Can Natural Treatments and Custom Insoles Cure Pain From Flat Feet?
Updated February 17, 2023.
Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, is a condition in which the arches of your feet are depressed, and most, if not all, of the sole is in contact with the floor. The condition is further divided into two sub-conditions known as and characterized by:
- Flexible flat feet (FFF) Patients appear normal when seated or standing tiptoed, but their arches collapse when they stand up and apply weight to the soles of their feet.
- Rigid flat feet (RFF) Patients have collapsed and flat arches regardless of the position that their feet are in.
The experienced symptoms will vary between individuals from mild to severe, though similar treatments are prescribed to those who seek help. This article looks at the efficacy of using custom-made insoles or orthotics to alleviate or potentially cure the pain of flat feet.
What Causes Flat Feet?
Flexible flat feet are normal in young children as the arches only tend to develop at around age 7. For those who carry the condition into adulthood, they can thank their genetics as this sub-condition is often hereditary. However, if you are predisposed to having flexible flat feet, you may not need to worry as most individuals with this sub-condition will be asymptomatic and live their lives without needing treatment.
Rigid flat feet, however, are unusual and dangerous. Often caused by injuries or congenital disorders, RFF manifest in structural issues and misalignments of the tendons and ligaments in either your feet or legs. The progression, or even cause, of this condition can be exacerbated by obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and old age.
Why Are Flat Feet Bad?
If you have asymptomatic FFF, then you are probably safe in not getting treatment as it's unlikely that it could progress into further issues. If, on the other hand, you experience any pain or other secondary conditions as a result of either FFF or RFF, then it's strongly advised that you seek treatment as soon as possible as this could lead to a number of further complications.
Flat Feet Can Cause Overpronation
Our feet naturally pronate in order to absorb shock from the impact against the ground, but overpronation is when your ankles roll too far inward to where the soles of your feet are flat against the floor. Since the feet are the foundation for the standing body, alignment problems like this can lead to further conditions like mild to severe pain in the knees and ankles.
If the condition is not treated, it can progress to severe conditions like spinal misalignments and issues in the hips and lower back.
Flat Feet Can Cause Plantar Fasciitis
Since the tendons in flat feet are not operating correctly, they can overstretch the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs under your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes) and lead to plantar fasciitis, which is a painful inflammation.
Although people with plantar fasciitis usually heal with time, if the cause of this condition is flat feet, then it might be something you have to deal with for an extended period of time.
How Can You Alleviate the Pain of Flat Feet From Home?
Before learning about potential conservative and natural treatments for flat feet, it's important to understand that flat feet are not reversible. Although the symptoms can often be managed and alleviated, flat feet will never simply "go away" in the same manner that a cold might. Despite this, there are some things you can do to make the condition easier to live with.
It's important to understand that there is no time limit. The more you implement these methods, the more manageable your symptoms will become over time, while if you start to slack and forget to do them, your condition may become worse once more.
Is Walking Barefoot Good for Flat Feet?
Some people suggest that walking, or even exercise, without shoes on can strengthen the muscles in your arch as they need to overcompensate to make up for the lost support. However, it's important to understand that there are no scientific studies that suggest barefoot exercises can treat flat feet.
If you do intend to exercise and suffer from flat feet, you'd have more luck using a pair of sports insoles for flat feet instead of doing it barefoot.
Exercises for Flat Feet
Science has found that since one of the potential causes of flat feet is weakened muscles or tendons, you can perform exercises intended to strengthen them, such as:
- Supinated arch lifts are performed from a standing position and require you to keep your toes and the outside of your sole on the floor while attempting to lift the inside arch of your feet. Repeat for multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- Towel curls are specially vetted and are performed in a seated, comfortable position. Place your foot on a flat towel or blanket, then, focusing on keeping the ball of your foot flat against the floor, try and scrunch the towel up with your toes. Repeat for multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- Achilles Tendon stretches could help as a weak Achilles could be a potential contributing factor to your flat feet. Perform them by standing with one leg extended behind you and your hands supported against a wall. Then lean forward with your spine straight, feeling your leg muscles and Achilles tendon stretch. Perform for 15-30 seconds on each leg.
- Calf raises can help stretch the muscles in your calves that connect to your feet and are performed by standing with your feet flat, then lifting your heels off the floor as high as you can for multiple sets of 10-15 reps.
Massages for Flat Feet
You may also find some benefits in various massage techniques.
- Flexing the toes back and forth with assisted hands can help strengthen the muscles in your arches.
- Deep, circular motions in the arches, heel, and legs can help reduce inflammation and, therefore, alleviate pain. This technique can also be applied to the Achilles tendon.
Can Orthotics Alleviate Pain or Correct Flat Feet?
Custom orthotics are among the first conservative treatments recommended for flat feet. There are several studies that advocate for their effectiveness at both alleviating the pain of flat feet, as well as helping to strengthen the weakened muscles and help the feet operate correctly, leading to improved balance and quality of life. Custom-fit arch supports are molded to the specifications of your feet and will have more benefits than generic over-the-counter insoles.
It's advised that using orthotics with the purpose of treating flat feet should result in the individual wearing them as often as possible. Arched insoles intended for flat feet work the same way as stretches and exercises, but more passively and over an extended period of time.
Should You Purchase Custom Insoles for Flat Feet?
As mentioned earlier, there is no ultimate cure for flat feet. However, there are many ways that the symptoms can be treated and lessened without having to go through expensive and painful surgeries. If your flat feet are asymptomatic, then you don't have to worry and go out of your way to purchase a pair of expensive insoles. However, if they are beginning to cause you pain or other conditions, you can rest assured that there is scientific evidence to support the basis of treating flat feet with custom orthotics and at-home exercises.