Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Oct

How to Strengthen Your (Bare, Flat) Feet

About 20% of adults have flat feet. A small subset of the population suffers from hereditary flat foot, but most of it is developed. Very few of us are actually born with flat foot. In this post I’ll explore what you can do to avoid flat feet in the first place, and if you already have them whether it is possible to reverse the damage.

Since publishing blog posts on ditching shoes, alternatives to going barefoot, and others I now receive regular reader emails like this one:

Dear Mark,

I’ve had flat foot all my life (18 years so far) and always wondered about the cause from an evolutionary stand point, and any negatives that might come from it. I vaguely remember the doctors subscribing foot supports and a lot of unnecessary products which I haven’t used in a decade. I don’t have any problems that I know of, but just wondering if there’s any alterations I should make to my workout routine to benefit me more? Thanks in advanced.


Great question, Ahmed.

First, how do we develop flat feet? Almost every online resource gives a few stock answers for the cause of flat foot. Most places say something like this:

Causes of Weak Arches:

Flat feet can be hereditary and present themselves at birth. For others the condition can occur as a result of mis-treating the feet – for example wearing high heels for prolonged periods of time, or wearing shoes with no support.

Flat feet or fallen arches can also result from:

  • Weakened muscles in the foot due to aging
  • Weakened muscles in the foot due to injury

Or this:


  • Weakened muscles due to aging or heavy strain placed on the feet.
  • Standing or walking for long periods in high heels.
  • Wearing shoes that don’t provide proper arch support.

Okay, weakened muscles in the foot I can buy as a cause. In fact, it’s almost certainly one of the primary causes of flat foot. High heels aren’t doing us any favors, either, although I’d amend that one to include anything with even slightly-raised heels as a causative agent. I cannot, however, agree with the contention that lack of shoes without “proper arch support” is the problem; I’d even say that it’s the exact opposite. Try “Wearing shoes that do provide proper arch support” instead. Shoes do little else but provide an environment that our feet simply haven’t truly adapted to.

Our genes want us to be barefoot. In fact, it’s the only environment they know, having been born into a shoeless existence. On an individual scale, you could say we adapt to our shoes, but not on a genetic level. Evolutionarily, we’re still walking on the same bare feet Grok used to get around his environment. In fact, hominids have been obligate bipeds for over two million years. Our feet were arguably the first things to develop. Before the big brains, the complex tool making, and the language, our ancestors were walking upright on feet that looked remarkably similar to our own. But don’t tell that to the guys at Nike. They’re convinced those millions of years of natural selection still weren’t enough to produce a working, functional foot that doesn’t require manmade supportive footwear (unless, of course, you buy the Nike Free, in which case the lack of support is suddenly beneficial – awesome logic, huh?).

The Evidence

Before I get carried away on a tangential rant against athletic shoes, I’ll try to stick to the topic at hand. We know that shoes alter the structure and function of the foot. I mean, it sounds like plain common sense, but there’s also some concrete evidence. Back in 1905, an orthopedist named Dr. Philip Hoffman conducted a “Comparative Study of Barefooted and Shoe-Wearing Peoples” (don’t you just love old research?) and published his results in the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery. He also took a ton of photos.

Here’s one of a foot that rarely – if ever – saw the inside of a shoe.

Note the wide toes, and how a straight line can be drawn through the axis. Looks pretty healthy and stable, right?

Now look at this photo of a pair of feet and the shoes they’re shoved into.

Notice the narrow structure and the cramped toes, especially the angle of the big toe. It’s pointing inward!

Shoe wearing acts quickly, too. Here, Hoffman snapped photos of two sets of feet.

Foot A is that of a child who has worn shoes for a mere three months, while Foot B is that of an adult who’s gone barefoot his whole life. Three months was all it took to drastically shape the child’s feet. Already his big toe is turning inward.

In the end, Hoffman concluded that of the “one hundred and eighty-six pairs of primitive feet examined, [he] did not find a single foot associated with the symptoms of weakness so common in adult shoe-wearing feet, which are weakened by the restraint the shoe exerts over function.” He also noticed that foot development was remarkably similar, in all populations, up until the introduction of foot wear. Shoes, it seems, have an undeniable ability to alter one’s natural foot structure.

But wait: there’s even more. Researchers in India found (PDF) that flat foot was far more prevalent among people who wore footwear before the age of six. Kids who ran around barefoot for most of their first six years – the formative years, it turns out – had better developed longitudinal arches and less flat foot. Among children who wore footwear on a regular basis, 8.2% suffered from flat foot (compared to 2.8% of barefoot kids). No other factors had comparable impacts. Adults didn’t have higher rates of flat foot than the kids, unless they reported wearing shoes as children. Why do we wear these things, anyway?

