Today’s Solutions: April 14, 2024

Individuals with flat feet have a wide footbed and lack an arch. Both of these factors unfortunately make flat-footed folks more likely to experience pain. Luckily, most of the time, flat-footed foot pain can be alleviated through regular stretching.

“Since the pain from flat feet can be due to an imbalance and soreness within the many muscles and tendons of the feet, it can often help to stretch these sore muscles or build up muscles that can help rebalance the foot,” explains Dana Canuso, DPM. 

If general achiness and soreness plague your feet, then physical therapist and personal trainer Leada Malek, DPT, CSCS recommends stretching for about 20 to 30 seconds per exercise, twice or three times a day. 

It’s worth noting that if you are experiencing acute or severe pain in your feet, stretching should be avoided until the inflammation in your body has calmed naturally. In these cases, it’s also best to consult a doctor before trying any kind of intervention to make sure you won’t accidentally cause more damage.

The best stretches for flat feet
Towel stretch

Yes, you guessed it, for this stretch you’ll need a towel. Find a seat on a chair and loop a towel around the ball of one foot, grasping the loose ends of the towel with either hand. Then gently pull up on the towel, slowly drawing your toes toward your face. For the best results, Dr. Canuso suggests doing this stretch with your leg as straight as possible. “This stretch is important because it lengthens the calf muscles, which are responsible for helping to hold up the arch of your foot.” 

Ideally, you should try for three rounds of 15 seconds with a five-second break between stretches before switching to the other side.

Tennis ball stretch

For this stretch, sit on a chair and place a tennis ball under your foot. Keep your knee bent. Roll the ball along the arch of your foot from heel to toe, then back again. “This helps break up any scar tissue and assist your body with absorbing and reducing any present inflammation that’s along the sole,” Dr. Canuso explains. Again, try for three rounds of 15 seconds with a five-second break in between, then switch sides.

Calf stretch

With your hands on a wall, assume a lunge position with one foot behind the other, hip-width apart. Drive both heels down into the ground while leaning forward, with your toes pointing forward and your back knee straight. Stretching and lengthening your calf muscles and hamstrings will help your arch because “a more flexible and less tense calf can allow for less tension on the muscles and structures that support the arch,” says Dr. Canuso.

Arch lift

This stretch is a good one to squeeze into your day as it can be done while you’re seated in front of your laptop. All you have to do is to try and draw the ball of your foot towards the heel by lifting the arch. The catch is that you shouldn’t allow your toes or heel to leave the ground. Five rounds of 13 lifts should do the trick.

According to Malek, this will strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles which will lead to a stronger foot and arch and ultimately less pain.

Figure-4 stretch

This stretch is also known as “thread the needle” and involves lying on your back. Once on your back with your feet flat on the ground, cross your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the left knee. Then wrap your hands around the back of your left thigh and gently pull the leg toward your chest. This should stretch out and open up your right hip. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

This stretch helps align your hips and back (which are often out of whack for those with flat feet), while also improving general flexibility.

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