Fallen arches, which lead to flat feet, may not seem like such a big deal at first. It’s easy to assume some people just ‘deal’ with this condition, or that some people are more flat-footed than others. While that’s partially true, it shouldn’t necessarily always be. They can lead to things like foot pain, and other foot conditions. Flat feet exercises to correct these problems can alleviate pain and help to prevent other conditions.
Can fallen arches be fixed with exercise? In many cases, yes. When you work the muscles of your feet in this way, combined with using the right shoes to support your feet, you can strengthen the weakened muscles that contribute to flat feet.
It might seem silly to focus on one muscle group that isn’t often seen. However, it’s because it gets ignored too often that flat feet become a problem. When your feet are weak, it causes pain to do the simplest of things. Even walking can become a chore for those with fallen arches.
Fallen arches are common in young children and infants because they haven’t had the chance to develop these strong muscles yet. When it carries over to adulthood, it’s likely your podiatrist will prescribe exercises for foot arch pain to strengthen your muscles.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Causes Fallen Arches?
- 2 Which Conditions Are Associated with Flat Feet?
- 3 How Can Fallen Arches be Restored?
- 4 What Else Can I Do to Strengthen My Arches?
- 5 Can I Develop Arches Over Time?
- 6 Other Related Articles:
What Causes Fallen Arches?
The most common cause for fallen arches that lead to flat feet is a weakening of muscle tissue. There is a tendon that supports your arch called the posterior tibial tendon. If that tendon experiences any weakening/decay or gets injured, it can lead to flat feet.
Weakness in that particular muscle group can either be hereditary or due to external/circumstantial situations. In most cases, adults experience fallen arches when they stand on their feet for long periods of time. Additionally, the natural aging process can contribute to flat feet, too.
One of the biggest contributors to fallen arches is footwear. If you stand a lot when you’re at work or spend your days moving around, having the right footwear is imperative. Shoes that don’t support your arches can cause your muscles to become weak and can lead to flat feet. Some people start to overpronate once their arches get weak. This causes the feet to ‘roll in’ from the ankles and can affect the way you walk while causing discomfort.
Fallen arches, as a whole, aren’t usually a serious condition. However, if they are ignored for an extended period of time, they can start to cause a lot of pain and discomfort. This includes pain in your feet, ankles, knees, and even your hips.
You also may not be able to put as much weight down on your feet, making it more difficult to walk. Instead of dealing with the pain or simply thinking you’re flat-footed with no other options, there are several exercises you can do to regain the muscle strength of your posterior tibial tendon.
Which Conditions Are Associated with Flat Feet?
In addition to causing a lot of pain throughout your feet and legs, there are specific conditions that can go along with flat feet. The pain alone can sometimes be severe enough to cause everyday problems. However, these other foot conditions can be far more serious and may require additional treatment.
Some of the most common conditions associated with fallen arches include:
- Shin splints – These occur when the shin bone becomes inflamed. This usually happens because the individual is using improper foot form when running. It’s most common in athletes, but if you’re active and don’t have the support from your arches, you can develop this problem.
- Bunions – Most people associate bunions with shoes that don’t fit properly. But, one of the factors in improperly-fitting shoes is flat feet. If your feet don’t conform to your shoes correctly, a bunion can form at the joint/base of the big toe. This can create pain for the other toes.
- Tendinitis – Because flat feet cause much pressure on the heel, the Achilles tendon can become affected. Tendinitis leads to swelling and pain around the area.
- Calluses – Again, one of the major problems with flat feet is that it’s difficult for shoes to fit properly. When your feet rub against the inside of your shoes, it can cause calluses. Thick, hard layers of skin can develop. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but calluses can become painful over time and can be very unsightly. The good news is that you can remove calluses on the feet.
How Can Fallen Arches be Restored?
We will focus on several popular foot exercises for flat feet. We’ll also discuss the causes for fallen arches, as well as the problems they can cause if not treated properly. Most of the time, the pain associated with flat feet can be managed.
By practicing the right exercises each day and wearing the right footwear, you can help to reverse the negative effects caused by fallen arches. When you do this, you can help to prevent foot pain and many other possible foot conditions from occurring.
First, let’s dive into why people experience fallen arches in the first place. The more you know about the causes, the easier it can be to make changes.
Calf Raises for Ankle Weakness
Your ankles are full of larger muscles when compared to the feet and toes. Putting those muscles to work can help to repair fallen arches. One of the best ways to strengthen these muscles is with calf raises.