If you’ve got kids or are planning on it, you may want to take a good long look at their shoes – or lack thereof.

What Can You Do About It?

Okay, that’s all very compelling, but what does a guy like Ahmed do about his condition? Whether it was inherited (not likely) or developed through footwear usage, he’s still got to deal with a pair of flat feet. He can’t go back in time to age four and throw out his baby sneakers. He can’t erase the years and years of shoe-wearing, years that may have exacerbated his problem (kudos for ditching the orthotics, though!). Is Ahmed beholden to his situation? Are his feet forever altered?

No! Assuming his flat foot was developed, he’s still got the genetic potential to improve his feet and – at least partially – restore some of his natural structure and strength. You’ll still technically be flat footed, but you should be able to restore total functionality to your feet.

The first, perhaps most important step is to stay away from orthotics and shoes with “plenty of arch support.” Rather than help you solve your problem, shoes with arch supports prop you up and lead to weak, atrophied foot musculature. Your feet aren’t grasping, pulling, pushing, and flexing inside a pair of athletic trainers; they’re growing soft and growing weak. Fixing, or at least mitigating, your flat feet is going to require some serious foot strength.

Next, spend as much time as humanly possible with your bare feet. If you’re at home, remove your shoes as soon as you enter. If you’re heading out to take the dog on a walk, try circling the block in your bare feet. Mail’s come? Shoeless. Early morning paper? Barefoot. Living room workout? Do it without shoes on. You’ve got to learn to use your feet again, and the best way to do so is to simply live, eat, breath, and sleep barefoot.

Try toe running. When I haven’t done any serious barefoot work (which is very rare, actually; I’m almost always barefoot or in minimalist footwear) in awhile, I’ll hop on the treadmill in my socks (to reduce slippage) and do five or six minutes of light jogging. The catch is that I make sure to stay on my toes the entire time. This strengthens the ligaments and muscles (there are over a hundred of ‘em in the human foot) and prepares them for future activity.

A Few Simple Exercises to Strengthen Your Feet

Do toe spreads. Sit, stand, or lie down and fan your toes out as widely as possible. Create space between each toe. Hold this position for ten seconds, and repeat the exercise ten times daily per foot.

Point at things with your toes. Pick something, anything, in the room and point your toes at it. Now flex your foot. Hold it for five seconds, then release. Again, do this ten times per foot each day. For extra work, try tracing the alphabet with your feet in midair each day.

Get on your toes. Stand on your tippy-toes and just walk around for five minutes each day. Never let your heels touch the ground for the duration. Barefoot toe treadmill work is a worthy alternative.

Try side walking. Stand up (barefoot, of course) and get in a shoulder wide stance. Bend your knees slightly and roll onto the outer edges of your feet. Keep the weight on your outer feet and slowly raise up on your toes. You should feel your longitudinal arch stretching; once you do, hold that position for five seconds. Repeat five times each day.

Walk in sand. Sand is never the same. If you kick off your shoes and hit the grains (yeah, I just coined that phrase: “hit the grains”), you will be catapulting your virgin bare feet into a chaotic, ever-changing environment that will force them to adapt. Hyperbole aside, walking barefoot in the sand is a highly effective way to strengthen your feet.

I can’t stress this enough: go slowly. From the previous pictures, it’s obvious how much of an impact shoes can have on our bodies. For many of us, a lifetime of shoe wearing means the risk of overtraining our bare feet is possible, or even likely, if we don’t exercise caution. You don’t want to leap blindly into barefoot sprints with severely flat feet and risk injuring yourself even further, do you? Do the strengthening exercises before anything else.

Again, the damage may be done, and the flat feet may be permanent. I’m obligated to say it. There is, however, a lot of anecdotal evidence, especially on some of the barefoot running sites, that suggests people with flat feet can prosper without shoes (and even cure their condition), but there’s little in the way of actual, concrete evidence. We do know that shoes affect the structure and function of our feet; what we don’t know is whether the damage can be reversed. You can certainly strengthen your feet simply by removing your shoes and going barefoot as often as possible – and I highly doubt we’re forever beholden to an artificial adaptation. We often hear about people adopting the Primal Blueprint and turning their lives around in a month after eating the Standard American Diet for years, because our genes are hardwired to prefer certain things and our bodies can recover from an awful lot of abuse. Maybe our feet are the same way. Maybe actual structural changes can’t be completely overcome, but I’d be willing to wager that through careful, targeted foot exercises and a focus on barefoot living, we can make them almost irrelevant.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on flat feet and a barefoot existence. Hit me up with a comment. Thanks for reading, everyone!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. I am genuinely grateful to the owner of this web site who has shared
    this fantastic article at at this place.

