Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
October 08 2009

How to Strengthen Your (Bare, Flat) Feet

By Mark Sisson
670 Comments

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.

Ahmed

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:

Causes:

  • 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!

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

670 thoughts on “How to Strengthen Your (Bare, Flat) Feet”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. What I did to transition into “barefoot” running was sprinting up trails on hills. Running uphill is much more naturally forefoot striking as compared to say running downhill and heel striking. I focused on trying to use the foot as a spring and launch off with each step.

    It’s definitely a steep (sore) learning curve, however.

    1. look my feet hurt so to night i will start the toe/feet strengthen i went to the ortho and he said i have flat feet i tryed the special soul he mold of my feet for a year no help my feet hurt more i grit my teeth um gritting now i dont walk around with bare feet but it just might work so here i go day #1

    2. Have read comments, I am 60 years of age, born with the flattest of feet, been in pain all my life, when I was 11 I attended hospital twice a week and they put my feet in bowls of water with metal pads under two places on each foot, they then passed electricity through to make my feet contract, also had to wear hideous built up shoes, then later in life insoles made at the hospital which did absolutely NOTHING to help, apart from inflict even more pain upon me.
      My feet roll inwards really badly, shoes don’t last long as I wear the instep bit out by walking on the side of he shoe, I have been forced to wear Scholl sandals, again increased pain and no change, I have now come to realise NOTHING will help me, I am destined to be in pain the rest of my life, I have undergone back and hip surgery which according to the surgeons has all been caused by my flat feet, so fellow sufferers I truly feel your pain.

      1. Just read the article about “flat feet” – And there was a photo of MY FEET – with spread toes and “looking pretty wide” and I am thrilled to bits.
        Now I KNOW my feet are really good and healthy – I hate wearing shoes (especially after I broke a big toe playing cricket – no shoes of course – ha!) and a couple of years later my ankle snow ski-ing. Since then I have taken every opportunity to walk about without shoes.
        Luckily summers were spent down the beach, surfing and sailing so NO SHOES.
        When I was 7 years of age, I was told I had flat feet and had to wear supports (some horrible metal contraption, which I removed from my comfy school shoes as soon as I was out of sight of home).
        Even now I am mostly going barefoot(except on hot pavement) and at 70 years of age my feet are great. Now I know they are OK with my spread toes and wider foot not like my darling hubby, whose toes are squished in and has an almost bunion and has sore feet.
        Thank You now I am really proud of my feet.

  2. Sorry Mark, but I tried everything, for years. I was diagnosed with flat feet when I was seven. Guess what the solution was, though? Inserts. My dad made me do exercises every day to ‘strengthen’ my feet.

    Did my shoes aggravate the situation? Absolutely. Is there anything I can do now? No. I give up. I’m obtaining a bunion and must wear nice shoes to the office, so that I can continue to feed my family 🙁

    Do I think it could’ve been avoided? Yes, maybe, but at a VERY early age. I was pigeon-toed as a baby and by age 4, I still remember making myself bloody with my ‘church shoes’ because I kept hitting the inside of my ankles with them.

    Fast forward to today: No amount of exercise on these arches had done me ONE OUNCE of good! 🙁

    I HAVE to be your one exception….

    1. SassaFrass88, sorry you are giving up. I’m not convinced you’re the exception. I bet if you got yourself some VFFs for outdoor training and a pair of FeelMax Pankas to wear at work…and did your exercises religiously, you could make huge gains over time.

      1. I have to wear dress shoes to work too. No shoe on the market I was able to find looked presentable given the executive environment. I had a friend that makes moccasins make me a pair with some soft but somewhat “shiny” (read: looks dressy) black leather. Its like wearing slippers all day! My feet are flat on the ground and the soles are totally flexible.

        1. 2nd vote for more moccasin info from Xendara.

          Xendara – Any chance your friend would allow you to pass on their contact information? I think a lot of people here with your same issure would be interested in giving them some business!

        2. Have you tried Dansko shoes? They are really comfortable and has built in arches, not recommended for people who suffers from bunions and hammertoes because of their hard formation this could aggravate the bony prominences of your feet.

        3. Hi Xendara,
          There is a great Australian shoe company called “Bared Footwear” that specialises in shoes that both look dressy/pretty and can be worn with orthotics. The interior of the shoes are fitted with a a supportive lining like a very mild orthotic that can be removed and replaced with your own insole if it doesn’t provide enough support. I just bought two pairs recently- flat and heeled- and they are very comfortable and pretty. Highly recommend. https://bared.com.au

      2. Mark, my feet are about a half size different from each other…is this normal and could it potentially be fixed by barefoot training? also will I have trouble with getting a good fit with VFF or pankas?

        1. Having feet that are a half size different is not “normal” but it is common. Usually it results from putting more of your weight on your larger foot, i.e. if you put a scale under your feet, you’d be standing more heavily on one side. Often, the glutes and hamstrings are lazy while the quads are hyper-dominant on the “lighter” side with the smaller foot. This can be completely corrected.

    2. You’re not the exception. I am the same way. My feet are flat to the ground, and now I have bunions. I train barefoot, but I have to wear shoes to work!

      1. Erica,

        You could try getting a pair of “Vivo Barefot” shoes. I have a pair myself and they emulate barefoot working almost perfectly (nothing like the real thing of course, but the difference is negligible).

        🙂

        1. For anyone wearing VFF or the Vivo’s longer than a year – do any of you still feel the same as to when you began wearing them?

        2. I tried barefoot shoes, eased in to them as slowly as possible and all they did was injure me to the point where I had to stay off of them for 3 months, afterward where I tried running again. Now every time I go for a run I earn a flaming painful case of tendonitis.

          Something this article neglects to consider: what about those of us who live in wintery climates? You try going for a walk on snow and ice without shoes.

    3. Another exception here–my feet have always been flat and we never wore shoes in the house–it’s an Asian thing. I’ve been plagued by bunionettes (pinkie bunions) since my mid-30’s and have added bunions in my mid-40’s.

      Over the last two months I have been diligently doing foot and ankle exercises (mostly to rehab an ankle so I could keep learning how to power lift). I just got back from a screening with a new podiatrist (Dr. Steve Subotnick, who used to write for Runner’s World magazine). The sesamoids near my right big toe have actually moved out of position (man, I though my feet were ugly on the outside–the x-rays were a complete horror show). I’m to continue with my self-researched exercises and will return in 6 months to see if my bunions have stabilized or even begun to show improvement. I don’t expect to ever have much of a real “arch” but I’ll be happy if I can at least stop that ugly and painful “bunion bulge.”

      1. I guess you must be a so called “American Asian” because in China, where I live we all wear shoes indoors.. so don’t say “it’s an Asian thing” when you have no idea what you’re talking about ..

        1. I am a Chinese living in Singapore and majority of the people here don’t wear shoes indoors.

        2. Interesting. I think this no shoes thing is in every culture. I’m Polynesian living in NZ – no shoes in the house growing up – we had to remove them at the door. To enter a traditional Maori meeting house today, shoes must be removed and left at the door.I think it dates from biblical times – you know God told Moses to remove the shoes from his feet because he was standing on sacred ground. Well our homes are sacred grounds too.

        3. I think he does know what his talking bout! Asians as in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshy etc do not where shoes in the house! So I’m assuming when that person says Asian he is not referring to Chinese but rather south Asians 🙂

        4. Whoa…slow down there gunpowder. Maybe in your house they dont, but every asian peoples house ive ever been to its shoes at the door. And its not an expat thing cuz tran and phuc are fresh from cambodia. And my boy jasons family came from s. Korea like the other day. They havent had time yet to consider themselves ‘asian americans’. His mom cant say much in english but she can damn sure say “kam sam ni da … shoes off!” Simply being in china doesnt automatically authenticate ones experience as representative of all born and bred asian people. You been to beijing lately? You can americanize right from there. Suffice it to say that the practice of removing ones shoes upon entering the home is common in asian households. Or as poster #1 up there said “its an asian thing”.

        5. Hahahaha! Who wear shoes inside the house??? I’m a Filipina and I’m Asian, people don’t wear shoes at home, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not comfortable. We either go barefoot or wear slippers.

    4. There will always be exceptions. But, perhaps, because the muscles in your foot have become so use to shoes (just a crutch for our feet), you need to work harder to build up those very weak and flabby muscles. I have posted a lot on this topic on my site, and some of this info may inspire you to try once more.

        1. This is actually the first article I ever read, because I was on Google searching for ways to strengthen my feet to alleviate the knee arthritis I developed playing basketball in college. I don’t think it merits another full article, but I’ve been dying to know for months: if sprints and training can be done with Vibrams, what about full court indoor basketball? I switched from playing in Nike Basketball sneakers to Nike Free TRs, thicker versions of their running shoe, but still thinner than basketball sneakers. Any Primal suggestions?

        2. Hi Mark,

          I can’t use the regular comment section, it seems so, have to post here.

          Now, I can’t say i was born with them, but I’m sure my case is at least partly hereditary.

          When i was a kid, i was herded into lace up shoes with super arch support, and i had to go and see a doctor twice a year up till the age of about thirteen, when fashion became an issue.

          In addition, i was in a ballet class from the age of 3 till 12, and my teacher would have me lift up my arches during the lesson, or my feet wouldn’t meet into the positions.

          Now, i became of the age where i refused to wear ugly shoes and always wearing lace-ups, so i stopped getting my feet assessed.

          From then on, I conditioned myself not to walk on my arches, and now it’s uncomfortable not to.

