4 Best Exercises for Flat Feet and Fallen Arches (2022)

When it comes to your feet, you want to do everything you can to keep them healthy and in top shape. This is especially important for people who have flat feet, a condition where one or both feet have no arch when standing.

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While most people with flat feet don’t have significant health issues, the condition still requires extra care and attention, particularly for those who’re active and on their feet a lot. Whether it’s strengthening flat feet and the muscles and tendons affected or knowing what to avoid, awareness is key.

For more on strengthening exercises for flat feet, as well as what not to do for flat feet, we spoke with physical therapist Michael Bogden, PT, DPT.

What’s the difference between fallen arches and flat feet?

It’s common to hear flat feet used interchangeably with the term “fallen arches.” The only real difference, according to Bogden, is when the condition happens. “Flat feet are congenital, a condition you’re born with,” he says, “while fallen arches usually refer to a structural change in the foot that occurred over time.”

Since flat feet and fallen arches are similar, the approach to treating and exercising them is often the same.

(Video) 5 Exercises To Fix Flat Feet & Fallen Arches

Is exercise good for flat feet?

In short, yes, exercise is good for flat feet. Notes Bogden, “As long as you’re not having pain, and progress increases in activities or exercise in moderation, there’s no reason to limit yourself.”

He adds that exercise is the best thing you can do for flat feet, as this creates a lot of muscular support to make up for the structural instability that’s not there. “The bones and ligaments don’t provide the amount of structural support you would like them to,” Bogden says. “It’s the same as strengthening your rotator cuff when you have instability in your shoulder.”

It’s not unusual for a person with flat feet to be wary of walking around barefoot or going without some sort of support. But, it’s essential to get some sort of exercise. “If you’re constantly using support, those muscles won’t get necessary work they need to be strong, leading to weakness which can worsen instability,” explains Bogden.

Again, as long as there’s no pain and exercises are progressed in moderation to assess how well your feet are tolerating the exercise, he says it’s OK to be as active as you feel comfortable.

Strengthening exercises for flat feet

While there are plenty of great strengthening exercises for flat feet, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider, podiatrist or physical therapist before starting. “Since there’s such a wide spectrum of conditions for flat feet, it’s important to understand where you are on that spectrum,” says Bogden.

“Think of it like this: There’s a range of different doses for any medication, so you need to speak with your doctor to determine where the best place to start is,” he says. “It’s the same thing here. Should you start with non-weight-bearing exercises or can you add weight-bearing and dynamic movement to the exercises?”

Here are some of the exercises those with flat feet should consider.

Arch lifts

Also known as “foot doming,” arch lifts involve keeping your feet flat on the floor and raising the arch of your foot as much as you can, rolling the weight of your foot to the outside while keeping your heel and toes on the ground. You can perform the exercise either standing or sitting.

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(Video) Fix flat feet and fallen arches (foot strength exercise) - the Arch Raise exercise for flat feet

“It strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the foot and research shows that it helps other conditions like plantar fasciitis,” says Bogden.

Marble pickups

Another exercise that strengthens the intrinsic (deep) muscles in your feet involves using your toes to pick up marbles. Place 10 to 20 marbles on the floor next to a bowl. While seated, use your toes to grab each marble and place it in the bowl. Bogden adds that picking up a towel with your toes can give you a similar workout.

Heel raises

An easy exercise, begin with feet flat on the floor and raise your heels, putting the weight on the balls of your feet. Hold the position for a few seconds and slowly lower yourself down.

Heel walking and toe walking

Walking across the room on your heels with your toes in the air can strengthen muscles in your ankles and feet. Repeating the exercise on your toes with your heels in the air (essentially walking tip-toe) can do the same.

Massage — don’t stretch — flat feet

Typically, stretching is something that is part of a regular exercise routine, keeping muscles loose. But in the case of flat feet, Bogden says stretching is a bad idea. “Because there’s already some instability, stretching can lengthen your muscle tissue and cause further instability.”

Instead, he says massaging should be part of your regimen to help keep those foot muscles from getting too tight. “We want to treat those tight spots in the muscles but not in a way that’s going to make them longer or less able to provide support,” he says.

