I attribute much of my success in building arches to being mindful of my posture. This includes small changes I made in the way I went about daily activities.
A mirror, preferably one that is full length, is an invaluable tool for improving posture.
Adjusting the way we sit is like free exercises since many of us sit a lot during the day anyway. I found that sitting at my desk was a great chance to work on ankle flexibility. Instead of always stretching my legs out under the desk, I would sometimes bring my heels back underneath my knees.
This provides a nice calf stretch and is almost exactly like the seated calf stretching exercise in the Beginner Routine so the same rules apply.
- The feet should remain in contact with the ground.
- Knees stay in line with feet.
- The point just before the heel needs to lift up is where I felt the best stretch and that’s the position I tried to maintain.
On occasion, I’ve also used these under-the-desk footrests that are angled up on a slant. These can be a nice way to keep the ankles on somewhat of a stretch while sitting, without having to keep the legs always tucked in.
Sitting to Standing
When moving from sitting to standing, weight has to shift forward over the feet. At the start of the project, because my ankles lacked flexibility, my arches would completely collapse during the movement.
So as often as I could remember before I stood up, I would get my foot in a good position, meaning:
- neutral heel
- foot tripod
- weight on the outside edge of the foot
Alternatively, I would just think about holding the short foot position. Then I would try to keep the arch in my foot all the way from sitting to standing. The same applies when going from standing to sitting down.
Correcting Anterior Pelvic Tilt
By far the postural change that I feel gave me the most benefit was reducing my anterior pelvic tilt. I’ve gotten several emails from people telling me how surprised they were to see the change in the height of their arches just from making this small adjustment in the way they stand.
Sometimes when I’m working with clients I refer to this as “tucking the tail”. The anterior pelvic tilt correction is basically bringing the hips forward and tucking the tailbone a little. Doing this correction rotates the legs outward which makes it easier to keep weight on the outside edges of the feet.
One cue I use for this is to think of the pelvis as a glass of water, and an anterior pelvic tilt is like tilting the glass forward to pour the water out. Keep the water in the glass!
Bringing the hips forward (as shown in the picture) also shifts weight from the heels toward the front of the feet which can get the arch supporting muscles engaged.
The Ideal Footprint
When standing, I would imagine what an ideal footprint looks likes. Then, I would try to shift the pressure under my feet to match what I was picturing.
So in a footprint with a nice arch, there is more pressure on the outside of the foot than on the inside. And there is even pressure across the front of the foot. Also, all the toes are mostly flat and straight.
Correcting Forward Head
Another interesting posture dynamic is how the body often follows what the head is doing. Like anterior pelvic tilt, forward head posture is also very common. This is when the head and neck are positioning in front of the shoulder.
Something I find helpful for keeping my whole body aligned is pulling my head back so that the ears are more directly over the shoulders.
Good posture is an ongoing process. Other elements of posture that I pay to are keeping my shoulders back, and pulling my ribcage down by tightening the abs a little to keep the ribs from flaring out in front.
When not sitting or standing, I would often try to hold an arch in the foot. I felt spending as much time as possible in this position was helpful for training the foot to hold an arch as a natural resting posture.
Extending (lifting) the toes up toward the top of the foot is usually enough to increase the size of the arch.
For the right foot (with supinatus), getting into this “resting” position involved lifting the lesser four toes up but pressing the big toe down slightly.