          I think i have a weirder case though as when my foot is relaxed my toes are all curled up (imagine a cats paw) and when i set my foot down, my toes splay very wide, like the kid who doesnt wear shoes above.

          Another thing, is that when my foot is relaxed it is severely under-pronated, yet when i stand, it is way over.

          In addition to this when i stand completely flat on my feet, my inner ankle bone is touching the ground.

          I do walk barefooted alot too, and while i have obviously flat feet, to walk on them is now very uncomfortable.

          Whichever way i stand, though, I am never comfortable in shoes. Ever, and wish i didnt live in england and walk on bare ground.

          Sorry for my rant, heard of anything similar.

        3. Hey Mark:

          I have to take exception to you comment with respect to the procedure being referred to by the physician in the video. Unless that is, you are implying how funny it is,that such a simple procedure can produce phenomenal outcomes. The product/procedure he is referring to is called HyProCure. I, and 8 of my family members have had this procedure and the HyProCure implanted in our feet. Before doing so, we had exhausted every possible option with respect to treating our flatfeet. We are so thankful to have found a physician who does this procedure; It has changed our lives!!! I urge anyone experiencing this condition to check out the company who manufactures the product’s website: http://www.hyprocure.com

          Also, if you have any more questions feel free to ask me. The website is a wealth of information.

          Thanks,

          Tommy G

    5. Hi guys ive had flat feet since I was a baby and have never had any pain until now at 24. I have started having ankle and knee pains and I think it could be due to me starting up running as a hobby. What kind of supports can i wear to run and generally walk in and is there a way to actually build my arches up??? Thanks, Simon

    6. Dear Mark
      I have Flat feet since 17 years old , when my Road accident after that i operation of feet than 2 year no pain than little bit pain on feet uper side than i check up to Doctor he was told me your feet flat after accident, than he made me shoes with sole 4 year i continew wear shoes, after that my pain was finished , now days i feeling pain. Mark can you tell me suitable treatment.

      Thanks & Best Regards

      Sami

    7. I have flat feet and their probably genetic since my brother and sister have them too. I never tried doing exercises but I always wore insoles (useless) neither did my sister. My brother however, always the more determined one, walked on the outer edges of his feet as a kid and teen until his foot actually held the shape and he now has healthy arches. Maybe thats the way to go?

    8. I had custom (expensive) orthotics for 3 years to fix my flat-ish feet. I developed terrible back and hip problems that could not be diagnosed (since it was all muscular and from misalignment). I was only 26 when the back problems started. 2 years, despite every doctor, podiatrist and chiropractor i went to saying my orthotics were fine, I ditched the orthotics. Within days my back felt better. Then I read the Born to Run book and have been toe/barefoot running ever since. My back pain has gone away 90% after running every day for 1 month! The toe running strengthens all the muscles around the back and encourages proper alignment.

      I found your site because even though toe running is easier on my knees than “normal” running, because my left foot especially is flat, it’s affecting my knees. I know if i can just get my feet strong enough it will be ok.

      Thanks for spreading the good word!

      1. I’ve had the complete opposite experience. I started running about 6 years ago, using the “wrong” shoes, and developed numerous back, hip, and especially knee problems.

        I went to a podiatrist who got me into orthotics and shoes with more motion control, and everything has been fine since! I haven’t had one injury since I started with the orthotics, and I’ve trained for and run 3 marathons and countless 1/2 marathons.

        I like the theory behind barefoot running, but now I’m afraid to go back because I’m worried all the injuries will return.

      2. I know this is an old post but, your situation sounds like mine. I’ve always hated heel lift shoes. I would alter shoes as best I could to my liking. My situation goes one worse as I have one leg significantly shorter than the other requiring a lift. Try barefoot running like that. Thankfully my bad flat foot is the longer leg. I need to apply some sort of lift to the right barefoot shoe. Can’t walk or run without the lift or my hip goes out. I routinely hike 20 miles with heavy packs. I’ve wasted so much $ on shoes and hiking boots over the years. Orthodics too. I walk in slippers all day everyday and feel fine but, shoes kill me. I’m trying Altra Lone Peaks for hiking with a pack. Thank goodness shoe makers are finally getting it.

      3. I am 15 years old and i have back problems from my flat feet that i got from berth.

    9. I’ve worked in places where I’ve been told when I was hired that I “must wear nice shoes to the office”, but as soon as I started, I realize that my coworkers really didn’t care.

      I’ve walked around the office barefoot, and had at least 6 people say “ohmygod, I didn’t know you could do that!”, and then switch to going barefoot in the office, too.

      I’m not normally in a customer-facing role, but I’ve been introduced to potential customers who come to the office, and one saw me barefoot and said “I wish I could do that!”. I told her she was welcome to, in our office, so she did.

      I also disagree that you need to “obtain a bunion” in order to “to feed your family”. Even if your current job is (unlike every job I’ve ever had) so lousy that they require you to mutilate your own body to continue working there, there are absolutely places you can work that don’t require this. You’re making the choice that continuing to work in that office (and all that goes along with it, good and bad) is more important than healthy feet. And I don’t know your situation, so maybe that’s the case for you. But it’s absolutely not the case that you need to hurt yourself to feed your family.

      (Just got back from a meeting with my CEO. He’s not barefoot, yet, but he seems to find it amusing that I am.)

    10. I am so sorry for what you’ve been through … but i also have flat feet .. the thing is that i was born with them and didn’t find out until i was 11 years old and try having kids my age now days making fun of you. But i’m so sad for your situation you had it bad also… Now at the age of 14 i realized i don’t care what people think if they don’t like me then they don’t have to be my friends because im not gonna ruin my life for them.

    11. I have to give a HUGE thanks to Mark and the others who participated in helping ourselves. I am in the “50” age range. For the first 30 years of my life I was practically barefoot all my life. I ran barefoot, and entered many track meets. Later I started wearing supports in my shoes thinking they would comfort me feet being I was on my feet all the time. Eventually, I ended up in the doctors office with terrible feet saying they wanted to break my toes to reconstruct my feet. Long story short. For over 10 years I have literally been unable to walk without terrible pain in my feet, back and hips. Within 24 hours…..I exercised and stretched my feet. and woke up with absolutely NO pain in my feet, hips or back. Which I have not been able to do that for TEN YEARS plus. I have been walking barefoot all day, which I have not been able to do so for 20 years. SO all I am saying……Exercise, stretching, and going barefoot did a 360 for me. It is pretty much a miracle, and I will continue to properly take care of my feet with the exercises/ yoga and going barefoot…..

      1. Hi!

        I would like to email directly with people who have had experience with injury that turned into flat foot. I am overwhelmed with the different information out there and would love to hear from people that were able to help themselves and how they did it. We know our bodies better than most doctors. Thank you to those who have had postive experiences for sharing them! Post people stop posting once they are feeling better.
        My email is lgopin@hotmail.com. Email me if you are willing to help another person! I promise once I am better, to pay it forward!

    12. I have had the same problem. I’ve had flat feet since I was little and I always knew it was down to shoes. Bad shoes, good shoes, what’s the difference?!

      I had bunion surgery (bad idea) when I was 18 and now that i’m 23 its back. Only with protective bunion cushions do I get any relief and am now developing a bunion on the left foot as well.

      I wasted money on Scholl heel cushions that provide an arch as well and my feet, ankles and hips certainly feel better but obviously my feet aren’t getting any less flat or bunion-y.

      Surgery was the worst idea in the world because of the bone growth and muscle damage since. My right big toe has virtually no flex and standing/walking gets painful no matter what shoes or state of barefootedness i’m in!

      Perhaps we’re two exceptions. Having said that, i’m going to start exercising my toes and so help my colleagues I will be barefoot in the office from now on.

    13. Sassa Frass88, You haven’t tried everything, I garuntee it. And yes there are things you can do to fix them, I have transformed my problematic feet, and have transformed numerous other’s feet as well. Inserts are only aiding your problem. There are very dynamic excerises that you have probably never seen before that would transform your “atrophied” foot muscles, and strengthen your individual toes ligaments and tendons. I’d be curious to see a picture of your foot. I work on many peoples feet. Good stuff Mark!

      1. hey devon i too have flat feet.i would be very happy if u suggest me some good exercises for my feet.

    14. You should check out Soft Star Shoes. They are coming out with adult mary jane’s that are minimalist shoes in December. Check out their website at least! 🙂

      1. Hi, I should clarify that that was directed at the lady who said she needs to dress up for work. I would also like to say that I’m not affiliated with the company at all, I just like their shoes! lol! I’m nursing my daughter, so I can only type with one hand so I was trying to keep my post short 🙂

    15. I too was severely pigeon toed and wore leg braces that attached to a belt around my waist. I had to wear hard sole “boy” shoes at all times. I still remember how embarrassing it was to be the only kid in gym class that made noise walking on the gym floor. The inside of my ankles were a constant source of shooting pains because the metal discs of my braces where they connected into my shoes often collided.

      I have used Vibram Five Fingers and Vivo Barefoot shoes for the past two years and LOVE them. I also have paid a lot of attention to my posture (severe back pain and sciatica after baby #5.) The Wii Fit also helped me be more aware of balancing on my feet. My big toes used to curve in toward my other toes from wearing dress shoes to work, but the toes now come straight off my feet. I am amazed when I look down on the floor and see my feet, I hardly recognize them.

      I also had completely lost my arches and within 6 months of wearing Vibrams, my arches were back. Not as high as before, but completely healthy and two years later – still healthy and fine.