    toe problems wrote on June 29th, 2012
  2. Thanks for the article, but I want to remind some people that people can be born with flat feet. I’m usually barefoot, I’ve been mostly barefoot my entire life, I’m also a dancer, several styles of Indian Classical (bare feet), modern (bare feet), some jazz (shoes for performances) and while in terms of flexibility and muscles I have strong “arches,” my feet are extremely flat…

    Morgaine wrote on July 8th, 2012
  3. sir i’m having a flat foot i dont have arch in my both foot
    please help me since i want to my foot to be normal foot with proper arch

    tony wrote on July 10th, 2012
    • You need to accept the fact you have flat feet. You will never have arches and if that’s a problem for you, perhaps you should seek some psychological counseling to get over your “hang up” about having an otherwise normal foot type. There’s what’s referred to as “aesthetic foot” surgery that can provide you with what you somehow crave, but would that be worth the expense and debility?

      mark burgan wrote on July 11th, 2012
      • Why are you being so rude? You “may” or “may not” have a lot of knowledge that other people don’t. But, this does not give you license to talk to people like this. It sounds like you are very frustrated with people asking the same or similar questions over and over again. Most, if not all, believe that their flat feet can be helped. This may or may not be true. In our society today, being flat footed has been deemed bad. Quite probably, Tony believes he can be helped with his flat feet. Maybe he can be helped, you can not determine that from his 1 sentence.

        I would suggest you do some meditation for your anger issues and DON’T return to this board anymore as you are not helping with your sarcastic put downs.

        ann wrote on July 11th, 2012
        • Sometimes one must be cruel to be kind. You might “soft-pedal” with those who most apparently have an emotional issue with something that’s completely normal and Tony didn’t express having any discomfort with his flat feet, so ostensibly his “problem” is most likely in his head. You stated that “in our society flat feet are deemed bad…” You and your kind are what is feeding this mass body dysmorphic disorder hysteria concerning flat feet. SHAME ON YOU!!!

          I am planning to soon abandon this forum because the vast majority of people, like you, are just simply willfully ignorant and I have no patience with such individuals. I have helped all I could and nobody reads, much less think, about their situation. I’ll continue to monitor this site to observe any hopeful outcomes from what I’ve offered to give factual support to this issue of flat feet. And finally, who do you think you are telling me not to return here? You sure have YOUR nerve!!!

          mark burgan wrote on July 11th, 2012
        • Mark is correct. Having flat feet is not a bad thing providing the remainder of the body is able to compensate. If there is no pain in the flat feet or no pain in the lower limbs for those with flat feet then there really is no need to rehabilitate your feet. Why fix something that isn’t broken.

          If you do have flat feet and you are feeling pain in your feet or lower limbs then rehabilitating your flat feet may be the solution you are looking for.

          Patrick Malleret wrote on July 12th, 2012
  4. I do have a problem with my feet. Everytime I go jogging in the morning after a few runs, my feet start to hurt on the sides. I wonder whether its that I have no arch or is it something else?

    Anonymous wrote on July 15th, 2012
    • Whether or not you realize this, the fact is that jogging is bad for the body and your feet are telling you that. Jogging applies forces that are completely unnatural and you shouldn’t be surprised that your feet hurt. You should consider sprinting on the balls of your feet as that would be better. Also, it does not matter if you have arches for the feet are being subjected to the abuse that jogging entails.

      mark burgan wrote on July 15th, 2012
  5. Man, after reading through all of this, I guess that anything goes. I have flat feet and posterior tibial ligament damage. All say get firm orthotics. I cannot walk on hard sand barefoot. I guess it’s an individual thing for a cure or improvement.

    Mike wrote on July 20th, 2012
  6. My 7.5 year old son appears to have flat feet. He is a shuffler instead of a runner and does not run with full strides as most others do. Could his flat feet be causing him to be unable to run normally? He does not have any pain, but he is 4’7″ already and loves sports and I don’t want him to miss out because he can’t keep up.