Some of those options include:

  • Massage the area with your thumbs.
  • Gently roll your arch over a golf ball.
  • Dry needling.
  • Vibrating massages such as with massage guns.

The key, Bogden says, is to treat not only your foot, but also your calf and even your spine because of the way certain muscles — like the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, the large muscles in the back of your lower leg — connect your calf to your foot. It’s a holistic approach that keeps your lower body both strong and without tightness to alleviate issues caused by flat feet.

(Video) How to Fix Flat Feet (fallen arches) in 4 Steps

Aerobic exercises for fallen arches

It’s definitely possible to perform aerobic exercises with flat feet, says Bogden, as long as you start easy and work your way up. “Start with exercises that will reduce weight-bearing on your feet, like biking, swimming or rowing.”

As you grow more comfortable and your feet adapt to the activities, he recommends trying to progress to exercises that may have more weight-bearing aspects, like an elliptical machine.

When it comes to any sort of walking program, Bogden says it’s okay to start right away but to start with short distances first. “Even if you have flat feet, you’re probably walking every day, so as long as you’re not doing it for significantly longer durations than you commonly do daily, you’re OK.”

Build up to those longer distances at a slow but steady pace. “It’s no different than those couch-to-5K running programs,” he says. “You slowly increase the distance for a week or two, cut back for a recovery week, then proceed to increase your distance again.”

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The easiest place to start, though, is right at home. “You can start walking around your house barefoot,see if your feet can toleratethose short distances, and start building up that strengthand endurance necessary to increase your activities further,” he advises.

What exercises should you avoid with flat feet?

As with where to start, which exercises you should avoid all depends on where you fall on the spectrum in terms of the condition and strength of your feet. “Nothing has to be avoided if you’ve worked your way up to it and you haven’t had pain or other undesirable symptoms like severe tightness,” says Bogden.

Still, it’s best to be cautious with exercises that can get aggressive with jumping and add more stress on your feet. “With workouts like playing basketball or distance running, you want to be careful,” Bogden notes. “It’s not that they should be avoided, it’s just that you have to give your body time to adapt to that much loading on the muscles.”

(Video) 7 Best Flat Feet Treatments - Ask Doctor Jo

For instance, if your body’s not ready for you to run a 10K or go all-out in a game of pickup basketball, those muscles in your feet, ankles and lower legs can getseverelyoverloadedcompared to what they’re used to, causing tightness and injury.

Bogden adds, “Any increase in activity that is dramatically more than usual will put someone at risk for things like excessive soreness, muscle tightness, or injury.”

Should special shoes or support equipment be used with flat feet?

While it’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist about what equipment will work best for you, Bogden says there are a few things that should help those with flat feet exercise safely.

“Be sure that your shoe comes with a toe box that allows your toes to splay or spread,” he recommends. Having the toe box of the shoe too narrow can change how your foot contacts the ground and supports your body, which may lead to other injuries.

Feel free to try over-the-counter arch supports, too, but keep an important question in mind when using them: Do you feel better when you’re using them?

“People sometimes want to force their body into using these tools, but if it’s supporting your muscles and putting your foot into a good position, you should feel better when using them, not worse,” Bogden says. If you feel worseafter giving them a fair assessment ranging from a few hours to a couple of days, stop using them and consult your doctor or physical therapist.

The important thing is thatyou provide your feet with some form of exercise and don’t fully rely on those supports all the time. “If you always support your muscles with orthotics, those muscles don’tget the workout they need so they’ll have a limited ability to be strong and help provide the much-needed support your foot needs to make up for the lack of support commonly provided by the bones and ligaments,” Bogden explains.

“Whether it’s aerobic exercises or even just walking in your house barefoot,like all muscles, be sure your feet are getting some exercise,” he says. “Just give your body extra timeto adapt to the added challenge those foot muscles have, and understand that some tightness will be part of the process. And that can be helped with a variety of approaches to help loosen up tight muscles such as massage from a therapist or self-massage options.”

FAQs

Can you rebuild arches in flat feet? ›

One of the foot problems people develop is "fallen arches" or "flat feet," a decrease in the longitudinal arch that absorbs landing forces. You can rebuild the arches through the use of the following and other active isolated, constant-resistance exercises.

