Dip your foot in water and make a footprint on the concrete. Does it reflect the outline of your entire foot or does it have an inward curve on one side? If your answer is the former, you have flat feet. This is a condition where your arches that help support your body’s weight didn’t develop, or if they did, they fell at some point.
Though some people’s flat feet never pose a problem, others experience complications. Our caring team of podiatry experts at Optima Foot & Ankle offers a range of advanced treatments for problems associated with flat feet. Dr. Laura Schweger and Dr. Evan Ross also educate you about home exercises that alleviate symptoms.
The lowdown on flat feet
The most common flat foot condition is flexible flat foot, where your arches never form. It’s often hereditary. You might have noticed that most babies don’t have arches, which is normal, but they typically develop by age 6. The condition earned its name because when you have it, arches appear when you’re not bearing weight on your feet, but disappear and become flat when you stand.
If your arches don’t fall until adulthood, it could be an inherited problem or due to a traumatic injury. Pregnant women and people living with obesity and chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure are also more prone to fallen arches.
If you’re one of the 20% of people who never developed arches or part of the nearly 30% of people whose arches fall, you may experience symptoms like:
- Heel, arch, or ankle pain
- Lower back or hip pain
- Knee pain
- Pain that runs the length of your shin bone
- Toe drift, when the front part of your foot and toes point outward
- Leg or foot muscle pain
- Leg cramps
- Ankles that roll inward (overpronation)
- Foot or leg fatigue
Flat feet can affect mobility, causing pain when you walk and even changing your gait (the way you walk).
At-home exercises offer help for flat feet symptoms
If you’re diagnosed with flat feet, your provider customizes your treatment plan, which may include conservative treatments like ensuring your footwear provides better support or prescribing custom-made orthotics (shoe inserts). A surgical solution might be necessary if you sustain an injury.
Your provider might also suggest good exercises to do at home that provide relief.
1. The tennis ball maneuver
Put a tennis ball between your ankles and apply pressure, squeezing inward. Gradually lift your heels while squeezing the ball until you’re standing on your tiptoes. Stay in this position for a couple of seconds and then slowly lower your heels again onto the floor.
Aim for three sets of 10. It’s fine to rest in between sets.
2. Plantar fascia stretch
Your plantar fascia is the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to behind your toes. Flat feet stress your plantar fascia and can contribute to the painful condition called plantar fasciitis.
This exercise not only helps with flat feet, but serves to prevent plantar fasciitis. Sit in a chair and cross your right foot over your left knee. Stretch the bottom of your foot by pulling your toes back, and then massage the sole of your foot for 30 seconds. Switch sides. Do three sets on each side.
3. The calf stretch
This exercise helps with ankle range of motion. Stand in front of the wall at a bit less than arm’s length. Keep your feet parallel while extending your left leg forward and positioning the right one behind you. Press through your right heel and bend your left knee as you do this. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, repeat on the left side, and do three sets on each side.
4. Short foot exercise
Place your feet flat on the ground while sitting in a chair. Don’t crunch or extend your toes, but bring the ball of your foot toward your heel, making a dome with your arch for eight seconds, then rest. Work one foot at a time, repeating the exercise 8-12 times. Challenge yourself more after you’ve mastered this by performing the movement while standing.
5. Toe lifts
Plant your feet on the ground firmly and gradually lift your big toes, but keep your other toes planted on the ground. Keep this position for five seconds and slowly lower your big toes. Next, gradually lift the other four toes while keeping your big toe planted for another five seconds, then gradually lower them. Do this six to eight times for each side.
With self-care and clinical attention, you can gain pain relief and more mobility if you have flat feet discomfort.
Call 541-383-3668 to schedule an appointment at our office, conveniently located in The Eastside, or request one through our website. We’re eager to help you with any problematic foot condition.