How to fix Flat Feet (Rebuild the Arch!)

What is Flat feet?

It is a type of foot posture which involves the collapse of the inner arch of the foot.

how to fix flat feet

As a result – the bottom of the foot is in complete contact with the floor.

Also referred to as: Pes Planus, Fallen arches, Overpronated feet.

(It is the exact opposite to having high arches.)

Note: It is completely normal for the foot’s arch to collapse.

Problems occur when this movement is either excessive, uncontrolled and/or when your foot gets stuck in this position.


What causes flat feet?

1. Genetic factors

Genetic features are inherited from your parents… and that includes Flat Feet!

This is referred to as Structural Flat Feet.

This is where the formation of the bone/joint results in the foot arch being physically flat.

Unfortunately in this situation, your foot posture can not be changed through conservative means. 

Note: If your foot arch is present when you are sitting/lying down but disappears when you are standing on it, then you DO NOT have structural Flat Feet.


2. Poor foot muscle mechanics

This is referred to as Functional Flat Feet.

This is where the vast majority of you will fall under.

You may have:

  • Poor control of your ankle/feet/toes and/or,
  • Weak or tight foot muscles

(… both of which can result in the collapse of the foot arch.)

3. Other factors that may contribute:

  • Increase in body weight
  • Improper shoe wear
  • Ineffective posture
  • Incorrect techniques in sport

The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information: Medical disclaimer.


Test for Flat feet

test for flat feet (pes planus)

a) Whilst standing

  • Stand upright as you normally would.
  • Observe your feet.
  • There should be an obvious arch on the inside of your foot.
  • As a rough guideline: You should be able to fit the tips of your fingers underneath the arch of your foot.
  • (Check your foot arch whilst standing on one foot as well!)

Results: If there is no gap between the bottom of your foot and the floor, then you likely have Flat Feet.

b) Whilst walking:

Check out your foot print at the beach.

(Similarly – you can just wet your feet and observe the foot prints you make on the cement floor.)

Results: If your foot print leaves a wide imprint (indicating that the arch is touching the floor), then you likely have Flat Feet.

problems with Flat Feet

Flat Feet may eventually lead to:

  • Plantarfasciitis
  • Big toe bunion
  • Heel spur
  • Lower back/Hip/Knee problems

Interested in fixing your posture?

.. then come join me on the Facebook page!

I share all of my best posture tips there.


How to fix Flat Feet


“So… how do you get an arch in your foot?”

1. Releases

a) Plantarfascia

plantarfascia release

Instructions:

  • Place your foot on a massage ball.
  • Apply pressure on the ball.
  • Roll your foot up/down
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes.

b) Achilles tendon

releases for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Place the back of your Achilles tendon on a ball.
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Rock your foot from side to side.
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes

c) Peroneal

The peroneal muscles are located on the outside of your lower leg. If tight, this muscle can cause your arches to collapse.

peroneal release

Instructions:

  • Place the outside of your lower leg on a massage ball.
    • (If you unsure of the location of the muscle, check on Google)
  • Apply pressure over the ball.
  • Make sure to cover the whole outer side of the lower leg.
  • Draw circles with your ankle to increase release.
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes

d) Calf muscles

calf muscle release

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Place one leg over the other.
  • Place the calf of the bottom leg on a foam roller.
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Roll your leg up/down the entire calf.
  • Duration: 1-2 minutes

2. Stretches

The calf:

Tight calf muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) will limit the amount of movement that the ankle can bend.

This will impact how you walk, run, squat etc.

Without full ankle movements, the foot will compensate with overpronation (collapsing of the foot arch) during movement.

Quick assessment: How to test your ankle flexibility

ankle dorsiflexion test

  • Face a wall.
  • Perform a lunge.
  • Whilst keeping your knee in contact with the wall, aim to get the front of your foot furthest away from the wall.
    • (Don’t cheat! Make sure the back of your heel does not lift off!)
  • Do not let your foot arch collapse as you bend your knee forwards!
  • Measure the distance between the tip of your big toe and the wall.

What should you aim for:

My recommendation: Aim to get your toe approximately >10cm from the wall with your knee still in contact with the wall.

