Addressing Your Flat Feet Can Help Relieve Pain & Prevent Injury!

By Dr. Brittany O’Rourke, PT, DPT

Have you been told you have “flat feet” or do you feel like the arch of your foot collapses or is not as strong as it used to be? Have you been told you need orthotics, or have you been wearing orthotics for years and continue to feel aches and pains? There is something else you can do about your flat feet! Physical therapists and chiropractors are trained to assess foot posture and entire body alignment to help provide suggestions to help relieve associated pain and prevent injuries. Research supports that exercises can be prescribed to help strengthen the muscles in your foot to help support your arch in both normal feet and flat feet.

I have been trying to strengthen my arch with exercises I found online, but they are not working! There are many reasons why you could have developed a collapsed arch as everyone’s body is different. You could have developed a flexible flatfoot deformity as a child and could benefit from foot/ankle strengthening and an orthotic. You could have gradually began walking with your feet turned out to compensate for tightness in your hips. This abnormal walking pattern overtime can put increased load on the arch of your foot, in which you could benefit from hip stretching in addition to foot/ankle strengthening. Walking mechanics can also be affected by tightness in your calf and stiffness in your ankle and these compensations can put increased load on the arch of your foot, in which you could benefit from calf stretching and manual therapy to improve joint mobility in your foot/ankle. Each case is unique and requires an individualized plan of care to treat, so getting a full body assessment including a gait assessment by a healthcare professional is important in developing the correct exercise program for you!

Is an orthotic enough to support my arch?Orthotics provide a passive restraint to help support the arch, but when barefoot, you no longer have that support. You need an active restraint created by your muscles to help actively support your foot as well. It is also important not to forget that there may be other imbalances in your body that need to be addressed, that an orthotic can not help, to decrease load on the arch of the foot.

I have flat feet and pain in my knee, could this be associated?Ever hear the song “The foot bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the backbone”? Having flat feet could contribute to injuries in the foot/ankle, knee, hip, and even back. The collapsed arch can lead to internal rotation of your lower leg and knee, putting increased strain on your knee, which could eventually create an overuse injury. Flat feet could also be associated with weakness or impaired posture/biomechanics at the knee or hip. Weakness in the hip muscles, especially the gluteal muscles, can lead to increased internal rotation of the thigh, knee, and lower leg. This can put increased load on the arch of your foot and with time could lead to a collapsed arch. Other joints in addition to the painful area often need to be addressed to help get to the root of the issue to effectively relieve strain and promote healing.

I don’t have flat feet, but my feet hurt, what should I do?Come get an assessment done by one of our skilled physical therapists or chiropractors! You may have a muscle imbalance somewhere in your body or there could be tightness in your foot/ankle or even hip, which could be contributing to your pain. Everyone is unique with different biomechanics so those exercises online for “foot pain” may not be for you! Come get assessed to find out which exercises you should be doing specific to your body’s impairments to help relieve your pain and prevent injury!

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