When looking for the best exercises for flat feet, you need to look further than just your feet…
In this post I’m going to share with you what I think are the best exercises for flat feet as a physical therapist. One exercise will work on foot strengthening, one is an ankle stretch, and one actually works on strengthening through your glutes.
Keep reading to learn what these exercises are and to learn why they can help your flat feet.
What are flat feet?
Flat feet can either be flexible or rigid.
Flexible flat feet means that you have an arch when your foot is off the ground but when you stand, the arch disappears.
Rigid flat feet means that the structure of the bones that make up the arch of your foot are in a lower position which would cause you to have “flat feet”. With rigid flat feet, you won’t see an arch in your foot in sitting or standing.
In either case, when you have flat feet and are standing, you’ll see that the arch of your foot is collapsing down towards the ground.
Best exercises for flat feet
1. Medial arch lift
This exercise works on strengthening the muscles of your feet that support your arch. Strengthening these muscles can help improve the support of the arch of your foot as these muscles are commonly over stretched with flat feet.
This exercise can be done in either sitting or standing. To do this exercise, lift the arch of your foot while you keep your big toe and heel on the ground. The big toe is going to want to lift but don’t let it! Use your muscles to keep the big toe down while you lift your arch.
This motion is a very small movement as you can see in the photos above. The first photo is the foot relaxed and the second photo is the arch lifted.
Hold this arch lift for 5 seconds, then relax and repeat 10 times
2. Runner's stretch
The calf muscle (gastrocnemius) is commonly tight with flat feet because the Achilles tendon tends to get tight. The Achilles is what attaches the gastrocnemius to the heel bone.
There are many ways to stretch this muscle but the most basic way is a runner’s stretch.
To perform this stretch, face a wall and place your hands on it. Place one foot behind and one in front. Bend your front knee while keeping the back knee straight and working the back heel towards the floor. Make sure to keep the toes of the back foot pointing towards the wall. You should feel your calf stretching in the back leg.
Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
3. Glute strengthening
Research has shown that adding glute strengthening to the treatment of flat feet is more effective than just working on the muscles of the feet alone. This is because if the glutes are weak, it can change the position of the leg and enhance a flat foot position.
If the glutes are strong, it’s easier to keep the arch in a better position.
The glutes are made up of three different muscles. I’m going to show you exercises for the two major parts of the glutes, the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
3a. Side steps with band at ankles
This exercise works on the gluteus medius which is located at the outer hip. This muscle is pretty commonly weak in people. It’s important to keep this muscles strong not only for the arch of foot, but also because this muscle helps to keep your pelvis stable when walking. I have a self assessment guide to help you to determine if you have weakness in this muscle which you can find here: Test your outer hip strength!
You can do this exercise with or without a band. Using a band will make this exercise more challenging. This exercise may look easy but it’s definitely more challenging than it looks! Your outer hips will feel this!
If you’re using a band, place it around your ankles. These are the bands I use: Workout bands
You want to feel this exercise working in the outer hip region. Step to side and work with resistance of band. Keep a slight bend in your knees as you do this exercise (don’t lock out the knees).
Step 5 times to the left and then 5 times to the right. Repeat this 3 times (so you are doing 15 reps on each side) and then perform 3 sets.
Bridges are a great exercise to target the gluteus maximus.
Below is the most basic form of a bridge. This exercise may be challenging enough for some but if you find that you need to make this exercise harder, click here to receive a free guide to learn how to make your bridges more challenging.
To do bridges, start by laying on your back with your knees bent and your lower back relaxed on the floor.
Keep your hands resting on the floor and your feet hip width apart. Press through your heels and lift your hips up off the floor; don’t go too far as you don’t want to overarch your back. Make sure your knees stay in alignment with your hips and ankles (don’t let them fall in and don’t let them fall out). Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat.
Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
There you have 4 of the best exercises for flat feet!
Many people have more control over their bodies than they give themselves credit for. You may think, “I have flat feet, there’s nothing I can do about it,” but that’s not true.
These exercises may not all of a sudden give your foot an arch but they can still help give you a little more arch support and can help prevent some of the issues and/or symptoms that can come along with flat feet.
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Before beginning any of these exercises, you should consult with your physician, assess your fitness level, and follow all safety instructions.
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