      The Vivos are nice because they can be worn to work and look acceptable to employers. I use the Kali style which is a bit plain, but can be dressed up with little accessories to make them more fashionable. Quite often, I wear them plain though. If you wear dress pants, they have some boots that look cute.

      Hope this helps. Your post brought back memories…

    16. u must not be doing the strenthing propely….
      & completely avoid wearin high heels…..

    17. Hi. I feel you can still help your feet. I started going barefoot back in July and my feet are improving. For those times you have to wear shoes at office try the Merrell’s minimalist shoes. They don’t squish your feet like other shoes and don’t hurt bunions. You can get them in black to look professional.

    18. I have flat feet and I have been using shoes mfg by MBT and RYN and found that after I have gotten used to them, that they help tremendously. I also just bought a pair of Abeo sandles for walking around the house. Obviously, walking barefoot on hard flat surfaces makes like miserable, but using these various shoes have made a positive difference. There are shoes made by Joya that i plan on checking out as well.

    19. For bunions: my doc told me way back when I was getting bunions(my moms were very very bad!) and had to wear decent shoes to work that the best way to approach was to only wear sling back pumps to the office, no higher than 2 inches!…so I researched out great looking sometimes very expensive shoes and that has saved me.
      He said that the give of the sling back removed the extra pressure on the fronts of my feet.
      The best advice I received and to this day I never got bunions!

    20. Have you tried Eric Orton’s strength program? a lot of people seem to have been able to rebuild their arches through his unique program. There is loads of information for him on google.

  3. Very interesting!

    I always walked barefoot or wore “horrible” shoes like converse or flipflops that offer no support. I have very high arches, while most of my friends who wore “supportive” sneakers/shoes or heels all the time have flat feet now. (and/or shortened achilles tendons)

    I noticed after wearing heels all the time to work that when I would walk all day barefoot or wear flat sandals my arches would ache. That was when I realized I HAD to go barefoot a lot to strengthen my feet. Now my arches don’t ache!

    That being said I think some poor souls are just cursed with foot problems no matter what they do(genetic or whatever). That sucks.

    1. Huh… as a kid I always wore Converse, famous for their lack of support, and yet had high arches. I had never thought to make a connection between the two. I wonder if it’s causal?

    2. Wonderful! I started following the tip to walk barefoot and walking with spread toes, and my big toe supporting the most of my body weight. It works! It’s so simple and I was looking for a treatment all my life, like support sneaker shoes, obscure exercises and nothing worked. I always walked in side walk, to prevent my heel down on side, wich led my big toe doesn’t help to support my body weight, leading a constant muscle fatigue on the side of thigh and the leg and knees pain.I am very greatful to this blog! Thanks for the help!

  4. Barefooting was what turned me on to the Primal lifestyle in the first place.

    In my case, totally flat feet, lifetime foot pain, lower leg pain, lower back pain. A lot of it is my weight and lack of fitness, I know. But when a doctor suggested bare feet time to help strengthen my feet (“where am I going barefoot in Manhattan” I remember replying at the time) and then a few news articles about shoes and being barefoot, I went into Vibrams and mocs and barefoot and never looked back.

    These days the only times I am not either barefoot or in a barefoot shoe is for something unavoidable like a formal stage performance. And even wearing soft mocc-style dress shoes, the 1/2′ heel feels horrible and gives me foot pain.

    Since I started being barefoot most of the time , my toes have spread out dramatically. I can’t even fit into some of my old shoes anymore. My feet have strengthened and nearly all of my foot problems have disappeared. My toes which used to be locked and near-motionless can flex and grasp things like pencils.

    The only problems I have now is a little fascitis in one foot, usually when I over-train.

    My only criticism of barefooting to a city dweller like me is the constant pavement/concrete surfaces is unnatural for the feet, footware or not. Making shoes that are barefoot but with a little more padding might be a good choice for the city.

    1. It isn’t cheap, but Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot is basically what you are asking for.

      I will admit they don’t keep me from heel striking when I’m being lazy, and don’t remove the inserts, but it is a close to barefoot while still wearing shoes as you are going to get.

  5. I’m one of those who “cured” their flat feet by going barefoot 🙂

    I had doctor-prescribed orthotics for doing athletics (running, rowing, hiking, etc). I always bought shoes with “motion control” and lots of arch support.

    2yrs ago I read the book “Chi Running” (similar to POSE), and learned to run properly. Ran a marathon in Newton running shoes (minimal support). I started doing all my workouts barefoot (crossfit), and now I’m running in VFF for everything.

    Looking at my feet, and watching how I walk, my ankles no longer collapse inward. My feet don’t get tired from standing. I can wear fashionable shoes with no arch support. I can hike/run/etc w/o orthotics. I was on the beach recently and my footprints looked normal!

    So yes, it’s possible, but it took 2yrs. I’ve always been barefoot at home, maybe that gave me a jumpstart 🙂

    1. hiiiiii
      i hv also flat feet
      can u tell me in detail what is barefoot n wat exercises i sud do

    2. my doc, told me the complete opposite. he said I couldn’t go barefoot at all, im soo confused. I always walked around my house barefoot and I had a lot of issues for about 1yr and half its getting worse and worse.

  6. I have also had flat feet my entire life and like Ahmed, didn’t seem to have any problems at 18 either. However, now at 43 it’s a different story… after standing or walking for a long time (the “shuffling” of shopping seems to be the worst) I get a lot of aching from my feet to my knees to my hips.

    As if that weren’t enough, I now have arthritis/bone spurs in the joint where my right big toe joins with my foot and that causes frequent pain (it’s called Hallux Limitus, though fortunately I still have a fair amount of flexibility there). Believe me, you don’t realize how much weight that joint bears and how important it is until you start having pain there.

    I just recently went to a podiatrist who prescribed custom insoles/supports that provide some arch support but more importantly provide some extra space for the toe joint to function, which avoids some of the pain.

    I’m intrigued by the Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Free shoes, but frankly it’s painful just to think about walking in shoes with little/no support, or barefoot. Granted that is due much more to my toe problem than to my flat feet.

    To Ahmed, I would say be willing to try everything possible to strengthen your feet or adapt to your condition while you are still young. It’s great that you are aware of the issue now instead of trying to ignore the nagging aches for years until you finally force yourself into a doctor’s office.

  7. I use yoga toes to help spread my toes.
    They seem to work.

    I get the argument for barefoot. But if you live in a city it’s hard to avoid cement sidewalks, hard floors ect. Cetainly not the soft sand of Grok.

    How would Grok do on concrete?

    1. Concrete is wonderful. Soft, gentle pillows of comfort compared to dirt with rocks, acorns (and other seeds), plants with strong runners and sharp leaves, etc. I strongly prefer concrete to sand for normal walking. Barring extreme heat and cold, concrete and asphalt are simply not a problem for barefoot walking/running/etc.

      The thing to remember is that you can’t scuff/drag your feet along like you might with shoes. Look where you’re going to put your foot, pick your foot up, put your foot down, wash, rinse, repeat.

      I live in LA and am barefoot unless I’m riding my motorcycle, walking on really hot/cold surfaces, or going into a store/restaurant with a no-bare-feet policy. I keep several sets of sandals in strategic places (car, baby’s stroller, backpack) just in case I need to put them on. Working pretty well for the past year now.

      1. Concrete is AWFUL. I have flat feet and big toes that turn in. My sister has nice arches and straight toes. She’s very overweight yet her feet *never* hurt. Obviously, she’s been wearing shoes all her life.

        Once, I went walking/jogging in a dirt path in a hilly area for a full hour (which would normally have me writhing in pain) and felt NO pain afterwards. ***It wasn’t the shoes or lack thereof; it was the DIRT.*** It’s the NATURAL GROUND that is good for the feet, because that’s how G-d created us to live.

  8. I’d argue that on harder surfaces it’s even more important to focus on barefoot techniques. Walk on the balls of your feet, don’t overstride, and avoid shoes with excessive padding that just move the problem elsehwere on your skeleton.

    I’ve worn my VFF all day throughout the city, and never had a problem. It does take your body time to adjust to being barefoot so much, but if you walk correctly there’s no problems.

    Additionally, ‘barefoot’ walking in the city brings much more awareness of the ground surfaces, there are lots of interesting textures out there 🙂

  9. Concrete? I wear my VFF’s and I’m fine. (I think Grok would probably hate concrete, just like me… but, we deal.)

    I found some foot exercises a while back that are right in-line with “side walking”, which you mentioned above. If you’re looking for more, try these:

    Walk for 25m or so, to start, in each of the following six positions:

    1. Toes pointed outwards (duck)
    2. Toes pointed inwards (pigeon)
    3. On the outside edge of your foot
    4. On the inside edge of your foot
    5. Backwards, on your tippy toes
    6. On your heels.

    Only takes a few minutes, but they really help strengthen the musculature around your feet.

    I’ll also speak highly of POSE running; it takes time to condition your feet/calves/legs to it, but once you’ve got it, it’s amazing.

      1. The POST website does not mention the word “barefoot” on their homepage, the main image on the homepage is a person with shoes on, and, the idea that you want to be ‘falling forward’ does not agree with what I’ve learned about barefoot runners, that your torso should more or less be upright, not necessarily leaning forward.

  10. Very interesting article. I went barefoot practically my whole childhood and everyone always commented on how “high” my arches are. When I went into regular work in my 20’s I had to wear heels & started getting knee problems…then to orthodics…supports…you name it. In past 2 years I managed to change my job and get out of my heels. Voila…no more knee pain. I’m happy to say my arches are high and my toes wide like they used to be.

