some work is needed to fix the problem.
Here are 5 things you can do daily to strengthen and ultimately help to fix your flat feet.
- Keep them straight. Take a minute to evaluate your standing position. Stand up and walk around the room for a minute. Stop and look straight ahead. Now, without changing the position of your feet, look down and see which way your feet are pointing. For most people, if they were to draw an imaginary straight line out of their pinky toe they would find their feet are pointing outward – almost to the point of “duck feet”. If that’s the case with you, turn your foot at the ankle so that the imaginary line goes straight out in front of you – so that the lines from both feet are parallel and headed toward any object in the distance in front of you. Remember that position. Every time you stop to stand still take notice of your foot position and adjust accordingly.
- Roll the knees out. Once your feet are in the straight position mentioned above, try to bounce your knee caps up and down. Can you? Most people can’t. Keep trying. Usually it’s easiest to try to raise them up and then let them go. Once you’ve bounced them up and down a few times try to roll your knees open without lifting your feet or bending your knees. Be patient, this isn’t easy! Imagine trying to get your knees to look at each side wall. What you should notice is that your feet miraculously “get” an arch. Again, every time you stop to stand still, get those feet in position and try the knee roll.
- Lift up your toes. This one you can do while you are standing (hold on to a chair if needed) or while you’re sitting. With your feet on the ground, spread your toes wide and then lift your toes into the air while keeping the ball of your foot and your heel on the ground. Drop them to the ground again. Now the next time try lifting each toe up in a wave starting with the big toe over to the pinky toe until they’re all up again. Put them back down in opposite order. This helps to strengthen the individual muscles in the foot. If you’re standing while trying this exercise, remember your foot position and try to keep those knees rolled.
- Massage the arch. Using a tennis ball or similar child’s play ball, massage the arch of your foot daily by rolling your foot back and forth on the ball. Stand and sink into the ball with your foot but don’t put your full body weight on the ball. Switch to the other foot.
- Stretch your calves. One of foot guru, body alignment expert and biomechanist, Katy Bowman’s go to exercises for any type of foot problem is a calf stretch. Put the ball of your foot on the top of a rolled up towel and drop your heel to the ground. Keeping the weight in the heel of that foot, slowly try to inch your free foot forward. Switch to the other side.
If you’re experiencing pain from your flat feet, wear a shoe with arch support occasionally to help with the pain. Make sure to see your podiatrist if the pain persists or if you know you’ve had an injury or experienced trauma to the foot.
Over time, as you strengthen and stretch your foot muscles you’ll find that your flat feet will no longer be flat! Try the water test again and see if there’s a change! Either way, your feet will be healthier and happier after some focused work and exercise.