Best Exercises for Collapsed Arches & Flat Feet according to Podiatrists
Updated February 17, 2023.
Flat feet are a rather common foot condition in which the foot arch collapses either temporarily or permanently. It occurs when the middle part of your foot—between the heel and toes—doesn't get enough support.
Flat feet can be either flexible or rigid. With flexible flat feet, the fallen arch is only noticeable on standing. However, with rigid flat feet, the fallen arch is noticeable in all positions. They can make your feet tired, painful, achy, or swollen and even impact your back and legs.
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Exercises for Flat feet and Collapsed Arches
Flat feet must be managed properly or it can result in avoidable complications. Thankfully, there are different effective treatment options for flat feet. One of them is the use of exercises.
Evidence shows that exercises are effective in preventing flat feet from worsening. Here are some that you can do to strengthen your muscles and help them resist collapse.
1. Foot twists
You can perform both inner and outer foot twists.
To perform outer foot twists, lie on your back. Bring your forefeet up and in (big toes towards each other). Bring your forefeet up and out (big toes away from each other). Return your feet to the middle.
To perform inner foot twists, while sitting in a chair, move your foot towards the midline of the body. Then return to its position. You can perform three sets of 10 reps each daily.
2. Toe lifts
Toe lifts aim to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet and improve foot stability and balance. You can start in either standing or sitting position.
While sitting barefoot,
- Lift the big toe with one foot and push the other four toes into the ground.
- Push your big toe down and lift and splay the other four toes off the ground.
- Hold the position for five seconds
- Repeat on each side between six to eight times.
- Lift the inside of the foot off the ground.
- Lift the forefoot as high as you can while keeping your weight on your heel.
- Lower the foot and repeat between six and eight times also.
- Aim for three to five reps weekly.
3. Towel Scrunch
The towel crunch is another crucial exercise for strengthening the arches. It begins in the seated position and requires you to have a towel. To perform the exercise;
- Seat on a chair with a towel laid at your feet
- Within the minimal movement of your leg, use your toe muscles to grab at the towel until it is impossible to pull the towel under your foot anymore.
- Repeat with other foot.
- Aim to start with at least one set a day and continue to increase the number of sets as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
4. Toe Extension
Toe extension exercise is a stretching exercise focusing on the foot muscles responsible for controlling the movement of your toes. To perform this exercise,
- Gently push down on the toe until the knuckles are noticeable.
- Hold position for up to twenty seconds for maximum stretch
- Repeat 3-4 times per set.
5. Arch Lift
Arch lifts strengthen the muscles that help supinate and lift the arches. Follow these steps to perform the exercise;
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- While keeping your toes in contact with the floor, roll your weight on the outer edge of the feet, lifting your arches as far as possible.
- Hold the position for up to five seconds before releasing the feet back down.
- Carry out 2–3 sets of 10–15 repetitions in a day.
6. Calf raise
From a standing position,
- Lift your heels as high as possible. The end position should not be too uncomfortable. You may hold on to the wall or grab a chair for additional support.
- Hold the end position for about five seconds and lower the heel back to the floor.
- Complete 2–3 sets of 15–20 repetitions daily.
7. Short foot
The short foot exercise aims to work the inner foot muscles which support the arch. To perform the exercise;
- Sit upright in a chair with the foot firmly on the floor and the toes pointing forward.
- Without lifting any part of the foot off the ground, slide the forefoot back along the floor toward the heel.
- Hold the short foot position for 5-10 seconds.
- Alternate between each foot, repeating exercise up to 10managedtimes on each foot.
Flat feet can lead to debilitating consequences if not managed early. Since many of these exercises can easily be performed without supervision, start as early as possible and stay consistent with the exercises for maximal results.