    By the way the toe-spread thing is also interesting. I’ve always had particularly “wide” feet for a woman, so much so that I’ve always bought men’s hiking shoes, for example.

  11. Mark,

    Thanks for the great article.

    Just one remark: actually, we all are born flat footed. It is only when we start to stand up and walk that we really develop our arches. That’s why it is really important for babies and children to walk barefoot a lot. If they where rigid shoes with ‘good support’, they will not get the chance to develop arches, nor good functioning feet.

    In general, speaking about musculoskeletal problems, function is more important than structure. Although the two are related, function is what counts.

    We (physical therapists) see this often. If you have scoliosis or excessive lorosis of kyphosis is your spine, the chances of getting pain in your back are not bigger than for people with ‘normal’ spines (exception: really really big anatomic variations are more likely to cause problems)

    First, there’s a lot of inter-individual variation, without being abnormal.

    Second, the way the body moves (motor control!!!) is the best predictor of pain and dysfunction.

    This means:
    – good ‘structure’ with bad funcion will be more likely to cause pain/dysfunction
    – ‘bad’ structure with good function (motor control) will be less likely to cause pain.

    So for people with flat feet (or other structural foot problems): don’t worry to much about the structure, work on function.

    And Marks article will help to increase the function of your feet

    1. Thanks for the exceptional advice, Pieter, as it was both precise and correct. I am a devotee to foot/lower limb structure research and according to my most treasured book in my medical reference library, Steindman’s KINESIOLOGY:Normal and Pathological Conditions, you echoed it’s description of a structural anomaly that can function fully absent of pathology. I am of the opinion that so-called conservative treatment methods such as orthoses in the flat foot that is more or less a normal structure for a given individual, and according to sports podiatrist, Dr. Harry Hlavac, who is/was director of sports medicine at UCSF, in his valuable book, THE FOOT BOOK, Advice for Athletes, if the foot/feet are flat in the non-weight bearing mode, there is no problem and best well left alone. This information is invaluable to anyone who is gifted with normally flat feet, such as myself,and to ignore suggestions that somehow having flat feet, regardless of whatever nature there be for them, they must be somehow corrected if for no other rationale, aesthetics. I am very well aware of the social issues with anything about the body that appears outside the accepted norms to be looked upon as a freak of nature…take dwarfism,for example. So in brief summary, those who have social problems with either having flat feet which are normal for that individual or observing others so gifted and finding that to be disturbing, perhaps an extensive attitude adjustment is in order. It may appear some sort of body dysmorphic disorder could be at play here. You figure it all out for yourself. I heartily welcome any and all comments concerning this ostensibly popular topic.

      1. I must make a correction to my comment. It’s STEINDLER: Kinesiology….not Steindman. My absolute most sincere apologies to all those good people who tried to find this title anywhere. At my age of 54 years, it’s a wonder I even know who the heck I am anymore! Mark Burgan

  12. Thanks so much for this important info!

    But as the Mom of a one-year old who has been sick with colds or flu for over six weeks, I am having a really hard time letting him be barefoot on the cold floors (not to mention outside!) Everytime I feel his freezing little feet, I have to put something on them. Socks and slippers can be doing harm, can they? What about soft baby shoes?

    1. Wendy, socks are fine, but what makes you think there is any relationship between colds/flu and bare feet on a cold floor? There’s none.

    2. I’ll second Mark on this.

      Being cold, or in cold climate does not mean you’ll catch a cold.

      Stupid name for a number of viruses that range from influenza to any other bother.

      1. I am a mom and I KNOW – my kid get sick from running barefoot on cold floors. So I make her ware socks, but she still has flat foot (one more then another).

  13. Hey, the feet in those pictures look like those of my ancestors’ from 100,000 years ago! That was when they negotiated unpredictable terrains better than folks now can on a straight sidewalk. 🙁

  14. Great post. I’m coming to understand that physical stress patterns in infancy/youth have a strong influence on skeletal development.

  15. Mark,

    What about wearing flat sandals like Rainbows? I know its not barefoot so how does it compare? Thanks

    1. On the barefoot-to-completely-constrained continuum, sandals are better than hiking boots, but they still have way too much cushion and support for my taste. In a few weeks, I’ll be introing another minimalist shoe by FeelMax.

      1. Hurry please – my boss just told me my 5 fingers do not look “professional enough” for the office. I found the “normal” shoes I was wearing before, and while they are much lighter than typical shoes (Reebok racing flats, probably like Nike frees), they really hurt my feet now that I know what shoes should feel like.

        1. Just google “Feelmax Luosma”!
          They are perfect for your needs and really feel like walking barefoot!

          Regards,
          Rob

      2. Mark,

        I’ve just started exploring your blog. I haven’t seen much reference to Dansko clogs. I have wide feet with high arches and find it painful to go barefoot anywhere other than the beach or backyard. Tile and hardwood floors are the worst. So it’s Teva flip flops in the summer, Dansko clogs fall/winter/spring, and Crocs for my year round indoor shoe. I’ve noticed a considerable decrease in foot, knee, hip, and low back pain since I began wearing these types of shoes. I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or recommendations. Thanks ~ Jill

  16. My feet are definitely not flat. as a former athlete that would be pretty bad if i did.. I’m going to show this to my readers and ask them too. Thanks for the insight Mark.

  17. Mark, have you ever heard of healthy toes? http://www.healthytoes.com/ I have used them daily for a while now and I think (maybe just in my head) that it’s helping get my feet back to where my toes are spreading out and not crushed. Any experience with those?

  18. Also, I forgot to add, have you used the five finger shoes before? Would you recommend those at all?

    1. Most of the banner pictures on the site show Mark in VFFs, he’s a big fan (as many of us are, myself included 🙂

  19. Thank goodness I managed to keep my high arches, despite wearing shoes for most of my life. Right now, I’m 90% barefoot and doing my best to insist that my 13-month old daughter never wears shoes. Grandmothers are the toughest nut to crack on this front.

  20. I’m halfway through the article but…

    I grew up wearing flip-flops (so, not arch support whatsoever) for the overwhelming majority of my time outside. The only exception would be sports (soccer, baseball, and basketball later on). Otherwise I’d be outside running around on flip-flops.

    My feet are terribly flat.

    So, I’m inclined to disagree with the assertion that being barefoot while young will prevent flat feet.

      1. I understand its not the same as barefoot. But it provides 0 support that a typical shoe does. Nor does it force toes inward as the examples in the post.

        A typical flip-flop used in my youth:
        http://www.localslippers.com/catalog/catalog-pics/slippers-locals-black.JPG (work/family safe)

        Well, in retrospect I do recall having SEVERE foot/heel pain while wearing various sporting shoes (mainly the baseball/soccer cleats) as a youngster.

        I dunno, I’m at a loss then. If wearing sport-only footwear can cause damage to ones foot structure, what’s a youngster to do?

        1. Don’t flip flops require that you sort of “clench” your feet around the toes to keep the shoe in place as you step? I think its a pretty different movement to, say, closed sandals with no arch support or bare feet, for example.

    1. Srsly. Have ya seen how flip-flop wearers walk. That’s not walking it is shuffling along. Ya can hear ’em from a mile away. Ya think that’s natural? Nuh uh.

  21. Great post, Mark. Thanks. I can’t agree with you enough that it’s important to go slowly. After years in shoes that were actually too small (my feet looked like the shod person from 1905 above), I first moved to standard shoes that were simply the right size (FWIW I went from 11.5 to 13). Made a huge difference – DUH! – but took a long time for me to accept that I really needed bigger shoes since the smaller ones seemed to “fit.” After a couple of years in proper fitting shoes I was able to move to a more minimal shoe (Earth Lazer-K) for about 6 months, and then the Nike Free 3.0. I spent 2 years in the Nikes before finally getting into my Five Fingers. It was a long process but worth it. By going very slowly I was able to do it painlessly. Now just don’t expect me to post pictures of my feet!

    1. Ahhhh!

      C’mon Geof. Your feet would be perfect for scientific study…

      Yes, I’m picking on you.

      1. Sorry. Nico, didn’t know you had a thing for feet (yes, I’m picking on you). Sadly I don’t have any “before” pictures.

        1. Only in a scientific study…

          (Gee, I set myself up for that one didn’t I?)

  22. i am one of those blessed with wide, flat feet(south american ancestry)
    i remember the one time my dr. tried to arch support me when i was younger, pure torture!!!!

    the best shoes for running and hiking, because i cannot afford to get my toes on a pair of vibrams are worn out classic vans. they dont offer not much in the way of support of thickeness of sole and i find it better to run trails and scramble rocks with them because i can really feel what i am on and grab stuff with my toes…

  23. Hi Mark,

    First of all, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. It has been so informative and inspriatinal to me. Last year, I moved to Stockholm, and the new apartment that I am now living in has hard wood floors that are overlayed on concrete. At least that’s what it feels like. After trying to go bare foot since March, I’ve switched to wearing my Chaco flip flops. It seems like the right thing to do. What are your thoughts?

    1. Bridget, whatever works for you. If your feet are strong already and the hardwood makes you uncomfortable, who am I to tell you not to wear the Chacos. OTOH, my floors are all stone and I love going barefoot all the time on them. Socks only?

  24. I have wide feet. I blow out the sides of shoes. I had mashed up toes like snapshot “A”.

    All my toes spread naturally now like the snapshot “B” except my pinky. He might be a lost cause.

