Flat feet cause a misalignment within your legs and hips. In all fairness, my flat feet are doing the best that they can under their circumstances. Helping your “flipper feet” to perform at their best, therefore your best, requires some special attention. As a fellow flat footer (I am the “Big Foot” mentioned in the title of this article), my goal is to help you remedy some of the drawbacks that come with flat feet.
Within the realm of genes, our skeletal structure is the most difficult to affect, and within our skeletons, our feet take the most abuse. Some of us are blessed with strong feet that are built with a high arch and instep; a strong football aligned with the heel and perfectly shaped toes. Unfortunately, most of us have some issues with our feet.
One of the worst situations is a completely flat foot which afflicts the body with knee, hip, back and neck pain. This cycle eventually affects mobility, which then creates a laundry list of other damaging health conditions. Flat feet are such a disadvantage that “flat foots” have historically been exempted from military service and are a huge detriment for jobs which require walking, running, long periods of standing, and the participation in sports (with the exception of swimming where flat feet are actually an advantage).
The long-term effects of flat feet are chronic pain, damage to the spine ,and systemic inflammation. As we age, these aliments become more commonplace and can eventually affect our quality of life in our middle and senior years. No one wants to end up being pushed around in a wheel chair because of some malady that he or she could have had a hand in preventing or correcting.
First, the issue of misalignment may be mitigated by the type and brand of shoe you wear. Know your feet! Do your ankles roll in or do you walk on the outside of your foot? What about your toes; do they all lay flat when your foot is on the floor? How about your ankles; a shortened Achilles tendon is one of the most common side effects of flat feet.
It would be best to begin your quest for correcting your flat feet and body alignment with a visit to a podiatrist. Your doctor will look at your feet, take measurements, and provide very useful suggestions for what to do and not do. Personally, my podiatrist advised that I have “the flattest feet” she “has ever seen in her entire career.” It was sort of a daunting comment but not insurmountable.
Second is the application of specific foot exercises. There are exercises that are really good for almost all feet, but they are especially important for flat footers. Exercise your feet! These are not walking or running exercises, but isolated exercises that target your feet. You can do some of these in the morning when you wake up, while sitting at a desk, before sports, while taking a walk, or before going to sleep. These exercises are tippy toes, toe curls, heel dip, lacrosse ball roll, toe lift, foam roller, and foot massage. All are easy, inexpensive or even free.
If you suffer from foot pain, below is a brief list of remedies:
1) Know When to Get Help:
When pain interferes with activities, it’s time to see the doctor for a thorough exam and treatment.
2) Learn About Stretches
Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to show you stretches that can prepare you for feet-intensive activities.
3) Limit Risk Factors
Limit or treat risk factors that can make fallen arches or flat feet worse, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
4) Avoid Damaging Activities
Avoid activities that put excessive stress on your feet, such as running on roads.
5) Avoid Damaging Sports
Avoid high-impact sports such as volleyball, basketball, rugby, handball, soccer, and tennis.
Here is a list of exercises I like to do:
1) Walking on the balls of my feet like tippy toeing, like sneaking through my parents house (in much younger days) after coming home late way past curfew.
2) You can set a towel on the floor and to start pinching it with your toes to strengthen and lengthen the ligaments as you open and close your curling toes.
3) Place the ball of your foot on the edge of a rise no higher than 2 inches and, while leaning into your foot, to gently apply pressure to stretch your Achilles tendon.
4) When you squat, make sure your weight is on your heel so you can are elevate your toes off the ground.
Below is a list of shoe brands that I recommend for flat feet. Not all shoes are built the same and not all brands fit the foot in the same way. Flat footers need to try on shoes before buying and wearing them. Online shopping for shoes is not the best way to go. General brands that have models good for flat feet: Adidas, Brooks, Reeboks, Mizuno, Puma.
Sports that are good for flat footers include swimming, bicycling, weight training, and crew. Almost any sport with low foot impact. Walking is good as long as you have the correct foot support. Finally, high impact sports for those of us with flat feet are not a impossibility, you just need to apply some logic and common sense.
If a high impact sport is not right for you, find some other exercises. Be creative. Your feet are the key to your overall good health.
Tyler Perez (www.RespectStrong.com) is ISSA certified, NASM MMA Conditioning Specialist, NESTA Muay Thai Fitness Trainer, and Onnit Certified trainer specializing in functional mass gaining. After retiring from international rugby Tyler wanted to get back into the fitness community by contributing everything and anything for anyone who needed help. Having a background in athletic performance he have sought out coaches who could help him get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Ranging from barbell lifting, kettlebells, and calisthenics Tyler hopes to teach more of what he knows to the public so he too can become a teacher as my coaches have been to him.