    Jennifer Rose wrote on July 26th, 2012
    • At 7 to 8 years of age, there is some degree of laxity in the growing foot and it doesn’t matter if his feet are flat. He will attain more stability with his feet as he grows older. Many professional athletes have flat feet and they have no problems functioning with them in their sporting activities. Be patient and let nature take it’s course.

      mark burgan wrote on July 28th, 2012
      • Mark, your sentiments ring true to me.
        Although I read earlier that genetic predisposition is rarely the cause of flat feet, I am surely one of the few. I was constantly told by my Mom that I was a “poor thing” because I had my Dad’s feet. Honestly, the only problem my flat feet ever caused was embarrassment. Not only were they large for a girl, they were very flat from early childhood, and due to a mostly barefoot existence also extremely wide, with ugly, large splayed-out toes (My first boyfriend asked me if I had had some toes cut out between the others. People can be so cruel. I am 46 now and despite dire warnings of the painful feet and knees in my future, my feet have never caused me pain (except when my Mom’s chiropractor suggested arch supports.Now that was agony. I mean, try putting a lump of something firm in each of your shoes and walk around on it all day!). I have been active and athletic all my life. My self-observation revealed that when I am standing still, my feet collapse noticeably to the inside of my ankles. I can feel my weight on my arches. But as soon as I begin to move (athletically) everything changes. I move effortlessly and nimbly and my feet seem fairly normal. I read a lot here about running on toes and I guess I am just lucky that it’s always been my natural way of moving. I noticed as a child that it just felt good to be up on my toes so I did it all the time. Still do. During the day, I like to walk barefoot up the stairs in my home, pausing on each tread to balance and raise myself on my toes several times. I may have ugly feet but I have gorgeous legs!!!My way of moving tends to make super tough callouses under my big toes, but they just look ugly. They work.
        Speaking of fortuitous habits, another curious thing I noticed was the suggestion to point with toes and flex and move them. I have always been able to pick things up with my toes and curl and move them in ways others cannot. A friend once asked me if I was part monkey. I can pick up things and throw them to someone across the room as well as they throw with their hands.
        I was saddened by the many people who are ashamed by their feet. I feel for you. Don’t give up using your body and your body will certainly find a way. I overcame flat feet with diligent fitness. All three of my sons were born with flat feet and frighteningly collapsed ankles and they are all active and pain free. I like to think it’s because I never called attention to it and always expected them to be normal boys.
        Support. Don’t criticize. Repeated taunts or criticism can plant seeds of failure in the mind of another, sapping their drive. Good grief it’s time for me to shut up. Nothing at all wrong with my mouth (I mean fingers LOL)

        Adriane wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  7. sir,i want exercises of flate feet .plz send me exercises .i will be thank ful to you.

    amjadrahim wrote on August 4th, 2012
    • Exercises will not help your flat feet. The muscles of the feet only work the toes.

      mark burgan wrote on August 7th, 2012
  8. Excellent article! my mother is to blame for my flat feet and forcing me in to supported shoes. I’m I’ve been noticing foot improvements since wearing flat shoes and they are a bit loose too. also have been doing some of the exercises by accident just because they made my feet feel good! I’m finding bending toes back and holding for as long as I can be bothered and gently stroking the arch seems to have helped. thought I was imagining things so found this site trying to see if exercise etc can help. it seems I’m not so daft

    Anna wrote on August 9th, 2012
  9. Hi. I would like to know if walking in stockinged feet is the same as walking barefoot?

    Sarah wrote on August 11th, 2012
  10. my flatfoot in the right foot is due to drug induced coma will i ever get it bsck sgsin?

    tammy wrote on August 17th, 2012
    • From the appearance of your “garbage spelling” and punctuation, it seems to me, anyway, that you may have experienced some kind of neurological damage from the induced coma. I would suggest seeking an evaluation from a good neurologist.

      As for your arch, it depends if the posterior tibial muscle had been damaged by the drug(s) used to induce the coma as to whether or not you will ever regain it to whatever degree. I wouldn’t keep any high hopes for quick recovery. Nerves heal slowly if at all.

      mark burgan wrote on August 21st, 2012
  11. Hey Mark. Just thought I’d add a different insight to your post.

    I was formerly a weightlifter and apparently squatting and lifting heavy stuff over my head day in, day out, with a pre-existing structural problem wasn’t a great idea. So anyway, through the years, it collapsed and caused some hip pain. When I retired from lifting (cuz of the pain) and continued walking barefooted, it never got better. I was in Asia, so walking barefooted was quite common because nobody wears shoes in homes. And I read your article back in 2010 (the year I retired), and used your tips. They didn’t work , so 3 days ago, I got inserts.

    In 3 days, my quads grew by 1/2 inches though I’ve no idea why. My spine is realigning I think as my neck doesn’t hurt so much, day by day. I’ve got much better sleep. Slept 8 hours for the first time in over 4 years. I actually can sleep more than 3 hours at a go.