    About 5 months of Five Fingers & Injinji socks were the cure. If I have to wear “normal” shoes now, I at least wear a pair of Injinjis to keep my toes from meshing together so much.

  25. I’ve love my VFFs (got them 4 months ago), and I have developed little arches over the past 3 years from yoga and walking in my VFFs (used to be totally flat), but I live in a mountain town that gets a fair bit of snow. Anyone have any good ideas on what to do when there’s 2 feet of snow on the ground?

    1. Matt,

      Keep walking barefoot! Seriously, learn to walk such that you curl your toes under when you lift your foot off the ground and stretch them back out before you put it back down. This will keep your toes moving and stave off numbness. With practice, you can walk up to a half a mile this way with no danger of frostbite.

  26. very interesting. my sister and i are the perfect examples of different lifestyles and how they affect feet. i’ve always walked around barefoot everywhere and my sport was dancing, especially barefoot african dance or martial arts. walking around outside on any surface is quite easy for me. she played a lot of running sports in highly supportive athletic shoes..basketball, soccer, etc. my feet are very wide with a high, strong arch and picking things up with my toes is easy and i’ve often toyed with the idea of doing some paintings with my feet :):):). she is the opposite, with flat narrow feet that hurt her all the time. her toes are practically on top of each other and she NEVER walks barefoot. even getting out the shower, she has supportive athletic flip flops with arch support, not the cheapy $3.75 strips of rubber from old navy.

    1. Isn’t that amazing! I’ve had feet that roll in and low arches since I was a child (I can’t really remember when it started, as it was pointed out to me later in Primary School) and I can’t imagine being able to do a painting with my feet or dancing barefoot. The muscles really are so weak! My entire life I’ve been recommended shoes that mold around my foot, supporting it. I can really feel my muscles are weak and squishy, and that supporting them is basically compensating for the fact that they are so weak that they’re practically physically sensitive and shaky! Maybe I need to try starting to gently exercise them more, because its not until reading this article that I’ve noticed just how unsteady and uncoordinated they are… I can actually FEEL the weakness in the muscles of my feet!

  27. Mark,

    I have high arches and bunions. I have been told that the bunions were caused by over pronating and that I needed orthotics to correct the dysfunction and associated knee pain. Going barefoot is suppose to be really bad for the bunions. Any suggestions on how to handle these foot problems even though I am 61 years old?

    1. This is anecdotal, but I’ve read stories on the barefoot boards about people’s bunions shrinking/going away after dedicated barefoot walking/running!

  28. I have high arches (they do not touch the ground when I walk) and have been given inserts and/or shoes with arch support. Any opinion on what kind of shoe I should where, be it minimalist or the five fingers?

  29. My toes look like the photos (not the good ones either). I was such a good doobie all my life that I took the expert advice on super supportive running shoes. Now am I to blame them for my bunion?

    THanks Mark. I guess going primal in as many was possible is the best course of action.

    1. All I can say is “what a bunch of BS.” I can’t say anthing more because there would be no point in arguing with anyone who actually thinks running barefoot is actually 100% better than using shows.

      1. I came across this site because i am trying to find methods to improve my aching feet. I have a par of toe shoes that i use during aerobic class. I used them because they arent so heavy and clunky, and after an hour of jumping around i dont feel like I’m tripping over my own feet. (this probably wouldnt be a problem for someone in better shape than me, but you have to start some where.) Im posting, because i couldn’t help it. Your comment sounds so closed minded and i just wanted to say that it didnt sound very smart. When you say things like “a bunch of BS”, and “any who actually thinks”, you are discrediting everyone on this blog that goes barefoot”, and that would be fine, if you could give your account, or experience on why wearing shoes is better for you. When you say “there would be no point in arguing”, then you sound like you dont have any reason, theories or thoughts, on why your way would be correct. I’m telling you this, so in the future when you post thing, you dont sound stupid (unless you dont care how you sound, and in that case i will try to hold my comments, and ignore any information you have to give) that being said, I dont know what would be better (hence the reason for my research), but i do have to say that that every thing on here makes alot of since. I love shoes, but i take them off any chance i get. This is why it makes since to me. Most people will agree that if you dont use your muscles, than they get weaker, for example, if you set in a wheel chair for a year, and never used your muscles, than those muscles would become weak, and you wouldnt be able to just get up and start walking immediatly, it would be a gradual process. I would think that the muscles in your feet would be the same way. You dont completly stop using your foot muscles by wearing shoes, but their ridged structure would make it hard to use your foot muscles to their full potential, and orthotics would seem like it would make it worse, because any amount of muscle use would be restricted even more, causing even more muscle loss. I do understand how you would want more cusion on your feet. It does hurt if you run barfoot on a hard surface, my two factors would be my weight and not running correctlly. Your body is made to adapt and evolve to your environment, my feet has adapted to wearing shoes for the majority of my life, so it would seem reasonable to me that one or two times of barefoot running is not going to feel good on my feet. Like any time you start working muscles, you ease into. Another thing that seems to persuade me to believe that shoes are not good for your feet is when i think about dentist (I know, completly different end of the body, and by know means do i think one thing has to do with the other) anyway, if dentist (orthodontist), can manipulate your teeth by putting slight pressure on your teeth (braces) over a period of years, than wouldnt it go to reason that putting your foot in a shoe will eventually cause it to change shape, which will cause you to support yourself differently, because your foot structure has changed.

        1. I agree…if you exert regular pressure on something over time physics dictate that there will be a structural impact

        1. Well spoken Diane! I agree with your comment!
          Mark and everyone who posted their advice and experience, a bit thank you! I noted down all the shoe store suggestions, I started stretching my toes and doing the strengthening exercises. I was a bit scared at first because I have not used my feet this way in a while and they felt very week at first but they are improving!
          I have tendonitis on my ankles that is due to a combination of injuries during my active days with the lack of sports thereafter (since i started working and didnt exercise for a few years) and also walking for 50hours in bad shoes at work!
          Not doing sports which require foot activities weakened my feet a lot and I felt it in my calves, they were very tense! I have always had one semi-flat and flat foot. however, my feet used to have wide toes and i used to fit into men’s shoes only. I did sports only barefoot (judo, swimming…) and never had problems, my feet were strong.
          When I first had tendonitis, I couldnt walk for a very long because of the pain. My physiotherapist and my dr advised me to walk as little as possible, wear insoles and rest for a few weeks for my feet to improve their condition. Instead, i started doing sports: skiing, rollerblading (they got my condition worse) and yoga (which improved my condition). I was amazed to find out how yoga improved my feet though it was the activity that uses feet the most.
          Unfortunately, I work in a factory and I have to wear steel toe shoes. So going 100% bear foot is not possible. But I may try to find a better pair of shoes that is both safe and that are good for my feet! As well, I workout at home bear foot. Today, I can walk for hours (up to 8hours) without pain! My next step is to strengthen my feet furthermore.

  30. Mark,
    What do you think about Nike Free type shoes…supposed to simulate barefeet while strengthening your feet…

    1. They aren’t good because the goal of a barefoot shoe is to have 0mm drop (aka there isn’t any drop in the height between the heel and the toe) and nike frees have a large heel drop (6-7 mm). They are better than normal shoes, though (12-15 mm) which often mess feet up. The best shoe possible is a vibram, hurache sandal (legit ones, not the ones your grandma wears) and vivos. There are other brands too, but those are the closest to the ground that I can think of off the top of my head! 🙂
      If you have really bad feet, you could use the frees as a transfer point between conventionals and barefootshoes/skinfeet.

  31. My arches are decent (probably since I wear “bad shoes” like converse and flip flops 90% of the time) but my toes are really close together and apparently have been since I was born- my mother can confirm this. I always joke that I was somehow genetically designed for those awful pointy women’s shoes. But seriously, do you think the exercises would work to spread out my naturally squished toes? I’m concerned that I won’t even be able to put vibrams on if I were to buy a pair because my 2nd toe rests on top of the big one.

  32. Suddenly ballet slippers and roman sandal like contraptions are en vogue… which means that a lot of people might be able to get away with wearing minimal shoes to work.

    http://www.zappos.com/burberry-nylon-ballerinas-black

    Not that I’m planning on spending $300 dollars on this flimsy little thing, but… nobody would blink if I wore them to the office.

    Actually, tell a lie! A whole lot of people would like be in shock and speechless if I wore them to work (I’m not famous for my sense of fashion), but there are about 100 other people at the company I work for who could wear them without anyone batting an eyelash.

  33. I’ve had high arches for a long time… first noticed when i did ballet years ago… then again when i was figure skating (had trouble finding skates that gave enough arch support), again when i was downhill skiing – the arches in the boots never hit at the right spot. and definitely with most running shoes – the arch padding never comes up high enough. curiously, i get really bad shin splints when i run in running shoes. i got a pair of VFF this summer and did some running – no shin splints! yay!

  34. It’s funny…I ran around barefoot as a kid, all the time. There were even a couple of times in high school as a goofy teenager trying to be “unusual” enough to be noticed, I went barefoot. I walk barefoot around my house pretty much as a matter of course. When I’m not in the house, my shoes of choice are flip-flops (actually, right now I mostly wear a pair of “Fit-Flops”…love to know what Mark thinks of those!). I tend to like shoes best that don’t restrict my feet. I do own and wear heels, pointy-toed boots, etc, but not very often (I’m not much of a fashion plate in many ways). I’ve always associated barefootedness with a sense of lightness and agility and freedom. I almost feel sorry for my husband with his tender feet. I’m glad to know that going barefoot may be one of the few truly instinctive things I’ve done for myself. I’m proud of my calloused feet!

