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


  • 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


  • 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) Peroneals

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

peroneal release


  • 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 releases


  • 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 >8cm 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • (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

exercises for flat feet


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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 strengthening exercise


  • 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


  • 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.


a) Heel raise/drop with ball

strengthening arch


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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!

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

  1. Hi mark,

    I am a 21 year old male and have had flat feet pretty much all my life I get no pains whatsoever but just some minor aches on my feet from time to time but I have always been insecure about them and I don’t know whether I can fix them or not. My left foot has a slight arch but is still flat either way. But my question is will is still be able to fix them or not?because iv had flat feet pretty much all my life.

    • Hi Kamran,

      It’s your flat feet is structural, then there might be a limit as to how much arch you can regain.

      I would encourage you to try these exercises for at least 3-6 months to see how much you can reclaim.


  2. Hi Mark,

    First of all thank you for the wonderful information. Essentially what happened was I broke my left ankle and ended up walking on it for several months until I had surgery which altered my gait (especially I’m the calves). When I initially went to physical therapy it didn’t work because my calves were so tight and I had fallen arches. I just realized my calves were incredibly tight about 3 weeks ago (about 12 months since my surgery). I released and stretched them for a couple weeks religiously and all of a sudden I went from 20% to 60% and I could feel my arch again. However I developed some compensation movements due to having a probated foot for so long. When I squat i put most of my weight on my healthy ankle and it seems like my hips shift. Because of the hip shift my right shoulder has also been bothering since about 6 months from my injury. I’ve recently been doing the 90 / 90 hip shift to try and correct the balance. I have trouble fully stretching my calves due to the hip shift though. My hip also rests externally rotated. Progress has been slow but I haven’t been healthy in 2.5 years and I’m a young generally healthy 26 male. Any thoughts ?


    • Hey Peter,

      With a tight calf, I assume you may also have limited ankle dorsiflexion? If so, check out this post: Ankle Dorsiflexion exercises. I would say this movement is the most important following an ankle surgery in most people. (as it alters gait)

      It sounds like you may need to do exercises on the surgical side to teach the body is tolerate load. This will help your center of gravity back to where it needs to be. Exercises like lunges, single leg squats, step ups would be great.

      Also check to see if you have a Rotated pelvis as this tends to occur with hip shift towards the other side.

      If your hip is stuck in hip external rotation, make sure there is adequate amount of hip internal rotation so that the injured side can have the chance to receive load.


      • Hello Mark! Please help me.

        I have a similar case where I had a non-displaced medial malleolus fracture last year in June. It was on my right ankle. It’s been about 8-9 months since the fracture and since I didn’t have to get surgery, it was immobilized for about 5-6 weeks until I got put into a brace. Went to physical therapy, eventually got to walking again & my last PT session was at the 16th week mark. I could have gone for more but my insurance wouldn’t cover anymore sessions so I had to do exercises at home. The immobilization period with the boot on caused a whole bunch of problems with my hip and “uneven-ness” throughout my legs and glute area. Especially when I lie down, all of the weight seems to naturally shift to the uninjured side (left side) unless I’m consciously forcing my body to stay evenly grounded whilst laying down and also while sitting down. I have spent the last 2 months or so researching for answers and thank god I came across your articles! You are an angel.

        I came to realize that I may have a lateral pelvic tilt and it may be a bit rotated as well as I spent those months in the boot and my body’s muscles adapted to the walking boot. I have been doing a lot of yoga stretches and stretches to neutralize the hip. My right foot has also become flat due to the immobilization. It has regained more of an arch than before but not as equal as my uninjured foot/ankle. Even when I am sitting at times, I can notice that my uninjured foot (left) grounds itself with a heavier load than my right. It feels so uneven and it honestly kills me inside sometimes lol.

        As you can see, I’m dealing with several issues here and I just don’t know which problem to address first, or in which order I should start. People are saying address the hip first and others are saying to address the ankle first. By the way, I should mention that my ankle injury still isn’t entirely fully healed as it hasn’t been a full year yet and I still feel soreness at times. The range of motion is nearly 99.9% back. Is there a specific protocol to follow that is best to solve this problem? Can you possibly provide a list of things I should do?

        Any information you can give me would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you!!! <3

        • Hi Elana,

          The first thing you need to address is the ankle. You need to make sure that you reclaim full ankle mobility (.. especially ankle dorsiflexion!).

          Without full ankle dorsiflexion, the foot will tend to pronate (flatten) as you place weight through it. It will also change the way you walk which can lead to issues of the hips.

          Once your ankle has full ankle dorsiflexion, tackle the foot arch with the exercises mentioned on the blog post.

          After this – You want to teach your right side to accept load. Focus on single leg exercises such as the step ups, single leg squats, balance.

          If your pelvis imbalances are still present, then I would encourage to address pelvis tilt and rotation.

          But if any doubt, follow up with your health care provider first.

          All the best.


  3. Me again! Sorry… I just also wanted to ask if there are things that I can still do while I give my arches some rest. (Stretches? Maybe the toe strength exercises?) thanks!

  4. Hey, Mark, thank you so much for this very helpful info. I have fallen arches (PTTD) on both feet. My right foot is definitely worse than the left, but they are both painful. I have now been to two podiatrists and two physical therapists. I just got fitted for custom orthotics, and I am currently using hapad pads on top of powerstep orthotics. The combo has provided some relief. I have high arches and while my footsteps on sand definitely show defined arches, I can visibly see that the arch on my right foot appears a bit flatter. I have tried some of the exercises you wrote about, but I am at the stage where almost any form of exercise on the post tib (toe crunches, as an example) make my arches/feet so weak (and painful) that I can’t walk for a couple of hours afterwards and I am in severe pain the next day. I did an MRI of my right ankle, and it said the post tib was normal. A few questions for you… are there other areas of the foot or leg that I should have an MRI on? How long should I “rest” my foot before I can do any sort of exercises? I have now had this for 4 months. It’s crazy how much muscle mass I have lost in my legs from not waking/attempting to rest. Some other context for you… the PTs both said that my gait appeared to be normal, that I did still have some strength in my post tib, and that my ankle/foot/leg flexibility was good. Where should I go from here?

