Flat feet or pes planus is a biomechanical condition becoming more prevalent in modern society. This is highly attributed to the decrease in proprioceptive feedback the foot receives as it moves barefoot over a variety of different surfaces. These days the majority of everyone’s movement is done on flat hard surfaces often through poor footwear. With a reduction in requirement in these proprioceptive muscles they become inactive and the arch slowly drops to create flat foot.
Flat feet have multiple effects throughout the lower limb the main aspects being an internal rotation of the leg and outward turning of the foot. These can have detrimental effects to the individual as this shift in the way the body is supposed to move gradually loads up tissues and give rise to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, achilles/perineal/tibialis posterior tendinopathies, bunyions as well as knee and hip problems.
To assess if your feet have developed flat foot it is quite simple. Observe the inside edge of your foot with no shoes or socks in the mirror while standing. If the inside edge touches the ground without any gap then you have some degree of wear and tear in the arch of the foot.
Many practitioners would send straight to a podiatrist and have an orthotic made up. This however rarely addresses the issue of decreased foot propriocetion and muscle control. It is possible to rebuild the arch through a few exercises and reap the rewards of improved performance.
The first exercise is to roll the foot out with a hard small ball. This will increase blood flow prior to the exercises and work out any adhesions within the fascia.
The next exercise is to scrunch up the toes of one foot as if you are trying to grab hold of the floor then use your toes to drag your foot a small distance forwards. Do this a couple of times on each foot, but don’t use your leg muscles to push your foot forward.
Next exercise you will need a towel. Place the towel under your foot then scrunch the towel using only your toes to pull it closer.
The next exercise will need to be done standing. In this position press your big toe down into the ground but try keep the rest of your foot relaxed. You should feel your arch lift with this movement. Hold for 5-10 seconds each time.
The final exercise can be done in any position. For this one you will need to splay all toes and extend them, hold for a couple of seconds then relax and repeat for 8-10 repitions each side.