  35. Me too. I use to run around the garden barefoot as a kid and now, as an adult, I am always barefoot at home (or just socks in winter). My feet are hard as leather. Despite having a number of number of biomechanical issues with my legs and ankles which would predispose me towards flat feet, I don’t have them.

  36. Hi Mark,
    I’m 29 years old and started hiking about a year or so ago. From the getgo, I noticed that after the hike, I would be in much pain for several days, while others talked about going on another hike the very next day. At first, I put this off as just being new to hiking. However, it didn’t go away and I noticed after a certain distance, I was getting a callous and sensitive area under my big toe. Then there was a hike where we did a lot of walking in small, loose gravel. I noticed that my walk made a lot more noise than others. Discovered that before toe off, my foot pronated, so it was step, twist, step twist; instead of step, step. I finally went to the podiatrist and was told I had functional hallux limitus. I bought his $400 orthotics which of course were no help. I did find relief with MBT shoes, but they don’t help on hikes because you can’t use those shoes for that. What, if anything, can be done about functional hallux limitus? (other than surgery) Thanks,
    Mike

  37. I work in a hospital, on my feet, up and down stairs all day. I used to come home with aching feet and sore knees. Earlier this year, I bought some Vivo Barefoots, and now my feet and knees (and calves and shins) feel strong, even at the end of my shift! I will never go back to conventional shoes.

  38. I used to spend a lot of time barefoot, so my feet are a lot less civilized than other women my age. However, I have very large feet, and two foot related issues. When I was a child I broke my left leg, and I wasn’t well rehabilitated in walking. So on one foot I walk “heel toe” and the other I use “toe heel” When I concentrate on it, I can make both feet do the same thing, but when I don’t think about it, they do what they do. Needless to say, I am not a good runner even though I am a good hiker and long distance walker. In college, I broke all the bones in the top of my right foot by dropping 50# of slab clay on it accidentally. Just recently I started a retail job where I stand on my feet all day. I really thought I was going to die, my feet hurt so much. I am only allowed to wear certain types of shoes as part of the dress code. Someone suggested orthotic insoles, and I tried them, and they do make it possible to get through the day. When I am not at work, I wear some flexible, croc-like shoes that don’t constrain my foot in any way. I wish I had a better option for work, I still agree that barefoot is best, but right now I have to do what I have to do to work without pain. The shoes I am allowed to wear at work include most “nursing shoes” including Dansko and NurseMaid.

  39. Thanks for the great answer Mark, definitely been doing a lot of barefoot work. It’s weird, but my squat and dead-lift have actually gone up in coordination with the increase of going barefoot.

  40. It’s obvious there are a lot of people out there who have problems with their feet! I feel for everyone, as I have been living with extreme plantar fasciitis in my left heel for quite some time now. I’m truly at a loss how to deal with it. I walk 1/2 a mile from my bus stop on pavement to work and back every day, and it’s an excruciating experience. Last year, I bought large orthopedic shoes that allow lots of room for my toes, and removed the inserts from them, and added a gel pad to the heel on the sore foot. At home, I’m either barefoot or in Crocs. I cringe at the thought of losing the padding under my feet. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last 6 weeks since going Primal, and I know another 50 will work wonders. Anyone have other words of advice for me?

  41. Whenever I do the point exercise my feet really cramp (along the bottoms). Any guesses at the reason why and what the solution is? You think it would get better with consistent work, but it doesn’t seem to.

  42. I have high arches and am currently struggling with a case of plantar fascitis.

    Will wearing VFF, going barefoot as much as possible, and doing the strengthening exercises mentioned be of benefit to me?

    Thanks!

  43. Hi Mark,

    I’m a believer, and go barefoot as much as possible – at home, in the neighborhood, etc. When it gets colder, I wear warm socks around the house.

    Even as a child I went barefoot as much as possible, and would at the beginning of every summer do a lot of walking over various terrain to “toughen up” my feet for an entire season of going almost fully barefoot.

    Still, I have a job, and have to wear shoes in the office. My feet are in okay shape, but I often feel the need to stretch my toes out after being in shoes.

    My question is, could you please provide a comprehensive review of minimalist shoes? I see your reference in this post to FeelMax Pankas, and have previously seen you refer to others such as the Nike Free and VFFs (of course!)…I keep looking but don’t see anything that would be appropriate for my office. So, a great round-up of every model you’ve ever found would be really helpful!

    p.s. I really like the look SoftStar Shoes, too, for around the house, but haven’t tried them yet.

  44. It’s incredible how little time it takes to make a difference. I have been going barefoot or rocking the five fingers since mid June and already I have seen a difference. My feet are making the transition from A to B. My arch has come back, my toes are more spread and I have a generally more stable base. Great article.

  45. Great post! Shoes are generally detrimental to our feet. Periodically, I write about this subject. Recently, I wrote The 3 Main Ways Shoes Harm Our Feet.

  46. can anyone tell me a website on buying fivefingers at a cheaper price? Thanks

  47. Currently I haven’t got VFF (not in my size in the shops, and I do want to try them on before I buy). But I have the Feelmax Pankas and I love them. Hope to get some VFF someday.

  48. I wear my Vibram Five Fingers when I do my primal walks, sprints, kettlebell training and deadlifts. I wear them to grocery shop etc. I go barefoot as well all day at home.

    1. I wear my VFF’s almost everywhere except for work. Grocery shopping (foraging), hiking, errands, sprinting, long walks… You name it!

      LOVE ‘EM!

  49. I always had good arches until I broke 4 of my 5 metatarsals in my left foot. After it healed, I started losing my arch and I noticed my ankle was rolling in. I got some inserts from Barefoot Science http://www.barefootscience.com/us/index.php (WFS). You can put them in any pair of shoes, preferably a pair that are flexible and lose fitting. Unlike orthotics that immobilize your arch, they force you to flex your foot to strengthen your arch. They come with 5 different levels so your foot can strengthen gradually. Worked great for me.

  50. Dang, people sure turn out to talk about feet!

    My problem began about eight weeks after starting to sprint barefoot. Running without shoes immediately cured my anterior shin pain but eventually caused a bad case of plantar fasciatis (and I’m not the only one around here with that nuisance injury). I think what happens is that I can run on the front of my foot at slow to medium speeds, but once I open up and run full-tilt I start landing hard on the heel. Ouch.

    When I recover from the PF, which is going on three months now, I will try again but this time with a more careful approach to the higher speed.

    1. Mikehell, you most likely did too much too soon. That’s a common problem in transitioning. Always better to go easy at first…a few short sprints the first time out, adding a little distance the next workout, but not overdoing. It’s one reason why some elite running shoe stores no longer carry VFFs: runners got injured doing 6 and 7 mile runs their first workouts!

      When you sprint correctly barfeoot, your heel almost never touches the ground – certainly not “hard”. Good luck when you start up again.

  51. I’m really confused. You recommend this running on the toes things, but wouldn’t this be like running in heels? How is this beneficial?

    1. j, high heeled shoes are NOTHING like going barefoot. Heeled shoes support your heels and prevent them from absorbing the landing shock.

  52. I have a leg lenngth discrepancy of about 1.5cms. this is an actual difference in the lenght of my leg bones, and has been measured with x rays.
    this causes a functional scoliosis which leads to all sorts of pain unless i wear one shoe that is thicker than the other.
    i have had some minimalist sandals made with one sole 1cm thicker, and i also wear convers or dulop volleys with a 1cm insert. this works fine for me, although i would much prefer to be barefoot!
    any suggestions or similar cases?

  53. I LOVE my Vibrams…I suffered from shin splints and with VFF – I don’t.

    2 problems:

    1 – I live in Michigan and VFF’s let snow in. And I can’t wear my wool socks with them.

    2 – I was told that my VFF’s don’t comply with DOL regulations for closed toed shoes (I teach mentally impaired adults job skills on a factory work floor)

    So far, I haven’t been caught by a supervisor and so far I’ve dealt with the cold, but the temperature hasn’t dropped below 40 (yet)

  54. I’ve been a barefoot baby my entire life, and still don’t have very pronounced arches. I have a slight arch. My parents kept us barefoot except in the winter. (kinda hard to go barefoot in the snow!)

    I have been very diligent about my small sons going barefoot 90% of the time. Even in malls, on sidewalk, etc.

    Mark, what do you suggest for those of us who are living primal in the land of ice and snow?

    1. lil, good for you having your kids go barefoot. BTW,I moved from Maine because I couldn’t take the cold! I guess the answer is wear socks like Injinjis (toed socks)under your VFFs when walking outside in the cold. Otherwise, it might be fun to find some true leather mocs with little or no support (like the indigenous Americans wore)and a wider toe box.

      1. Even though this post is a bit dated, for those new to this site that would like to know where they can find some all-leather, Native-American type moccasins is to obtain the Southwest Indian Foundation catalog. They have them for men, women, and even children. I’ve been in them whenever going out in public since ’04, replacing them every couple years as they DO wear out rather rapidly for their not-cheap price. I love them with a passion and will always have a pair to wear for either as long as I’m alive or they (FORBID) be discontinued. Online, SWIF is at http://www.southwestindian.com and they can help you.

  55. I’m knitting “flip flop socks” – they are knit down to the toes and then I just stop and put a loop between the big toe and the rest. It will keep the rest of my feet warm, but not my toes.