    • Hi Allie,

      Q: Are there other areas of the foot or leg that I should have an MRI on?

      Most likely no need to MRI the hip, but always check the hip position to see if there may be anything affecting the feet. Check for hip internal rotation (+/- knock knee)

      Q. How long should I “rest” my foot before I can do any sort of exercises?

      I would still recommend performing exercises for the foot, but you might need to adjust the intensity so that it does not flare up foot. For example, if your are doing the short foot exercises, perhaps try to only engage it at 50% and see how the body responds. If you have tried everything and it still flares up, rest it for at least a week and gradually get back to it.

      Q. Where should I go from here?

      This is a hard question for me to answer as I have not assessed you. Generally speaking – once you have rested the foot and the initial inflammation has settled, you will need to start to progressively load the Tibialis posterior tendon at an intensity is can handle. Perhaps you can try theraband ankle plantarflexions to begin with since it is quite gentle.


  5. Hello Mark. My main complaint is chronic plantar fasciitis. Have had it twice in left foot and once in right. This current bout (left) I’m really struggling with. Nothing is getting rid of it or even helping. I’ve tried everything. And have seen several specialists in different fields. I’ve always felt it’s structural. I’m currently seeing a chiro who’s adjusted me and explained to an extent what going on with my body. They mentioned I am a puzzling case cos the way my body is. I have mild flat feet and a bunion on the left side. I also have knee pain. My calves and hips are tight. I have a slight ant pelvic tilt. My calves and hamstrings are oversized compared to my glutes which have wastage. My core is weak. My knees turn outwards. My gait was analysed and I supinate to start with then pronate and stay pronated. I’m very confused at how my body is moving and what I can do about it. Cheers

    • Hey Matt,

      Plantarfasciitis can definitely be quite frustrating.

      My first recommendation would be to stop and reduce exposure to anything that is making your symptoms worse. If walking is the main culprit, I suspect you will need to reduce the time on your feet to allow the symptoms to settle.

      If you have tried this already which I am pretty sure you have, the next step is to make sure that your feet are supported with appropriate foot wear. As we can’t really avoid being on our feet, it is imperative that your shoe significantly reduces your symptoms. I would also suggest that you do not walk barefoot on hard ground such as tiles.

      Increased dependence on your leg muscles (ie calf, quads) suggests that they may be compensating somewhere further up the movement chain (ie. core, glutes). This can tie in with an anterior pelvic tilt presentation.

      It sounds like you walk with duck feet posture (as you mentioned knees are outwards) which can expose more of the inner side of the heel to the floor. (which I assume is where your pain is)

      But before addressing the posture, you would likely need to strengthen the foot. Short foot and heel raises (with emphasis of pushing big toe down into the ground) are great exercises that generally do not increase one’s pain.


    • Thank you Mark for your response! I have tried many things. I find it hard to find shoes that give me any kind of help. I believe my PF is caused by tight calves through to tight hamstrings caused by weak glutes and a weak core all round. My APT is only minor I’ve been told. I do have mild flat feet but wouldn’t say I was particularly duck footed. I wore insoles at work for 7 years after my first PF bout. I feel wearing them for that long may of hindered something along the line in that time

  6. Thanks for your reply Mark. One thing I am really struggling with is just activating my arch muscles alone. Is there anything that I could be possibly preventing me from activating my arch?

    • Hey Chris,

      If you can’t do the short foot exercise, you might need to work on exercises such as toe scrunches and heel raises.

      Tight muscles (as indicated in the blog post) will likely be making it more difficult to engage your arches. In this case, you might need to work on your foot mobility before strengthening the arch.


  7. Hi and thanks for the great info.
    I have a low arch and a mild-moderate bunion. When doing the short foot exercise, my big toe insists on going towards my other toes when I activate my arch. How can I get it to cooperate?

    • Hi Chris,

      Sounds like you might be activating your toes to engage your arch.

      Try to keep the toes as relaxed as possible and direct your contraction to the arch ONLY.

      If you have difficulty relaxing the those, you might need to stretch them out and/or do specific exercise for it.

      I have some exercises for big toe bunion as well! See post: 40 tips for Big Toe Bunion.


  8. Every time I point my left foot big toe(Hallux) or far as possible I get this cramp near my abductor hallucis. I feel the cramp in the side and in the bottom of my medial plantar nerve. after I point my big toe or reach far as possible for a while. I get this small sore pain in the side and bottom of my left foot What could this be? Can you help me out?

    • Hi Osvaldo,

      Perhaps your big toe is not used to this position. If you force a muscle into a position that it is not used to, it can certainly cramp up.

      If you would like to improve your ability to point your foot, you might need to gradually increase the intensity over time. Let the body become accustomed.


  9. Hi Mark,
    I just wanted to know how often one should do these exercises (daily, weekly?) and if all above exercises are done daily – how soon should you notice a change in the in the arch?

    • Hey Ari,

      Daily would be ideal if your foot can tolerate it.

      In terms of when you would notice change? This really depends on how weak you are, how tight you are, how good your foot control is etc.

      If there is absolutely no change in 6 weeks, you might need to delve a bit deeper as to why.



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