    Although I’m not confident about squatting heavy in them, I did box jumps the other day and though I’m not used to it yet….I managed a 52″ box which is something I’ve not done for a while cuz I can’t launch myself properly with the hip pain. It would pull me sideways.

    So while I’m all for barefoot, I think there are times that it doesn’t work for everyone. i’ll come back and report more soon.

    Kirk wrote on August 19th, 2012
  12. I have flat feet and wear arch supports. It runs in the family sadly, where my father suffers from the same problem. I want to ask my GP to refer me to a specialist at the hospital who deals with such problems in order to see if there is an operation or to get proper help. This is hard to explain to my GP. My heal on my foot is starting to cause me pain. My children have inherited my problems, so am debating weather to get them arch supports. any opinions would be appreciated.

    michele wrote on August 23rd, 2012
  13. First, apologies if this has been asked before. My son is 21 months old and is not walking yet. He has been diagnosed with collapsed arches, hypermobile ankles that causes him to stand and walk on the insides of his feet. He has been prescribes special Piedro boots and was told will need orthotics. I understand that you are against them because they make the foot lazy however as I’m responsible for someone else’s feet and he is not walking because of this should I still ignore the advice I’ve been given regarding wearing supportive footwear?
    When I hold his hands he still walks on the insides of his feet even barefoot.

    I appreciate your help.

    Milly wrote on August 23rd, 2012
    • @Michele and Milly:

      You are just going to have to read the previous posts for your answers. Sometimes I feel like I’m “beating a dead horse” on the subject of pediatric flatfoot. You have a computer so start doing your “homework!”

      mark burgan wrote on August 24th, 2012
  14. I inherited flat feet from my father but only my father had flat feet between both sides of his family sadly i got it to I’ve been wearing arch supports an shoe insert in well arch supporting shoes and they have given me a little bit a of arch I started wearing this arch supporting stuff at about age 10 I am now 14 it’s work pretty good for me but my ankles still ache at the end of the day.

    quinton wrote on September 19th, 2012
    • Arch supports are nothing more than a “crutch” and your ankle pain is a direct result of wearing them as the arch supports are making your ankles weak—they simply can’t make any compensations for your flat feet and as for the supports helping your feet develop arches is not what is happening. You stated you are fourteen and arches will, if it is to be, spontaneously appear even if you did not “support” them at your young age.

      My suggestion is to ditch the arch supports and walk barefoot as much as feasible. Your ankles need strengthening and the arch supports are restricting their normal range of motion.

      mark burgan wrote on September 19th, 2012
  15. Dear Mark,
    i m flat footed and i started to ware shoes with support in arch point because i feel more comfortable. every time i run in rough surface without shoes i have pain.
    i m afraid that i could not anymore make my feet better.

    with respect,

    Loukia wrote on October 3rd, 2012
    • Go with what works best for you. Sounds like you’ve been made dependent on arch supports and perhaps you should try weaning away from them if you want to.

      mark burgan wrote on October 5th, 2012
  16. I’ve got Flat Feet & Hallux Valgus so i can’t realy walk/run barefoot with feeling pain at the big toe bone…. (thus cant train my arch)

    iii wrote on October 12th, 2012
    • I meant without feeling pain…

      iii wrote on October 12th, 2012
  17. Hey!! I really seriously HATE SHOES! Although its a rule at school that you have to wear shoes. My mom just told me I have a small arch. I used to have a really good arch. And as soon as I get home from school I take my shoes off. But my mom is constantly yelling at me when I’m barefoot and outside and so I’ve been putting my shoes on more lately and my feet have been hurting more. Is this because I’ve been wearing my shoes? And other than doing those exercises(which I’ve ALWAYS ran on my toes :P) and going barefoot is there anything else to help my feet? Because I hate coming home from school and having really sore feet!

    Rachael M. wrote on October 14th, 2012
    • you should try Vibram shoes, they are toed and very like bare feet, but protected. there are also some kind on ninja boots which have separate toes, but i can’t remember the brand.

      jen wrote on October 15th, 2012
  18. I wore my Vibrams all summer everywhere including work. It was too much and now my feet hurt every time I wear regular shoes.I need some warmer Vibrams for winter.

    vince wrote on October 16th, 2012
  19. That is very fascinating, You are a very professional blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and stay up for looking for more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks

    Lizette wrote on October 16th, 2012
  20. Hi Mark,

    I seriously feel this can also be genetic in nature. My father is a farmer from India and he never wore shoes all his life but he has a flat foot. I grew up in a city but I prefer being barefoot or with flip-flops over shoes but I too got it. Also, I suspect my new born son to be having it but he is only 5 months old, so it might take some more time to be sure.