    I have enough of a problem getting my “pinkie toe” to get into the right slot in my VFF’s without trying to do it with toe socks 😉

  56. For those of us who must wear dress shoes to work (and partly want to), does anyone have any idea about the Wysong Ergonomic insoles, which a poster mentioned before?

    Also, am I correct in assuming that if you have to wear dress shoes and have flat feet then you’re better off not wearing insoles of any kind with the dress shoes? Or would insoles like the Wysong be a decent choice?

  57. I have never had flat feet, but I have noticed that since making the transition to going barefoot as often as possible this year (including walks and runs at the park), my arches are getting much stronger and taller. I’ve also gained about .5 inches of width, and hoping for another .5 inch by next year to get those last two toes spread out a little more.

  58. Anyone have a good suggestion for work shoes? I work in an office and it is business/business casual.

    Also I have a short first toe, commonly known as Morton’s toe, which is quite common. For my toes not to be crunched in my VFFs the back by the heel is loose.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks….

  59. What about high arches? This causes me many problems with running. Any suggestions?

  60. I’ve always had flat feet, and they have hurt since I was twelve. I’m now 45. For the past 6 months, I have been stretching my toes out fairly regularly with Healthy Toes (like Yoga Toes). Man, what a difference.

  61. orthopedists, podiatrists, shoe salesman—-look at a piece of a person. What if your hips are wide & you are almost knock-kneed? What if your joints are very mobile & you’re prone to ankle sprains and/or popped kneecaps as well as having very flexible feet, which can arch beautifully but collapse with every barefoot step.
    Wouldn’t barefooting run the risk of practicing harmful patterns? and wouldn’t orthotics transfer the wobble to the vulnerable knee joint?
    This is complicated !

    1. Mahala, everyone was designed “perfectly to operate barefoot. Many of us have just trained our bodies into awkward positions through shoes and chairs. I say we can untrain those awkward forms and relearn properly by going barefoot…but no one HAS to run to do it.

    2. thanks for mentioning highly-mobile joints, Mahala. my shoe/orthotic salesman said this was one of my problems–my ankles are very flexible (i actually walk wobbly these days). add to that my flat feet, and i’ve got overpronation + incipient bunion action which have all fluoresced into a crazy realm of discomfort (o.k., pain). the shoe people maintain that structure is necesary to prevent the ankle from wobbling around, plus inserts to raise/create arches. still working out the kinks on getting the right level of support, though (so far have been overcorrected, causing pain on the outside meridian of the foot).

      did i do major damage by wearing flip-flops throughout my 2nd pregnancy…weight-bearing which pressurised my already flattish/pronating arch (right foot)? ’cause this constellation of foot pain all began afterward. do i need to rue the fact that i lived in crocs for long-distance walking, and lived barefoot indoors? my orthotics vendor insists against ever walking barefoot again. fallen arches…what a dastardly diagnosis!

      your advice welcomed. btw, are you tied in financially to the barefoot-shoe companies? i haven’t dug into your site eyond this section yet.

  62. Great post, Mark! Any additional exercises for someone with Morton’s toe? (For those unfamiliar, ck this: http://bit.ly/16fcVN. Both of my feet are as pronounced (or worse) than the top right photo. The swelling of my 2nd metatarsal has caused me numerous problems over the years.

    I would appreciate any thoughts.

    1. Paul, just do what you can. Most people who go barefoot a lot notice toes spreading and evening out somewhat over time. Don’t push the envelope, take it slow and see if you notice an improvement.

      FeelMax Pankas are a good minimalist shoe for you.

  63. The best no-shoe exercising I have found is Bellydancing. The dance is traditionally performed barefoot. Many of the movements are performed on the balls of the feet and the ones that are not require a good amount of dynamic foot strength and stability. The movements are no-low impact so all fitness levels and body shapes can do it. My feet and ankles went from being soft and painful to strong and graceful with about six months/twice a week of belly dance classes. It is amazing how much control I gained over my entire body after learning to use my feet (in the barefoot state). That was years ago, now I teach bellydance and I see students go through the “foot transformations” regularly. I am partial to belly dance, but many classical, folkloric and traditional dances (from around the world) are performed barefoot and would likely have similar benefits.

  64. I have detested shoes since the day I was born… or the day I had my first pair of shoes put on me, whenever that was. I ran around barefoot a lot as a child, broken glass be damned. School of course meant shoes, but I apparently managed to kick them off enough that by the time a chiropractor’s assistant got a hold of my feet in high school, she was amazed by how strong they were. 🙂 I’m in my early 30s now, and occasionally have lamented my “duck feet” (which look a lot like that photo of the never-worn-shoes guy, except my toes aren’t quite that far apart), since I absolutely can’t fit my feet in fancy, pretty shoes. Oh, well. I’m old enough now that I just don’t care. I’ll buy some dressy Birkenstocks. LOL About a year ago I did start having trouble with plantar fascitis, and all the websites said it’s caused by going barefoot too much. What?!? It came and went for months. I never gave in and wore shoes more often. It seems to have gone away now that I’m getting more magnesium in my diet (I have lingering absorption issues from gluten-intolerance, so I still need extra magnesium.)
    I’m really hoping to get some Vibram’s soon. It would be awesome to be virtually shoeless all the time!

  65. I started going barefoot anytime I was in or near my house when I started going primal. But then one day, just walking through the kitchen my swinging leg and pendulum like foot caught my middle toe on the leg of a kithen chair and broke the bejeezus out of it. I couldn’t walk without a limp for 4 weeks. I couldn’t do sprints for 8 weeks.

    So I agree with what you’re saying, but maybe “toe-proof” your house before you embark on barefootedness. You know, the same way people baby-proof a house before bringing home a baby. It’s not a danger I really considered at all. It’s a CHAIR for crying out loud. A broken toe is excruciatingly painful. I broke my wrist before and this was worse.

  66. Fixed, I feel your pain. I’ve had those moments – that turned into months of repair and regret. Obviously, the lesson here (learned all too often) is not one of barefooting, but of Law # 9 and the need for “hyper-vigilance” and “risk management” 🙂

  67. Dear Fixed Gear,
    I’ve fallen on the ice while carrying a gymnastic ball, tripped on a bulging city sidewalk while carrying a laptop & a shoulder bag, fallen in a construction area, and face planted in the middle of an unlighted midblock city street jayrunning to catch to late night bus, and banged my bare toes to the point of yelling at least twice a decade..every time giving thanks despite the bruises because i didn’t break anything.
    Please let me know your MD checked the xrays for bone thinning, especially if you are small-boned, thin, and/or female. My father suffered from osteoporosis despite an extremely active lifestyle.
    Anyone can have it , and a painless bone scan will diagnose.

  68. I have always had the opposite problem of this article. Ever since I was born I had extremely high arches resulting for a shorted heel cord, a genetic issue. When I was 13 I had surgery to lengthen the heel cords so that my heels could touch the ground when walking.

    However, the surgery was less successful that intended and I still run very much on my toes and primarily stay on the balls of my feet when walking or standing.

    Now I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t a bad thing at all that I have this issue.

  69. I wore birkenstocks for years and had happy feet. Last year I was convinced by the barefoot argument and starting going barefoot/non-supportive. Big toe started hurting. Thought it would go away, 6 mos. later, went to podiatrist, I’ve got hallux limitus, convincingly directly brought on by the barefoot. When I asked doc about it, she said what I had been thinking – barefoot is great on soft ground, terrible on concrete. She sees runners with injuries caused by barefoot running all the time. I am back in birks and rocker soles, but now feeling like a dope, after doing irreversible damage to my feet by going barefoot. (cartilage disappears in joint, followed by bone growing as a way to help, unfortunately makes things worse.) I would have been fine maybe if I wasn’t so active – but doing lots of plyos, etc., it was a killer combo. Be wary.

    1. Yeah man you did it wrong imho.

      I go barefoot sprinting all the time IN THE GRASS or IN THE WOODS!
      On concrete i either wear Fivefingers, Feelmax or walk ON MY TOES which should come naturally after some practice!

      If you are walking and training barefoot on concrete you better do that very caucious or not at all, but you already know that now.
      When i do plyos and heavy impact stuff i always train on soft martial arts mats.

      Just my thoughts on the subject!;-)

      Regards,
      Rob

  70. Interesting coming across this article. I am a healthy 35 year old male, who had been a fit 20s something before getting derailed. I had severe knee pain, prescibed orthotics, etc, etc, and then found VFFs. I’ve been wearing them 7 days a week for the last 2 years, and running for the last 6 months. My longest run in them is 6 miles. I go to the park and kick the soccer ball around (league games i wear shoes). I run on a rough trail, and I’ve hiked up a mountain in them. (and I’ve felt the burn in my calves the whole way).

    I recently had a sprain from soccer that wasn’t healing (fast enough) and went to a physio. She immediately noticed that I have flat-ish feet. She then did a strength test and my calf strength (plantar flexion) is off the charts, but my dorsalflexion is weak to say the least. They’ve never seen such a disparity, and say that I do not fit anywhere within the realm of the statistics and ratios. They are now treating my flat feet and this out of balance ratio as something to solve, but since I am so far out of text book scenarios, they’re a bit stumped. Also, the x-ray shows that the angles of edge of my tibia and the top bone in my foot are way outside of normal ranges.

    If my ankle sprain was just from over use and playing too much soccer too quickly, (hadn’t played for well over a decade) then my feet feel great! But if the sprain came from being out of balance or flat footed, then I need help.