Follow these steps to perform calf raises correctly:
- Find a set of stairs or some type of raised surface. If your balance is poor, you may need to hold onto a wall for stability.
- Place your toes on the edge of the stair, letting your heels hang off.
- Lift your heels up as high as possible so you’re standing on your toes.
- Hold this position for a second or two, and slowly lower your heels back down.
- Repeat for several repetitions, or throughout the day as it’s comfortable.
This exercise will help to strengthen your feet and your ankles at the same time. If fallen arches have caused your ankles, knees, and hips to become painful, this is a great exercise to start with. Because the ankle muscles are larger, you may have to pace yourself with this one. Don’t push yourself if the exercise itself starts to cause pain. Listen to your body, and rest as needed.
This might not be the most appealing name for an exercise, but Toe Clawing is easy to do throughout the day because you can do it from the comfort of a chair. Whether you’re sitting at a desk or relaxing at home, you can strengthen your arches with just a few subtle movements.
To practice toe clawing, use the following steps:
- Sit in a chair or on a stool with your back straight, not slouching.
- Curl up the toes of one foot. A good visual to help you is to pretend you’re trying to ‘scoop’ up the floor, or claw at it.
- Use the curl of your toes to draw your foot slightly forward. Be sure to use only your foot muscles for this, not the muscles in your leg. It won’t be as effective if you do.
- Repeat with the other foot, and perform several repetitions on each foot.
You should notice a slight strain in your arches immediately from this exercise. It’s almost like a sit-up or ‘crunch’ for the arch of your feet. Each time you contract those particular muscles, they are getting stronger.
Stair Raises for Arches
While you’re doing calf raises, switch up your positioning just slightly and you can focus your attention on your arches. It’s a great way to knock out two different muscle groups in a short amount of time.
To do stair raises correctly and benefit your arches, follow these steps:
- Stand on a single step that is several inches from the ground. The balls of your feet should be resting on the step. Your heels should be resting slightly below the toes, off the step.
- Rise onto your toes, standing on your tiptoes for a few seconds.
- Press down into the step with your toes.
- As you lower back down, don’t allow your heels to go below the step. Instead, move your feet back to a neutral position. Instead of working the muscles in your calves, it will work your arches.
You should be able to perform about ten of these stair raises at a time. The goal is to work up to three sets per day to start seeing and feeling noticeable results. Both calf raises and stair raises will be beneficial in different ways. It’s a good idea to mix them up as much as possible to work for multiple muscle groups and get stronger faster.
This exercise takes a bit of coordination as well as strength. But, as you start to build both, you’ll notice more prominence in your arches faster. Plus, you can turn this particular exercise into a game to make it more entertaining for yourself.
The steps to complete it are simple:
- Sit up straight in a chair with a small cloth or towel in front of you. It should be lightweight enough to be picked up easily.
- Using one foot, grasp the towel with your toes. Lift it off the floor. This requires your arches to contract.
- For added effectiveness, try to ‘toss’ the towel into the air and catch it with your toes by extending them outward.
- Repeat the process on the other foot for a set. Try to work up to several sets each day.
Toe Stretching/Toe Yoga
Unfortunately, the muscles of the toes are typically underused. This causes them to lose their strength and overall control and can affect the overall arc of your arches. Just as traditional yoga improves strength, balance, and flexibility throughout your body, ‘toe yoga’ can help to do the same for your feet.
Complete the following steps:
- Standing up straight, press your big toe into the ground. Lift your other four toes off the ground at the same time, using your balance to keep your big toe stable.
- Hold this position for several seconds.
- Next, complete the opposite action by pressing your four smaller toes into the ground and raising up your big toe.
- Hold this position for several seconds.
- Repeat on the opposite foot for a complete set. Try to do several sets each day.
This simple ‘lift’ exercise might seem simple, but you’ll undoubtedly feel a difference in how it works your muscles right away. It can also help to improve your balance, which can make everyday actions like standing and walking easier and less painful.
Standing Arch Raises
Practicing standing arch raises requires a bit of balance, but it’s one of the most effective ways to strengthen your arches. If you need to, hold onto a wall or chair for balance while completing this exercise.
Use the following steps to perform it correctly:
- Stand on one leg, making sure you have full control and balance of your body before doing anything else.
- Once you feel balanced, raise the arch of the foot you’re standing on.
- Hold for a few seconds, and lower the arch back down. This causes you to contract and relax your muscles. Again, it is similar to a ‘crunch’ for your foot.
- Repeat ten times on each foot.
