Flat feet (also known as fallen arches) is a condition in which the normal arches on the inside of the feet are low or missing. This gives the foot a flat appearance with the entire sole of the foot contacting the ground.
There are two main types of flat feet: flexible and rigid.
A flexible flat foot has the ability to form an arch but the arch flattens when standing. This is the most common type of flat feet and the kind that I had.
My feet used to be completely flat when standing. I knew they had potential to improve because arches would appear when I stood up on my toes.
Exercises for Flat Feet: Basic Routine
The use of exercises to correct flat feet is not a new concept. Over a century ago, programs of stretching and foot muscle strengthening were shown to be remarkably successful.
These programs don’t seem to be as widely used today. It took me a lot of time to find the most effective exercises to fix flat feet.
In this video, I’ll demonstrate four of the exercises from the program I used to develop my arches.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the purpose of these exercises and how they are performed.
1. Short Foot
The short foot was one of the first exercises I practiced to strengthen my arches. This movement targets the small muscles that support the arch on the inside of the foot.
The goal is to shorten the length of the foot by sliding the front of the foot along the ground toward the heel.
- Sit in a chair with the foot on the floor and the toes pointed forward.
- Keeping the toes flat on the ground slide the front of the foot back along the floor toward the heel.
- Hold the short foot position for 5-10 seconds.
- Relax and repeat 10 times on each foot.
When performing the short foot I found it is important to keep a neutral heel position and not let the toes curl or lift off the ground. When done correctly, the ball of the foot and the heel stay in contact with the ground while the arch lifts.
2. Calf Stretch
The calf is a group of muscles in the back of the lower leg. Flat feet and overpronation can be the result of the foot compensating for limited ankle flexibility caused by tightness in the calf.
I used several calf stretches for my program. The one pictured here is sometimes called the runner’s stretch.
- Stand facing a wall with both hands on the wall for balance.
- Extend the leg to be stretched behind with the knee straight and toes pointed forward.
- Keeping the back leg straight and heel firmly on the ground, gently lean forward until feeling a stretch in the calf of the back leg.
- Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat 4 times on each leg.
To make the stretch effective, it’s important to not let the foot pronate or roll inward during the stretch.
3. Heel Raises
Heel raises strengthen several of the lower leg muscles that support the arch. This exercise has many possible variations. Shown here is the double leg heel raise.
This variation is done standing on both legs with hands placed on a wall for balance.
- Stand with feet about shoulder width apart.
- Raise heels off the ground as high as possible keeping even pressure across the front of the foot.
- Hold for 1-2 seconds at the top of the movement then return slowly to the starting position.
- Do 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions.
4. Toe Yoga
The muscles that control the toes are frequently underused and often lack strength and control.
Working on toe dexterity helps develop the strength needed to stabilize the front of the foot against the ground.
- Lift the big toe up while pressing the other 4 toes down. Hold 5 seconds.
- Press the big toe down while lifting the other 4 toes up. Hold 5 seconds.
- Repeat the sequence 10 times on each foot.
Easier said than done!
Here is an example of a workout routine using these exercises.
Flat Feet Correction Program
This basic routine is a good sample of the exercises from my program.
Over time, as I learned more about the specific issues I needed to work on, I added exercises to target specific muscles and movements. This included variations of the exercises shown here.
In addition to doing exercises, another part of this process was learning how to stand and walk correctly. A lot of my success, especially for reducing pronation, came from changing the way that I walked.
For more information on the entire process, see this free guide to fix flat feet.
Time Frame for Improvement
As you can see, my flat feet were extremely flat before I started training my arches. It took around 12 weeks to see improvement in my arches to the point that they were no longer considered flat.
The arches continued to improve for months after that as I kept up with some of the flat feet exercises and found new ones to work on.