    Prithvi wrote on October 18th, 2012
    • @Prithvi

      Five months of age is just way too early to determine if your son has inherited the flatfoot condition that you and your father are said to have. Arches do not form at this age and it will be into his later years (8 to 13) to be able to tell if he will have flat feet that are inherited.

      If there is no pain or awkwardness associated with your flat feet, nor your father’s, and your son has none, either, then there’s no problem with having flat feet. Flatfoot IS a variant of normal so you shouldn’t be at all concerned. Nobody can be like everyone else. We are all unique and you should embrace your human traits as your own.

      mark burgan wrote on October 23rd, 2012
  21. Hey Mark, Im a 17 year old athlete, who sufferers from flat feet, or previously did. My flat feet were so bad i was forced to have a surgery on both my feet. My feet had arthritis and my sub-taylor joint was starting to fuse together, resulting from the surgery,in a permanently fused joint in my left foot and hydrocure implant in my right. My recovery has been very difficult and my doctor still tells me i need to wear my orthotics as much as possible, I am always trying to strengthen my feet but recovery is very slow, now nine months after surgery i’m experiencing pain all the time. When the surgery was supposed to eliminate all. Is it possible my orthotics are causing me the pain?

    Cameron wrote on December 24th, 2012
    • Oftentimes, surgery to “correct” flat feet results in just what you are experiencing. Unfortunatly, the damage has been done and you will no doubt just have to live with your pain. Everybody that I know who has had such foot surgery has it resulting in failure and those poor individuals have to live from then on with chronic, intractable pain and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.

      As for the orthotics issue, it’s not going to make any difference as to whether or not you use them. Face it. Your feet are ostensibly ruined and you are going to have to live with them as they now are. You probably should have left well enough alone, but you “made your bed…” So sorry! Good luck.

      mark burgan wrote on December 26th, 2012
    • If your orthotics are not new since surgery, they may be part of the problem.

      As a physical therapist, I would recommend seeing a physical therapist about your feet before deciding you just have to live with the pain. Take the time to find a good one, one knowledgeable on feet and orthotics.

      Check Pose running 101 on YouTube. With altered foot mechanics, correct walking technique may not work, but it may help considerably.

      At nine months post-op you should be getting some relief, but some surgeries take a year to heal from. Also, if you started weight bearing too soon, healing would be delayed.

      I wish you the best.

      Chris Johnson wrote on December 30th, 2012
  22. That is a depressing thing to say to someone–that they will have to live with the pain! Massage, acupressure and exercise can help a lot with pain–won’t get rid of the problem but could help make quality of life much better!

    Debrah wrote on December 26th, 2012
  23. I have been diagnosed with flat feet at, what, 14, 12?
    What I’ve been told to do: stretching exercises (which I rarely do) and those special shoes (which I seldom wear). Yes, I have been careless.
    Now, I feel like when I walk my feet point inwards if you know what I mean- not severely inwards, but the beginning of something frightful I think.
    BASICALLY, I want to THANK YOU for writing this post. It was enlightening and, strangely enough, calming.

    Pearl wrote on December 30th, 2012
  24. I had no idea what a bunion was until I just googled it: “A painful swelling on the first joint of the big toe.”
    I don’t have that ilhamdillah…
    I just hope I don’t develope it, you know.
    I’m gonna stick to those stretching exercises and see how it goes.

    Pearl wrote on December 30th, 2012
    • Bunions are caused by shoes, especially the high fashion pointy toe ones. If they’re on the small side (something I see far too often) you will develop bunions.

      A second cause is rolling off the inside of your foot when you walk. This comes about as a possible result of pushing off with your hamstrings. If you walk correctly with minimalist, well fitting shoes, no problem.

      Chris Johnson DPT wrote on December 30th, 2012
  25. Random question, but I just read this post. Is there any potential benefit with using ankle weights for doing any of this stuff barefooted? I just want to make sure I’m not going to end up injuring myself (Or making my feet even flatter!).

    Michael wrote on January 6th, 2013
    • Ankle weights have no therapeutic value whatsoever.

      Remember, foot exercises will not reverse flat feet. The only muscle/tendon involved with the arches is the posterior tibial, which is in the calf of the leg. Exercising this muscle will not restore arches. If your feet have always been flat, then they always will be.

      mark burgan wrote on January 6th, 2013
  26. Hey so a little update. I took your advice and dumped those orthotics. Wasted sme money there but that’s alright.