The reason this exercise is so effective is that it adds your bodyweight into the mix. Just as you might add weights to your workout to tone up faster, the added weight from standing can make a difference in how quickly you see and feel a difference in your arches. It should never feel painful to perform this exercise, but it may require a bit more strength and stability than doing the same thing while sitting down.
Toe raises are easy to do almost anywhere and can help to strengthen the middle of your foot. What’s the best part? There are no real complicated steps to follow. Simply raise your toes up toward your ankles while keeping your heels on the floor. Hold the position for ten seconds, and lower down before repeating.
You can do this as often as you’d like throughout the day. It’s a great exercise to do at a desk or home discreetly. Not only will it help to strengthen the center of your arches, but it also works as a good stretching exercise.
Walk Barefoot in the Sand
Walking in the sand isn’t a specific exercise, and that’s why it works so well. No two areas of sand are the same. When you step on the sand with your bare foot, the foot instantly has to adapt to that formation for you to keep your balance. Every step you take follows this pattern. So, every time you walk barefoot in the sand, each step is a ‘mini workout’ for your feet.
If some of the other exercises on this list are too difficult for you, try taking a walk at the beach several times a week. The action of your feet adapting to the ever-changing sand can help to strengthen them and promote stronger arches.
Roll It Out
When you’re working out any muscle group, it’s important to remember to stretch and relax those muscles from time to time, too. One of the best ways to do that while still encouraging strength is by ‘rolling’ your foot on a can or tennis ball.
Take a can or ball and place it underneath your foot while you’re in a sitting position. Then, roll it back and forth slowly from your heel to your toes. If you’ve been doing other exercises to strengthen your arches, this should feel like a great and relaxing stretch. It will also make the other exercises even more effective by stretching out the area where your arch should form.
Doing this stretching routine regularly will keep your feet loose, and will help to lower your risk of injury or pulling something too quickly. You wouldn’t want to skip a stretch after a regular workout, and you shouldn’t skip it after exercising your feet, either.
What Else Can I Do to Strengthen My Arches?
If you perform the exercises listed here regularly, you can seriously reverse the negative effects of flat feet. However, no one can ‘exercise’ all the time. It’s a good idea to supplement these exercises with shoes to support your feet.
Shoes that support fallen arches typically have a lot of cushioning. If you don’t want to buy a new pair of shoes, consider picking up some arch support insoles for flat feet. These insoles are specifically designed for people with flat feet. Again, these inserts usually have extra padding involved, especially in certain areas. They can help to even out the pressure on your feet and absorb shock.
Many of these shoes and insoles are advertised toward athletes or avid runners. However, they can be just as effective for anyone who experiences foot pain from flat feet. Whether you’re standing in one position all day, or have a job that requires you to walk frequently, you don’t have to be an athlete to take advantage of these products.
Massage Therapy for Fallen Arches
Another great way to supplement the exercises you’re doing for your feet is to consider massage therapy. This can be as simple as something like the can or ball roll listed above. Or, if you feel your muscles are very tight, you can invest in something like a foot massage machine.
Keep in mind that the muscles of your feet work in direct response to the muscles in your back and your legs. If your back and leg muscles are extremely tense, it could cause extra strain on your feet and cause them to tighten up. This could make it harder to exercise them and cause a lot of pain in the process. If you regularly feel a lot of tension in your back or legs, getting a professional massage or using a foam roller at home can help.
The more relaxed the muscles of your lower body are, the easier it will be to correctly and safely perform the exercises listed in this article. While massage therapy alone won’t help to strengthen your arches, it can help you to stay safe and free from injury.
Can I Develop Arches Over Time?
The exercises listed in this guide are designed to strengthen the muscles of your feet that create a strong arch. Even by doing them every day, you may not notice a significant difference in how your feet look. That isn’t necessarily the point. The point is to make the muscles strong enough to support your weight evenly and reduce pressure on certain areas of the feet.
Some people will notice a bit of an arch start to form. For others, it may be less prominent. But, you’ll still feel the difference in your feet as they get stronger. Plus, you’ll be able to see results when it comes to experiencing less pain and other possible foot conditions.
Flat feet may be linked to genetics. But, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the inconveniences and pain of fallen arches forever. We hope the exercises and tips in this article help to strengthen your foot muscles and alleviate any discomfort you might feel.
They are exercises meant for everyone, not just athletes. You can perform most of them in the comfort of your own home, in just minutes a day. Whether you were born with flat feet or they seemed to develop over time, you can reverse the effect of flat feet painlessly and relatively quickly with the right strength exercises.