Rescue your Flat Feet

Flattened feet are painful and cause balance problems

Jay Cardiello - About.com - Rescue Your Flattened Feet

Have you ever experienced stiffness or a dull ache under the arches of your feet as you remove your shoes after a long day of walking? Typical thick soled shoes restrict movement in many parts of your feet and your feet are just dying to be set free and move!

There are 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments in each of your feet. Over time, your habits and movement patterns may cause the arches of your feet to flatten out, changing the way you walk.

Learning how to properly balance on your feet will improve your mobility, stability, and balance, and strength.

Causes

Foot shape can vary from one person to the next with visible differences in the shape of toes and height of arches. When the tissues holding the joints of the foot together are loose, a fallen arch, or flat foot, is the result. Flat feet are common in kids and adults. We’re actually born with flat feet and fat pads lining the bottom of our feet. Around the age of 2 or 3, the fat pads under the foot disappear, tendons tighten to form an arch, and the muscles in the feet gain enough strength to hold the arch on their own.

In some children, the arch of the foot never fully forms or they develop a condition called tarsal coalition. Tarsal coalition refers to 2 or more of the bones in the back of the foot becoming connected via bone, cartilage, or fibrous tissue. This is referred to as a “fixed” flat foot and could be quite painful and oftentimes requires surgery to fix.

Flat foot cases not caused by tarsal coalition are referred to as “relaxed” flat feet, caused by pronation, or a rolling inward of the foot while walking or running. This can happen from injury, our walking patterns, or even ill-fitting or stiff shoes. The way you move can actually make your feet flatter.

By the same token, you can adjust the way you move to raise your fallen arches. The relaxed and pronated flat foot usually responds well to conservative therapy and arch strengthening exercises.

Improper balance is a common bad habit that can make your feet fall flatter. If you notice yourself pressing the arches of your feet in the floor as you stand or walk, you can actually throw off your body’s natural balance. There are 3 points underneath your foot that you should focus on pressing through. This is known as the foot tripod, including the heel, the large knuckle at the base of the big toe (ball of foot) and the knuckle at the base of the pinky toe. The arch of the foot should be raised off the floor when engaged in the foot tripod position. Doctors can prescribe orthotics to artificially raise the arch, but you can actively work towards maintaining this position by concentrating on walking on your foot tripod.

Work on Balance and Posture

Many of us have bad postural habits, tight muscles, immobile joints, poor balance, and aches and pains.

We wear ill-fitting and stiff slippers, sneakers, and shoes which can further flatten our arches. By pushing off of the 3 tripod points, you can help train the intrinsic muscles of your feet to elevate your arches, tighten the tendons around your arch, and improve your body’s stability, balance, and performance.

Another great way to remind yourself to better use the intrinsic muscles in your foot is to roll a golf ball or a textured massage ball under your foot, to stimulate the muscles under the foot which aren’t doing their job and falling flat. Focus on aligning your second toe with the middle of your kneecap, and pushing off the outer parts of your foot to help maintain the arch while walking. This helps reverse the pronation, or inward rolling, of your flattened feet. A great way to solidify your tripod stance is to practice standing on one foot while maintaining a perfect foot tripod as you brush your teeth or text on your phone.

Many people aren't concerned with their flat feet unless they begin to experience pain. Pain and movement problems from flat feet can show up almost anywhere in the body. Pain in the toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, and low back are common. However, if you suffer from flat feet or feel that the way you move is progressively making your feet feel "flatter", then it's best to take action now. Pay attention to your balance and incorporate the foot tripod into how you stand and walk. By changing the way you move and balance, you can naturally fix the way you walk. If you’re having pain or discomfort in your feet or ankles, talk with your doctor as soon as possible to determine the best protocol for you. You can use these simple exercises to help prevent a future of pain and discomfort that flattened feet can cause.

Sources

Adult Foot Health.  American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Flat FeetU.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Mar 2015.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Flat Feet & High Arches.  American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Flatfeet.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Jun 2015.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Foot Injuries and Disorders.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction, The Trigger Point Manual: Volume 2:  The Lower Extremeties.  Simons DG, Travell JG.  Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Williams, 1993.  Print. 

Tarsal Coalition.  American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

The Influence of Foot Position On Standing Balance.  Kirby RL, Macleod DA, Price NA.  U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1987.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

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