If you have tight ankles, check out this blog: Improve your Ankle mobility.

a) Gastrocnemius

gastrocnemius stretch for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step with your heels off the edge.
  • Whilst keeping your knees completely straight, lower both of your heels towards the ground.
  • Aim to feel a superficial stretch in your calf muscle.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Soleus

calf stretch for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Assume the lunge position.
  • Bend the ankle at the front as much as you can by lunging forward.
  • Aim to feel a deep stretch in your calf muscle.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Note: This will also help loosen up any stiffness in the ankle joint.

c) Lateral structures

(Peroneal, Extensor Digitorum, Lateral ligaments)

lateral ankle stretch

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
  • Place one hand on top of the ankle and the other on the forefoot.
  • Whilst anchoring the ankle joint down, pull the fore foot towards you.
    • (Include the toes!)
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the out side of the ankle.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.


3. Joint mobilizations

a) Traction

ankle traction

Instructions:

  • (To perform this exercise, you will need assistance. So – go grab a friend!)
  • Lie on the floor.
  • Instruct your friendly helper to firmly grasp your ankle below the bony bits on the side. (see above)
  • Relax your leg as your assistant pulls your foot away from you.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Dorsiflexion with band

ankle band mobilization

Instructions:

  • Attach a resistance band to a stationary object behind you.
  • Lace the band around your ankle.
    • The band should be below the Malleoli (bumps on sides of the ankle).
  • Assume a lunge position with your ankle on a bench. (see above)
  • Make sure that there is a firm amount of tension in the band.
    • To increase tension, move forward so that you are further away from the anchor point of the band.
  • Lunge forward.
  • Do not let your arch collapse as you bend your knee forwards!
  • You may feel a:
    • Blocking sensation at the front of the ankle joint and/or
    • Stretch at the back of the heel/calf region
  • Repeat 30 times.

c) Sub-Talar

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
  • Cup the heel with one hand, and place the other hand on top of the ankle.
  • Perform a wiggle motion on your heel bone in a up/down direction.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.

d) Mid foot mobility

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
  • Hold onto the front half of the foot with both hands.
  • Proceed to twist the front half of the foot clockwise/anti-clockwise.
  • Continue for 30 repetitions.

4. The importance of the big toe

Your big toe is more important than you think… especially when it comes to fixing Flat Feet (Pes Planus) during walking.

It is CRUCIAL that your big toe has:

  1. The ability to extend
  2. Adequate strength

The combination of these 2 factors will help engage and lift of the medial arch of the foot.

Without sufficient big toe function, the foot is forced to compensate with overpronation (rolling inwards)… resulting in Flat Feet.

a) Stretch for big toe

big toe stretch

Instructions:

  • Place the big toe onto a door frame. (see above)
  • Lean your foot into the wall to create a stretch of the big toe.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Big toe activation

big toe push off

Instructions:

  • Assume a lunge position. (see above)
    • The foot at the back will be the side targeted.
    • Make sure that your big toe is extended back as far as possible without compromising the alignment of your foot.
  • Push the tip of your big toe into the ground as you point your foot against the ground.
    • Place as much of your body weight onto the back leg that you can comfortably tolerate.
  • Return your weight back to the ball of the foot.
  • Repeat 20 times.


4. Strengthening

How to rebuild arches in flat feet: We need to strengthen the muscles that will encourage the arch in your feet.

This is namely the action of the Tibialis Posterior, Tibialis Anterior and plantar foot muscles.

The Short foot exercise

The MOST important exercise to fix Flat Feet


I call this the “king” of all foot exercises.

It is the fundamental exercise that all other exercises are based on.

You need to learn how to do this correctly! Don’t rush it.

short foot exercise to rebuild arches of flat feet

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet facing forwards and shoulder width apart.
  • Whilst keeping your toes relaxed, proceed to scrunch the under-surface of your foot.
    • Drag the base of your big toe backwards towards the heel.
  • Keep the base of the big toe in contact with the ground to prevent this area from lifting.
  • Gently push the tip of your big toe down onto the ground.
  • If performed correctly, you should be able to feel the strong contraction of the muscles underneath your foot.
    • Does it feel like it’s going to cramp? THAT’S GREAT! You are recruiting the right muscles.
  • Hold this for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Note: It is called the Short foot exercise because it actually makes you drop a shoe size.

