Feet come in many different shapes, sizes, and flexibilities. There are two main kinds of flat feet, with varying degrees of severity. Flat feet are medically separated into two categories: flexible and rigid. A flexible flat foot is only flat when weight is placed onto the foot, such as while walking or standing. A rigid flat foot is flat at all times, regardless of whether weight is being placed onto the foot. It is rigid in that it does not give, or bend, much. Rigid flat feet are much more rare and are often the result of tarsal coalition (in which the bones have grown together, arthritis, and congenital conditions.
Five methods that help flat feet:
A tight calf muscle is considered to be the most common cause of flat feet by many foot and ankle surgeons. The muscle’s tightness emits a pronating force on the foot which causes the arch to collapse.
Stretching helps to reduce flattening as a result of tight muscles. Achilles stretches, such as the runners stretch or the downward dog yoga position, are great methods to reduce muscle tightness.
2. Arch Strengthening Exercises
The foot contains many muscles. Some of these are intrinsic muscles, which means that they start and end in the foot and don’t extend into another part of the body. These are generally on the bottom of the foot.
Those with flat feet generally have poor intrinsic muscles, so strengthening these muscles is often a big help in reducing problems associated with having flat feet. One such exercise is picking up small objects with the toes, such as marbles or a handkerchief.
3. Go Barefoot More Often
A flat foot needs support, right? Yes, but it is also suggested that going barefoot helps the muscles of the foot to become activated and therefore stronger. Stronger foot muscles may lead to improved stabilization of the foot. However, it is good to have support when you are wearing shoes.
4. Shoe Inserts
Arch supports provide an artificial curve that allows your flat foot to become better aligned. They support or raise the arch and encourage the bony structures of the foot to rest in a better position. Inserts can help flat feet to feel better because the structural support is alleviating ligament and muscle strain.
This is often a final step in treating frustrations that come with having flat feet. If the other measures do not work or have very little effect, this option may help to improve alignment in the foot and to diminish pain. Every foot is different, and arch issues have varying degrees of severity, so it is important that surgery is matched to the specific concerns of the individual.
How do I know if I have flat or arched feet?
One easy way to determine, besides just simply looking, is to perform a simple at-home test. First, place a sheet of cardboard on the ground next to your tub or shower. Make sure that it is dry prior to the experiment. Then, get your feet wet. Once the majority of the excess water has dripped off, stand on the cardboard. Then, take a look at your footprints.
If you mainly see just the ball and heel of your foot, then you have high arches––the middle of your foot barely touches the ground! If you see the ball and heel, as well as a thicker line connecting the two, then you likely have regularly arched feet. If you see your entire foot, then you have flat feet. This means that the middle of your foot does not arch upwards, rather, it touches the ground.
We are here to help you with any questions you may have about your arch type, how to handle your arch type, and other sources for foot pain or discomfort. Schedule an appointment with us, the ProActive Foot & Ankle Associates, today, and stay a step ahead!