    So I’ve been standing on the BOSU ball till it stops wobbling laterally. Took me weeks to figure it out. Been paddle boarding so that’s helped my calves and toes feel great. Also been barefoot running on the beach (sprints mor like) and started doing more skipping rope stuff and tons of calf raises and sumo deadlifts off a platform. Oh and tons of overhead Kettlebell walks too. Oh and lotsa adductor and hamstring work and trigger pointing the whole triceps surae (awesome job NKT is)

    Would love to show you the before picture but the arches have either grown or they’ve finally woken up …I don’t know. I personally think standing n the BOSU ball and the paddle boarding really expedited the change. And my calves and quads and glutes are thicker. Not wider, just thicker.

    It’s awesome! Thanks for the advice. Took months but finally quite fixed.

    Kirksman wrote on January 7th, 2013
  27. If exercising feet does not reverse flat feet then how do you explain the before and after images in this post ?

    Patrick Malleret wrote on January 7th, 2013
    • Photos can be manipulated in many ways. I can “arch” my flat feet by contracting the posterior tibials and that will lift the so-called arches. Many of us with flat feet can perform the same trick, so “before-and-after” imagery really cannot be trusted when it comes to the effectiveness of exercises for the “reversal” of flat feet.

      mark burgan wrote on January 10th, 2013
  28. I have genetic flat feet. I know these exercises will help, but as an athletic person, would I be better off ditching the arch support and going flat? Usually running with no support hurts my knees, but will these exercises help?

    Sarah wrote on January 9th, 2013
    • Supports will help with athletic activities, as that is the purpose of them. According to Dr. Harry F. Hlavac, the author of “The Foot Book, Advice for Athletes,” the role of orthotics is to correct GAIT, not feet. So go with what works for you when you are athletically active.

      mark burgan wrote on January 10th, 2013
    • Sarah,

      Running without the supports hurts because your running mechanics are thrown off. Mostly, your knee(hip actually) turns inward causing improper glide at your knee, improper axis of motion at your hip and possibly, excessive rotation of your low back.

      The primary muscle to strengthen is the gluteus medius. One on one instruction is best to learn the appropriate exercises since substitutions (cheating) are easily encountered.

      I’d say, use the orthotics until you can walk/run pain free without them.

      Chris Johnson DPT

      Chris Johnson DPT wrote on January 14th, 2013
  29. Mark,
    Are you familiar with either Tekscan or Noraxon foot measuring equipment? If you were then you would HAVE to accept the fact that there are products out there that CAN measure whether a product can reverse flat feet or not through exercise and stimulation. As you aware from our previous correspondence I market a product that I have already informed you reduces the foot print of individuals with flat feet 100% of the time with an average 36% reduction in foot print. This statistic was performed by Dr Scholls in the UK on 100 participants at Huddersfield University. The reduction in foot print was measured using Tekscan’s F-Scan foot measuring system which is the leading brand of foot measuring equipment in the world today and is used by the majority of doctors in North America that specialize in feet.

    Patrick Malleret wrote on January 10th, 2013
    • Footprints are two-dimensional that cannot determine the height of the arch by merely displaying the pad of the foot impression. That Dr Scholl device that supposedly “analyzes” the impression of the foot is, in my opinion, a fraud and any device that attempts to determine the height and integrity of the arch in a simple two-dimensional manner should be considered a “carnival” gimmick. If you know feet as you claim, you must know that the muscles of the feet have nothing to do with the arch height and they are so small, anyway, that working any foot muscles would be futile in trying to raise the arches. It is for me to find your expertise in foot structure analysis to be in question. To put it simply, I believe that you are not the expert you claim to be. I have studied foot biomechanics and anatomy for nearly thirty years and I find that the vast majority of so-called “foot professionals” to be nothing more than opportunistic charlatans that ought to be steered away from.

      mark burgan wrote on January 11th, 2013
  30. Your pure ignorance becomes you. Firstly, if you were informed you would realize that there is now equipment that measures feet 3 dimensionally. Secondly, I did not refer to Dr Scholl’s device, I referred to testing performed by the Dr Scholl corporation using Tekscan’s F-Scan measuring equipment. What I do know concerning foot muscles, tendons and ligaments and whether, when stimulated, arch height can be changed is factual whereas your opinion is based on nothing else but hyperbole built upon the 30 years you have spent “studying” biomechanics and anatomy. Do you have any qualifications in biomechanics or anatomy that makes you in any way a qualified student never mind an expert in these fields. I have never once mentioned that I am an expert in foot structure analysis. Although I have access to a large number of true experts in their respective fields whereby it seems you are self taught. It is not I, it seems, who is the charlatan sir!
    I asked you a question in my original correspondence on Jan 7th. I followed up on your correspondence of the 10th Jan. with details on how it has been measured professionally that flat feet can be reversed. And then you have the audacity to call me an opportunistic charlatan because I disagree with you and I have the proof to show that you are factually wrong! Priceless!