How can I get my feet to arch with flat feet? ›

So hold two three and then relax. Pull together and hold two three and then relax. And then you're

How do you strengthen a collapsed arch? ›

Press both heels down into the floor. Bend the front leg until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat four times on each leg. Tennis Ball Rolls: This exercise stretches and strengthens the foot arch muscles.

Is walking barefoot good for flat feet? ›

For those who have flat feet, running barefoot may help strengthen muscles in your arch and ankles. Those who do a lot of physical activity or run often may experience their flat feet lacking pronation when the arch compresses to help with shock absorption as force exerts on the feet.

What is the fastest way to cure flat feet? ›

For painful flatfeet, a health care provider might suggest:
  1. Arch supports (orthotic devices). Nonprescription arch supports can help relieve the pain caused by flatfeet. ...
  2. Stretching exercises. Some people with flatfeet also have a shortened Achilles tendon. ...
  3. Physical therapy.
16 Aug 2022

How long does it take to correct flat feet? ›

Structural correction of flat feet can take between 3-18 months. Not all flat feet cases can be corrected, however many can be.

Can flat feet be corrected in adults? ›

In adults, flat feet usually remain permanently flat. Treatment usually addresses the symptoms rather than a cure. In adults the condition is called "acquired" flatfoot because it affects feet that at one point in time had a normal longitudinal arch. The deformity may worsen over time as one ages.

Can fallen arches be fixed with exercise? ›

Recent research has shown that exercises are effective at improving the arches in some people with flexible flat feet who are otherwise without foot problems or injuries.

Can you strengthen fallen arches? ›

It's definitely possible to perform aerobic exercises with flat feet, says Bogden, as long as you start easy and work your way up. “Start with exercises that will reduce weight-bearing on your feet, like biking, swimming or rowing.”

Are fallen arches the same as flat feet? ›

Some adults have arches that collapse. This condition, fallen arches, is another term for flatfoot. Flat feet aren't a problem for most people. If flat feet cause pain or other problems, treatments can help.

How do you massage flat feet? ›

Roll the ball toward the heel slowly, then along the outer arch and across the forefoot, massaging the entire sole. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds. When you reach a tense spot, try pointing and flexing your toes to intensify the massage. Repeat with your left foot.

Is it too late to fix flatfoot? ›

While flat feet can be painful, the condition can be successfully treated by a range of methods regardless of your age.

Are fallen arches permanent? ›

Flat feet in children will often resolve without intervention, while “fallen arches” in adults tend to be permanent and non-reversible.

What causes people to have flat feet? ›

Flat feet are caused by a variety of conditions including injuries, obesity, and arthritis. Aging, genetics, and pregnancy can also contribute to flat feet. You're also more likely to have flat feet if you have a neurological or muscular disease such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida.

What causes flat feet to hurt? ›

The most common symptom of flat feet is pain in the feet. This can occur as a result of strained muscles and connecting ligaments. Abnormal stresses on the knee and hip may result in pain in these joints. These stresses are likely if the ankles turn inward.

Is it better to wear slippers at home? ›

Wearing slippers at home is generally good. It helps to prevent accidents such as slips, keeps your house cleaner, and prevents fungal infections from spreading. It can also reduce instances of colds and flu, stops foot pain from her indoor surfaces, protects your socks, and could make you more productive.

What type of shoes are good for flat feet? ›

  • Sole Support. Most experts agree that wearing shoes with a supportive sole is best for flat feet. ...
  • Raised Heel. Shoes with a slightly raised heel take pressure off your mid-sole and relieve foot pain. ...
  • Custom Orthotics. If you can't find shoes that cushion your feet well, you may need custom orthotic inserts.
11 Aug 2021

Is Flat Foot a disability? ›

Although flat feet used to be a disqualifier for military duty, as it turns out, flat feet or pes planus is a normal variation in the spectrum of foot alignment.

Why do arch supports hurt my flat feet? ›

Incorrectly sized arch supports can cause restrictions in your foot's movement and force them to readjust to accommodate the awkward position, putting extra pressure on the midsole and causing more pain. Worn-out insoles will no longer provide the correct support to your feet and could cause more harm than good.