Progressions:

a) Heel raise/drop with ball

strengthening arch

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step.
  • Place a small ball between your ankles. (see above)
  • Perform the Short foot activation.
  • Squeeze the ball between your ankles throughout all movement.
  • Perform a heel raise and drop.
  • Do not let your ankles roll out.
    • Aim to keep the achilles tendon vertical throughout the exercise.
  • Repeat 30 times.

b) Step through

 how to fix flat feet exercises

Instructions:

  • Have your feet in a staggered position.
  • Activate short foot in your leading leg. (See position 1)
  • Whilst maintaining short foot on the leading leg, step forward with the back leg.
  • As the swinging leg is about to land on the ground, push off from the big toe.
  • You should feel a contraction in your arch through movement.
  • Return to starting point.
  • Repeat 30 times.
  • Progression: Instead of stepping to the front, try stepping in different directions whilst maintaining a strong short foot contraction.

c) Single leg balance

balance exercise for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Balance on one leg.
  • Activate the short foot.
  • Gently tap your other foot on the ground around your body whilst maintaining the short foot contraction
    • Pretend that you are tapping an ant on the head. Don’t squash it!
  • Keep your pelvis level
    • Only your leg should be moving
  • Continue for 1 minute.
  • To progress: Reach and tap your foot further away from you.

d) The “Michael Jackson” lean

foot strengthening exercise

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Activate short foot throughout exercise. (see above)
  • Keeping your legs straight, lean your whole body forwards from the ankles.
    • You will need to dig your toes into the ground to prevent you from falling forward.
    • You can do this in front of a wall if you feel you are going to fall forward.
  • Use your feet/toe muscles to prevent yourself from falling and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

5. Improve your toe control

The entire human race has forgotten how to use their foot muscles!

We have absolutely no idea how to properly co-ordinate, control and move our feet.

This is a big problem for Flat Feet!

Why?… Because the muscles that control your feet also play a huge role in the support of the foot arch.

Try out these 2 exercises to get your brain connecting to your foot again.

a) Alternate toe lift

intrinsic foot controlintrinsic toe control

Instructions:

  • Position 1: Lift up only your big toe whilst pushing the other 4 toes into the ground.
  • Position 2: Push your big toe into the ground whilst lifting the other 4 toes.
  • Transition smoothly between these 2 positions.
    • Keep your foot still. Your toes should be the only thing that is moving.
  • Repeat 30 times.
    • (… or as many times it takes to get the movement happening)
    • It’s harder than it looks!

b) Toe spread/squeeze

toe spread exerciselumbrical strengthening

Instructions:

  • Position 1: Spread all of your toes. (without bending your toes or moving your foot)
  • Position 2: Squeeze all of your toes together. (without bending your toes or moving your foot)
  • Transition between these 2 positions.
  • Repeat 30 times.

6. Flat feet brace

If you are experiencing any pain in the hip, knee and/or foot as a result of the fallen arches in you Flat feet, you can use a foot brace to help reduce your symptoms.

These braces provide external support to help lift your foot arch.

Keep in mind – I recommend to only use them for a short period of time so that your foot muscles do not become dependent on it.

(Note: The end goal will always be to rely on your own muscles to support your foot arch.)


7. Orthotics for Flat feet: Good or bad?

Orthotics are inserts which are placed in your shoe.

It’s function is to provide an external support to lift up your fallen arches.

 Sounds good, right?

However… The main issue I have with orthotics is that it makes your already weak foot muscles even weaker.

You become reliant on the orthotic without giving your muscles any real chance to self-correct the problem.

If you are considering getting an orthotic for your Flat Feet, please consider doing the exercises FIRST.


8. Other areas to consider:

But wait!… there’s more!

Although the exercises mentioned post will definitely help you regain your arch, I would also recommend that you address other areas of your posture that may be the ROOT CAUSE of your Flat Feet.

Check out these blog posts to find out more:

a) Anterior Pelvic Tilt

anterior pelvic tilt flat feet pes planus

An Anterior Pelvic Tilt can orientate the whole leg in a position of internal rotation.

This collapse of the entire leg can lead to Flat Feet.