    Now we could spend endless exchanges denigrating each others characters but frankly I find no reason to do this. I prefer to put my money where my mouth is and to challenge your knowledge and expertise which states categorically that a flat foot cannot be rehabilitated.

    I will happily supply 10 individuals from this forum with a pair of my insoles. The persons must have flat feet. They will be each be given one pair of insoles to use. Each will take a relaxed position imprint of their feet prior to using the insoles and then another imprint in 4 weeks and a final one in 8 weeks. The results will be posted on this forum and another website whereby the before and after images can be viewed by all.
    If there is another individual on the discussion board who would like to oversee the neutrality of this test then I welcome it. Those interested please contact me at

    Patrick Malleret wrote on January 11th, 2013
    • Patrick

      You can peddle your wares as you wish. My expertise comes from the standpoint of the orthopedic community, which does not support your claims.

      I am now officially discontinuing my participation with this site. You win. You can take over now as I am no longer interested in providing sound, logical advice to the ignorant. Have it your way and good luck. I have passed the baton to you.

      mark burgan wrote on January 13th, 2013
    • So I dropped an email regarding those foot inserts. Looking forward for a reply from you!

      kirksman wrote on January 16th, 2013
  31. Mark,
    Firstly my intention is not for you to discontinue your participation with this site. Our discussion or disagreement if you prefer to call it that, is not about winning or losing it is moreover a discussion about what information that is provided to the other readers and contributors that is factual vs opinionated. I have yet to meet an orthopaedic doctor that does not understand and promote the benefits of the product I “peddle” once they analyze the product.
    I will state categorically that some of your comments concerning foot health are correct although I sometimes wince when reading the blunt and sometimes rude manner you deliver your brand of common sense wisdom. That said when I view a comment of yours that is factually incorrect, it is my right as a contributor to at least question your comment and/or provide an alternative view point.
    If you discontinue posting then I wish you good luck.

    Patrick Malleret wrote on January 14th, 2013
  32. As a physical therapist who has studied foot biomechanics and human movement patterns, I would like to comment about the shoe inserts that were linked previously.

    First, I would stipulate that the foot does not work as intended unless it is attached to a person’s leg. That makes it one end of a kinetic chain. The other end is the hip. The hip controls the orientation of the femur, which strongly influences the tibia, which strongly influences the ankle/foot. If the femur inwardly rotates, the foot pronates and the foot flattens. The effect of the noted insert would be to get the foot to pull away from the inside. This would engage several muscles up the chain including the gluteus medius (posterior fibers) which would alter the gait mechanics and foot position. I see very good reasons why the insert would work as described.

    You could also change how you walk or carry out a series of exercises and achieve the same result.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    Chris Johnson DPT

    Chris Johnson DPT wrote on January 14th, 2013
  33. I earlier posted about having pain in my feet due to flat feet thing..the doctors have made me wear supports in my shoes since 6 years..last year during holidays my pain got so worst that i was left crying badly one morning..i went to the best hospital in here..the doctor told me to wear it all the time..i did as said..they told me to excercise as well..primarily my toes, my knees and my back used to hurt like hell..but one day while going on a walk(a must for me so that i wont get more fatter) i forgot to put the sole carrying the supports..amazingly the dreaded walk was less painful for me than usual.. and i continued without supports..i dont run and havent tried running since 12 years but now by grace of god the pain is considerably less..and I HAVE DITCHED THOSE SUPPORTS..hope i can just get better..

    amna wrote on January 15th, 2013
  34. Hey Mark i am having flat feet since birth and now i am 21. In May i have to apply for Army and i want to get rid of them till then so is there any cure for them in the mean time?

    Taihur wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  35. I also had flat flat feet, I mostly walk barefoot, and I wear nonsupport shoes (if I actually wear shoes).
    Recently my right foot has become normal, it’s not flat!!. I don’t know why , it always was stronger then the left foot, maybe that’s the reason.
    The problem is that i moved to UK where I wear shoes every day and walk for along times and that caused me some pain in my left foot (the flat one).

    What should I do?

    Malik wrote on January 24th, 2013

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