FALLEN ARCHES and FOOT PAIN
For those times even when you’re not enjoying ancient architecture
I’m not going to be giving you a lesson in architecture today (although those huge stone arches in Europe always amazed me). But nope, we’re going to be talking about your feet! If you’ve been told you have fallen arches, or can look down and see for yourself that your foot has no arch and your footprint looks wider in the middle than at your heel and toes, then this article can help you! I’m Josie, I’m a physical therapist and the creator of Insight into injury, and love any excuse to be barefoot at work. I’m sorry to go all schoolmarm on you, but here’s a quick run-down of foot anatomy in layman’s terms: The area on the bottom of your foot from the base of your toes to your heel naturally has an upward curve there. That curve is called an arch. The arch is held up in place because of many tendons and ligaments that support the structure of your foot bones. When you’re sitting, such that your foot is dangling and you have your shoes off, you’ll get to see the true height of your arch. When you stand up, gravity and the weight of your body puts a strain on the tendons and ligaments along the arch, and that arch gets smashed closer to the ground. To some degree this is pretty normal, but if that arch nearly disappears, you would be considered to have ‘fallen arches”. When we walk, that arch should stretch out, and then the recoil action of that stretch is what creates the propulsion for us to walk forward and contributes to the efficiency of our gait. If you’re struggling with fallen arches you are setting yourself up for pain on the bottom of your heel (heel spurs), pain along the bottom of your foot (plantar fasciitis), balance issues, and eventually the position change at your foot will cause a position change at your knees and hips and back. Changing the position and weight bearing angle at any joint can lead to a bunch of wear and tear problems (bone on bone, arthritis, sciatica, etc) which could result in the need for surgery. So- like I told my son who had really bad fallen arches as he was growing– YOU NEED TO STRENGTHEN THOSE ARCHES.
My number one suggested exercise to help with fallen arches is a calf strengthening exercise commonly called a calf raise. This exercise can be performed sitting or standing depending on how weak you are to begin with and how comfortable you are with your balance. If you are weak or have any pain, you might want to start with the sitting variation and do 20 reps 2 times/day and build up from there. If you are comfortable standing and walking around regularly throughout your day, then you could try the standing variation. You can hold onto the countertop for balance if you need to! The standing variation is much more intense than the sitting variation so I’d suggest you just start with 5-10 repetitions once or twice a day. The strengthening that occurs during this exercise will help lift your arch and improve your balance and ankle stability as well.
There are many more components to having healthy and strong arches, and you can get a taste of that with my online video program “plantar fasciitis prevention”, or sign up for a one on one personalized session with me here. If you’re an athletic teenager experiencing fallen arches as a result of your growth spurts – then you’ll want to check out my MVP program for more advanced and agility based exercises to help you excel during your sport even if your feet are taking the brunt of growing.
I’ve had patients tell me that their medical doctor told them that they just have to live with their fallen arches and that there is nothing they can do except manage the pain with medication, injections, and orthotics. BUT, proper stretching and strengthening exercises done diligently Will Help. And I’ve certainly seen those positive outcomes with many of my patients and with my son. It’s really empowering to learn how some simple at home exercises can really make a difference and keep you on your feet moving around without pain.
I hope that this information motivates you to take a step in the right direction (I love puns about taking steps when I’m talking about the feet lol). Please reach out if you have any questions!