What does a fallen arch feel like? ›

Symptoms of Flat Feet and Fallen Arches

Painful or achy feet, especially in the areas of the arches and heels. The inside bottoms of your feet become swollen. Foot movement, such as standing on your toes, is difficult. Back and leg pain.

Is flat feet hereditary? ›

Causes. The causes of flat feet are varied. Some inherit the condition from their parents as an isolated trait, this is particularly true for children with hypermobility or “double jointed”. Others develop flat feet as part of another genetic condition.

Are we born with flat feet? ›

Typically, babies are born with flat feet. This condition, called “flexible flatfoot” begins to disappear when the child starts to stand and becomes mobile. In most cases, children outgrow this disorder without need for treatment, usually by the age six, as they start to naturally develop an arch.

Can flat feet cause neuropathy? ›

Peripheral neuropathy—Damage to the nerves in the extremities often caused by diabetes. Injury to the foot or ankle—An injury to your toes or feet can also result in numbness. Flat feet—The weight and pressure from having poorly treated flat feet can press on the nerves.

Can flat feet cause back pain? ›

For example, if you have flat feet, your ankles may roll slightly inward when you stand or walk. This altered gait can then affect the alignment of your knees and hips. With these major joints out of balance, the impact can travel up to your lower back and cause chronic pain.

Why do fallen arches happen? ›

Arches can collapse abruptly after an injury. Or the collapse can happen over years of wear and tear. Over time, the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and helps support the arch can get weakened or tear. As the severity increases, arthritis may develop in the foot.

Do insoles help fallen arches? ›

One of the most important treatments for fallen arches is a structurally supportive shoe. If you have associated pain, over-the-counter orthotics or insoles may also help very much. Or your doctor might suggest custom designed arch supports, which are molded to the contours of your feet.

Do arches fall as you age? ›

As mentioned, some people have normal feet for the majority of their adult life, but their arches slowly break down and flatten as they grow older. This causes their shoe size to increase as their foot flattens out. Several factors can speed up the process, including: Obesity.

Do calf raises help flat feet? ›

Calf Raises

Calf raises are helpful for flat feet because by stretching and strengthening your calves, you are also stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. Overall, this should reduce any pain you may be experiencing. To complete calf raises, stand tall and plant both feet firmly into the ground.

Is plantar fasciitis the same as fallen arches? ›

No, they are not. Flatfeet is a condition in which the foot arches collapse and may come with no associated symptoms. On the other hand, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia and causes pain.

Do Orthotics strengthen arches? ›

Although orthotics help, the study proved that a combination of orthotics and arch strengthening exercises worked best. Those that used both orthotics and exercises had stronger feet Orthotics work by aligning muscles in the correct position to help strengthen the arch while doing the exercises.

How do you give yourself a foot massage? ›

Foot Massage Reflexology | Self Massage Feet - YouTube

Does physical therapy help flat feet? ›

Footwear with substantial arch support, insoles to relieve foot pressure, daily stretching exercises for both the feet and legs, ice therapy to reduce inflammation, physical therapy to correct walking patterns, and even ankle braces or injections are some common ways to treat flat feet.

How do you massage your feet before bed? ›

How to Massage Your Feet - YouTube

Can you fix flat feet with massage? ›

Flat feet with increased exposure to weight-bearing activities can lead to foot deformities and bone stress injuries. Massage therapy can effectively treat this “overpronation” condition, increasing circulation and loosening connective tissue.

Can a chiropractor help with fallen arches? ›

The chiropractor can prescribe orthotic devices to provide proper arch support for those who have flat feet. There are two types of orthotic devices – custom orthotics and heat moulding orthotics.

Can flat feet cause knee problems? ›

In quite a few cases, knee issues can be caused by or get worse from poor foot posture. Foot posture problems, such as flat feet or high-arched feet, can cause misalignment in the lower body. Among these, a flatfoot condition is the most common cause of knee problems.

What part of foot should hit first when walking? ›

When you're walking, your foot first hits the ground with the heel.