Check out this blog post: How to fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

b) Knee Valgus

knee valgus flat feet

This is where the knee collapses inwards which then leads to overpronation of the foot.

Check out this blog post: How to fix Knee Valgus

Remember:

Do your exercises… every day!

Try to incorporate the short foot activation in everything that you do!

The more you do it, the better you will get!


what to do next:

Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below.

– Follow me on Facebook. (Let’s keep in touch!)

– Do the exercises!

352 thoughts on “How to fix Flat Feet (Rebuild the Arch!)”

  1. Hi Mark,
    What style of shoes do you recommend for flat feet and overpronation? I also have a wide feet. I’m considering getting a barefoot but i can’t due to location and shipment issues. Is Nike Air Zoom Structure 24 good?

    Reply
    • Hi Madds,

      If you are having symptoms related to your over pronation, orthotics/support shoes can be help in the INITIAL stages. (I would strongly recommend NOT to become reliant on it though.)

      ASICS kayano shoes are great shoes to begin with in addition to performing the foot exercises every day. They also offer different shoe width sizes.

      Barefoot /Minimalistic shoes are great to transition into ONCE you have developed strong feet. I would caution wearing these barefoot type of shoes too soon as it can places a lot of pressure on your feet.

      Mark

      Reply
      • Hi Mark,
        Thanks for the reply first of all. I’m severe overpronation according to my observations. ASICS Kayano is ok for severe overpronation? You say “(I would strongly recommend NOT to become reliant on it though.)” what does that mean sir? You mean like “if you want to fix your flat feet dont stick to it, alongside do your exercises” ?
        So can i buy Kayano and wear it everyday? (I will do my exercises every day)

        Another question is, can i use toe spacer everyday and all day long? Is it beneficial?

        Reply
        • Hi Madds,

          If you have severe over pronation, ASICS kayanos may not provide enough support. You can assess this by standing in them and having a look at your foot/ankle alignment. If you require more support, go for the orthotics.

          Keep in mind – if you don’t have any symptoms/issues, you might not even require orthotics.

          When I say do not become reliant on the orthotics, this means you will also need to do your foot exercises.

          Toe spacers are great and beneficial to use everyday.

          Mark

          Reply
          • Hi Mark,

            Thanks again for the reply also thanks for making these for free. You’re putting so much effort to help people!
            I have one last question I want to ask. If i dont wear stability shoe that doesn’t have enough support and wear any other shoe and i pronate with that (also doesn’t hurt my feet) but besides that i’ll keep doing my exercises everyday. Is there any chance that i’ll improve or correct? Or should I really wear insoles or stability shoes? Thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Mark, I trust you are well

    I have had flat feet for my whole life(I’m 22).
    Around age 12 my posture was already terrible and basically slouched around(I even got teased over it).It was at this point where my teachers notified my folks how this and suggested I go see a doctor/specialist.Long story short,I was diagnosed with flat feet and had surgery done on my feet. I cant remember the procedure as such but I do remember that I have screws in my feet. after that(and healing) I had been put in a physio program, I didn’t really stay there too long because I felt discouraged after a couple of months(that was around 2012) and as you guessed it,things haven’t improved.

    I still slouch, my feet are still flat, realized later in life that my knees faced inwards and have a pelvic tilt.
    So based of that, How long should expect it to take to fix everything(or improve)

    Reply
    • Hello Kamohelo,

      Depending on exactly where your screws were added to your foot, this might suggest that it might be difficult to change the shape of your arch. But I would still encourage you to try these exercises for at least 6-12 weeks to see if you can see any improvement at all.

      In terms of how long is fix EVERY THING, this is a very hard question to answer as it is multi-factorial.

      If your knees collapse in wards, I would also encourage you to have a read of this post: Knee valgus.

      Mark

      Reply
  3. Hi Mark

    I have flat feet and severe scoliosis and have started to get back pain and hip pain – I was excited to find your page and all the information on it.

    I’ve been trying these exercises and am not able to activate my toes/big toe independently of each other. Any tips on how I can learn to do this ? I clearly have very weak feet!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hey Jill,

      Don’t worry! It’s actually a fairly difficult exercise.

      You can try performing the exercise with manual guidance using your fingers. As you get better, take away the external guidance .

      Mark

      Reply

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