Flat feet and collapsed arches don’t only cause foot issues but impact overall posture, movement, and health especially if you’re active or participate in sports. This blog will discuss what flat feet and arches mean from the movement perspective, how they show up in ways that you would never imagine, how they impact the posture, and what to do to fix them.
Understanding Flat Feet and Collapsed Arches
Flat feet are feet that have a flatter inside arch. Your medial arch is a natural arch on the inside part of your foot that should be naturally lifted. Now you can be born with flat feet in which the anatomy is different so that the medial arch is much lower, or you can develop collapsed arches from poor movement, bad footwear, and dysfunctional movement.
Having a nice lifted arch is important for proper foot function including:
- Shock absorption
- Weight distribution
- Acts as a springboard in movement
- Protects nerves and blood supply
When the medial arch is flat or collapsed it will impact the structure and function of the foot, likely resulting in foot pain. This will further impact the knees, hips, pelvic girdle, pelvic floor, lower back, and more! Because the feet are our connection to the ground, if there is a dysfunction everything above will be impacted.
Collapsed arches can be found when doing an orthotic foot scan or visually seen in evaluation. When the arches of the feet collapse there can be a variety of chronic symptoms including:
- Ankle pain
- Bottom of foot pain
- Plantar fasciitis
If you have blisters or calluses in your feet then you have an imbalance in your movement and posture! Start taking the necessary steps to address your feet problems with the tips in the sections below.
The Connection Between Flat Feet and Poor Posture
Posture is not all in the shoulders, neck, and back! The stability of your feet, being your connection to the ground, sets the stage for how the rest of the body performs and what the posture is like. With collapsed arches comes a collapsed posture. Similarly, poor postural stability of the upper body can act as a dead weight on the feet contributing to collapse arches.
With collapsed arches, every step becomes dysfunctional feeding hip problems, pelvic floor issues, back pain, and more. The good news is that proper foot function can be restored and is necessary when it comes to treating the issues mentioned above and other musculoskeletal dysfunctions.
Treatment Options for Flat Feet and Collapsed Arches
Common treatments for flat feet or collapsed arches include:
- Physical Rehabilitation Therapy
- Ankle Braces
Now, surgical intervention should be saved for very severe cases and is very uncommon, but physical therapy isolating the feet and ankles, braces, and orthotics seem to be the go-to. However, in our clinic, we take into consideration that a foot problem is never just a foot problem and just using orthotics is like putting a bandaid on a cut that needs stitches. That is why we utilize different functional movement assessments to see how the whole body functions together in movement and what other things are feeding the problem.
By combining postural neurology with developmental kinesiology to identify the root of your problem and the feeders of the problem we can dive deep into a protocol to treat the feet and improve the functionality in movement. We address these areas, not in isolation, but in full body movements in which the different body parts must all do their part and work together to provide movement. We even go after your breathing! Yes, your feet and breathing are related! Learn how in the next section.
Exercises to Improve Foot Activation
Whether it’s your neck, back, knee, or feet that bring you into my office breathing will always be part of the treatment. When it comes to the feet, this is especially important! Your feet actually serve as a diaphragm in functional movement and breathing.
In biological breathing, one of the requirements is that all diaphragms are parallel to each other and stacked on top of each other. This starts with the feet because the feet are the base of our posture acting as that first diaphragm. The rest of the posture and ability to breathe efficiently is based on the stability and functionality of our feet!
The first step to improved posture and better foot function is breathing! Not just meditation or yoga breathing but I am referring to breathing according to our body’s natural design. This is how all babies are born breathing. Watch the video below to learn how.
Now, we learn more than just proper breathing from babies! Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) is posture correction and movement restoration based on how babies go from helpless infants to running toddlers. It works for a reason because it is based on how we already know we should all be moving and how each of us developed that movement to begin with.
The exercise shown below is not exactly what you will see a baby doing, but it is based on the same principles of movement and a great way to start activating your feet in full-body functional movements!
Incorporating arch stability and foot stability into functional movements is the best way to see long-lasting results but there are other exercises that you can do to improve collapsed arches:
Have a seat and lay a hand towel on the ground in front of you. Keep your heel in contact with the ground the whole time. Use the toes to pull the towel toward you until you reach the end of the towel.
When standing engage your toes and lift the heels up towards the ceiling until you’re all the way on the balls of your feet. Slowly lower your heels to the ground without allowing the arch to collapse in landing.
This device is a great way to activate the muscles of the feet in ways that unfortunately our general lifestyle negatively impacts. We recommend this tool which you can purchase to start working on those muscles
Sitting down, put your foot on a slider (or a towel if you have tile or wood flooring) and start drawing a figure 8 with your foot. Initiate the move with the ankle only. Now do the figure 8 sideways sort of like the infinity sign. This will allow the bones in the ankle joint to move in directions that they are not used to.
How to Prevent Flat Feet and Posture Issues
Our feet are so impacted by our footwear, with over-supported arches, thick soles, and a narrow toe box! In our clinic, we are all barefoot for a reason! One of the best ways to start reconnecting with your feet and strengthening your feet muscles is to walk barefoot. This is one small change that can make a big difference in the health of your feet. ToePro activates the right muscles that make going barefoot easier. Transition to barefoot should be done over time otherwise it can cause pain in the feet when the tendons and muscles of the feet and legs are not used to being used.
Here is a list of simple things you can do to prevent collapsed arches and strengthen your feet:
- Walk barefoot as often as possible
- Walk heel-to-toe always
- Avoid narrow shoes
- If you work behind a desk make sure you’re sitting on an exercise ball! This helps to keep your feet active in your day-to-day
- Use your feet to pick up things off the floor
- Practice spreading your toes
Remember, it’s the little things we do every day that have the biggest impacts on our bodies! I hope you have found this information helpful. For more exercises and tips, make sure you are following us on Instagram (@irvinespine) and subscribe to our Youtube Channel. Contact us if you are ready to focus on yourself, your movement, and your posture.