How do you build muscle in your feet? ›

Foot Strengthening Exercises - YouTube

Can flat feet be corrected in adults? ›

In adults, flat feet usually remain permanently flat. Treatment usually addresses the symptoms rather than a cure. In adults the condition is called "acquired" flatfoot because it affects feet that at one point in time had a normal longitudinal arch. The deformity may worsen over time as one ages.

Is it too late to fix flatfoot? ›

While flat feet can be painful, the condition can be successfully treated by a range of methods regardless of your age.

Can flat foot be corrected? ›

How are flat feet managed or treated? Many people with flat feet don't have significant problems or need treatment. Your healthcare provider may recommend nonsurgical treatments if you experience foot pain, stiffness or other issues. Rarely, people need surgery to fix rigid flat feet or problems with bones or tendons.

Can you fix collapsed arches? ›

However, often times a collapsed arch ultimately must be repaired surgically to provide lasting relief. A reconstructive surgery for flatfoot seeks to restore proper biomechanical support structures through rebuilding the arch.

What kind of shoes should I wear if I have flat feet? ›

Most experts agree that wearing shoes with a supportive sole is best for flat feet. Look for a shoe with a firm but cushioned insole to support the surface of your foot. The sole of the shoe should be flexible but not floppy. It should move with your foot and provide support while you walk or stand.

Is Flat foot a disability? ›

Although flat feet used to be a disqualifier for military duty, as it turns out, flat feet or pes planus is a normal variation in the spectrum of foot alignment.

How long does it take to correct flat feet? ›

Structural correction of flat feet can take between 3-18 months. Not all flat feet cases can be corrected, however many can be.

Can you massage out flat feet? ›

Massage — don't stretch — flat feet

Instead, he says massaging should be part of your regimen to help keep those foot muscles from getting too tight. “We want to treat those tight spots in the muscles but not in a way that's going to make them longer or less able to provide support,” he says.

Can you fix flat feet with massage? ›

Flat feet with increased exposure to weight-bearing activities can lead to foot deformities and bone stress injuries. Massage therapy can effectively treat this “overpronation” condition, increasing circulation and loosening connective tissue.

Why do people get flat feet? ›

Flat feet are caused by a variety of conditions including injuries, obesity, and arthritis. Aging, genetics, and pregnancy can also contribute to flat feet. You're also more likely to have flat feet if you have a neurological or muscular disease such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida.

Why do arch supports hurt my flat feet? ›

Incorrectly sized arch supports can cause restrictions in your foot's movement and force them to readjust to accommodate the awkward position, putting extra pressure on the midsole and causing more pain. Worn-out insoles will no longer provide the correct support to your feet and could cause more harm than good.

What causes flat feet in adults? ›

Adults can develop flat feet through injury, tight Achilles tendon, abnormal joint formation, continued stresses on the foot and its arch, or simply as they age. Some of the most common causes of flat feet in adults are: Achilles Equinus contracture. Coalition of rearfoot joints.

Are fallen arches permanent? ›

Flat feet in children will often resolve without intervention, while “fallen arches” in adults tend to be permanent and non-reversible.

How do you fix fallen arches naturally? ›

Treatment for Flat Feet and Fallen Arches
  1. Rest and ice to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  2. Stretching exercises.
  3. Pain relief medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.
  4. Physical therapy.
  5. Orthotic devices, shoe modifications, braces, or casts.
  6. Injected medications to reduce inflammation, such as corticosteroids.
7 Mar 2022

What does a fallen arch feel like? ›

Fallen Arch Symptoms

Back and leg pain can both stem from flat feet. Some patients report limited foot movement, like the inability to stand on their toes. People with fallen arches experience swollen feet, tired feet, and more aches and pains in their arches and heels.

Videos

1. 3 Critical Exercises for Pronated, Flat Feet (Causing Foot & Leg Pain?)
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2. 5 Easy Exercises For Fallen Arches
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3. 3 Critical Exercises For Pronated, Flat Feet. (Causing Foot, Knee & Back Pain) UPDATED
(Bob & Brad)
4. How to Treat FLAT FEET With 3 Exercises
(Rehab and Revive)
5. 4 exercises for flat feet pain relief!
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6. 5 Ways Flat Feet “F” Up Your Workouts!! (EXERCISES TO FIX THEM!)
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