    Any thoughts? I hate shoes, and do not want to go back, but would if truly needed.

    (Great site by the way! I came across you for this specific issue, but will keep coming back for everything)

    1. [not a doctor here]
      Tim, I’m not sure how wearing shoes of any kind could cure a dorsiflexion “imbalance”. I’m not even sure how the physios arrived at “normal” balance ratio, since dorsiflexion is a very minor movement (unless you hang from a trapeze by your feet). If your plantar flexion is high, that is a good thing. I highly doubt your wearing VFFs did anything but help strengthen your feet. I could speculate that your rolled your ankle in soccer cleats because you were higher off the ground than if you’d been barefoot and maybe you did try moving laterally too much too soon. Sometimes sh*t just happens.

  71. What an interesting article. I hate my feet. I really do. They hinder me from doing all the fun things that I want to do. I don’t know what or when the problems arose really. There was a period of time (2-3 months) when my feet hurt really bad though. I don’t know why that was, either.

    Anyways, I’m 20 years old. I’ve tried using expensive orthopedic inlays two times; first time was about five years ago, and the second time is happening right now. First time – no improvement. Second time – no improvement, even after five different occasions when corrections has been made to them.

    I will definately try this – in a religious manner. I’m more or less dependent on being able to exercise in various ways. I’ve never been able to run for any longer than 30-40 minutes, and that I can’t do more than twice a week, orelse there’ll be trouble with my ankles and knees. Anything that can make me whole again is worth so, so much.

    I will try with the exercises mentioned in the article, and anything else I can find useful – whether I found it on the web or came up with it myself. Are there any other advice except the exercises offered? And about the shoes – here, in Sweden, it’s hefty cold right now, and it’s not even winter, yet. I doubt I can wear VFFs or any similar shoes without my toes falling off from the cold. So, if anyone knows an alternative for colder environments, please advice. Thanks!

    1. I’ve had flat feet all my loong life, and gave up on orthopedists, I’ll try going flat foot without shoes, and do a follow up in a month. Two things I have used that provide relief from pain – DMSO, not FDA approved, works for horses and me. The other prescribed by my neurologist – VENLAFAXINE, works for me to reduce pain.

  72. I have a bone that grew down in my foot instead of forward where my arch should be. It actually protrudes out the opposite way. I’m 18 years old, and I have orthopedics and leg braces (new, refuse to wear). I work 30 hours a week in addition to school, at a shoe store of all places. My feet are KILLING me. And I wear the orthopedic things and maximum support tennis shoes all of the time. Do think I’ll be able to walk and exercise like a normal person if I start doing this program?

  73. I’ve had flat feet all my life. I was also born pigeon-toed, something I inherited from my father. I was born in New York city and for the first 14 years of my life, was forced to wear closed orthopedic shoes, which I believe in the long-run ended up crushing my toes together and causing me pain. I’m now in my forties and no longer feel pain. How did I do this? Well first of all, when I was 19 I moved to the Caribbean and began wearing sandals. No more closed shoes; no more winter boots scrunching my toes together. It was so liberating. However, I did ocassionally have to wear platform shoes to work and I also would use sneakers for jogging and aerobics. About 10 years ago I started feeling a horrendous pain in my feet–it was a sharp nerve pain. Went to the podiatrist and he diagnosed me with Metatarsalgia. Said that this was irreversible and that I would have to be periodically injected with corticosteroids for the rest of my life to control the pain. I thought this was the end of my life, to tell you the truth. I couldn’t walk for more than ten minutes without feeling excruciating pain. Anyway, I decided to ditch my doctor’s suggestions and started doing my own internet search. Finding information on the anatomy of the foot and realizing that I had to change my fashionable footwear to something more natural and foot-friendly. I realize that walking barefoot is the natural way, but I’ve, at least, discovered Birkenstocks. They saved me, and within six months I was back to my old self again. Thanks to Birkenstock sandals, my toes have the space to spread apart, and I actually believe my feet have widen a bit. Perhaps this is all conjecture, but I feel the difference. After reading all these posts I would like to start going barefoot, but I know that I’ll have to do so gradually; perhaps start off with the V-five fingers. Thanks for all your ideas and suggestions.

  74. Hi Simon,
    Um… have you read the article and comments??
    The whole point being made here is that supports DO NOT help in strengthening flat feet!
    Your body is designed to go barefoot. Exercising and just being barefoot will make your feet (and arches) stronger.
    Minimal footwear (Vibram, Feelmax, etc.) are a good compromise or transitioning tool.

  75. i just began reading this… but im glad i did ive always had flat foot and since im 6’5 235 trying to play bball flat feet wont cut it… actually i really didnt care much about my feet until my friend said “whats up with your toes” because honestly they curl and … but just from doing the exercises at the top of the page i felt a refreshing stretch… i think just from doing these exercises daily and staying bare foot as much as possible along with wearing the proper shoes (so happy i found some size 14 converses) ill be able to improve this… it might even help out with my lower back pains that i have sometimes… glad i caught this while im still 19 ill repost in a month to update =)

  76. I was diagnosed with fallen arches over ten years ago and had to wear arch supports in my shoes. My feet continuted to get worse (I could not walk barefoot because it was painful and I felt like I was walking on bare bones!!! A couple of months after I started the low carb diet last fall, I started to notice a difference in how my feet felt. Stronger maybe. Then I found the Primal Blueprint book at Amazon.com and thus MDA website. I read the article and began doing the exercises. Slowly but surely my feet have gotten better and better. It is wonderful to walk barefoot again. It used to be my natural state unless I was at work so it has become that way again. I am not doing my walks or sprints barefoot yet because it is still too soon, but the difference in my feet is absolutely amazing to me.

  77. My left foot pronates. I knew I would need to ease into barefoot very slowly.
    I gave up inserts about 2 years ago, so that was a start.

    But within the first 2 months of just trying to wear socks around the house, I now have a case of tarsal tunnel!

    oops. So I will work on stretching my calf muscles, using the various exercises mentioned to strengthen my feet and try it all again in a few weeks.

  78. I have flat feet. As someone pointed out to me, even if I had gone barefoot my entire life, I’d probably still have flat feet. When you frequently walk on flat surfaces such as wood floors as a developing kid, it allows your foot to completely flatten. Hence, flat feet.

    Now, say that in another dimension, I had normal arches. What kind of surfaces did I walk on as a kid?

  79. Don’t have flat feet but I was prescribed orthotics from my back injury. I was told they would help release some of the pressure and pain from my back which they never did. Meanwhile my feet began to hurt more and more. Finally i found the Vibram Five finger shoes and I can’t stop wearing them. My wife and I walk with our 4 month old all the time in them and it’s hard for me to ever go back to shoes except for on business trips.

  80. I love Yamunas foot fitness exercise balls. They are the best for relieving pain & strengthening the feet. They are a little painful at first but after a few times your feet are very happy! I have gone barefoot all my life & Im lucky enough not to have to wear shoes at work. Being a massage therapist I work barefoot! These balls are great self help tools.

  81. Anyone got a suggestion for me? – I discovered several months ago that one leg is structurally shorter than the other – had lift added to the outside of my shoe and solved virtually all my hip and lower back issues. A few months ago I went primal…had my ortho shoe guy look at VFF’s he can’t add my type of lift to them, evo’s won’t work either – any suggestions of any other barefoot type of shoes i could try that could have a 5mm full lift inserted into the outer sole (i.e. it gets sandwiched in the sole usually) thanks

    1. I was diagnosed with a Leg Length Discrepancy of 1.5mm and told I had to wear s shoe lift forever.
      I did for a couple of years, but my intermittent back pains still continued to haunt me.
      About a year ago, I ditched the shoe lifts, and went mostly barefoot/VFF.
      I am now a faster runner, can deadlift and squat a lot more weight and rarely experience any back pain, so go figure.
      Forget about trying to make a minimalist shoe into an orthotic device, that goes against the whole idea of minimalist footwear! Trust your body and your feet, they are masterpieces of design.

      1. thanks – youre so right about feet and design my PT has me do a exercise where i stand barefoot and balance on one foot with my eyes closed…amazing diff in the muscles that kick in and participate when i don’t have sight assist. left foot – the short leg a piece o cake – right foot – which pronates has to work like mad to keep balance.

  82. Highly unlikely that there is a bone length difference in your legs. Ussually apparent diff is tightness in one hip which can gradually ease with range of motion & stretching under the guidance of a physical therapist who does hands on manual therapy & a thorough eval.

    1. hi – actually discovered the short leg syndrome seeing my PT – who did the manual therapy, eval with xrays etc and ive been doing hip stretching routinely ever since.

  83. I have “flat” feet and about 3 yrs ago I invested in some arch supports from Good Feet. After about 6 months I started to develop tight IT bands. Yes It bands can’t technically be tight themselves as they are tendons but thats what i was suffering and where the pain occurred. At about a year, I realized what the problem was and stopped using them. I’m still dealing with the damage they did and am slowly correcting it after an eval by a phys therapist. I became full primal 3 months ago, totally loving it and wear my Vibram Five Fingers whenever I can. barefoot while at home and I just now came across this article. I’m taking it to heart and going to practice all that you mention. Thanks for the advice Mark and for bringing me into the Primal lifestyle. Great to have met you back in December at Diablo Crossfit!

  84. Mark I TOTALLY get you with the whole foot thing. I was the poor Asian kid who thought I could never have beautiful high arches until I discovered as a Movement and posture therapist that I COULD and after 3 years of footwork I now show off my longitudinal arches every chance I get:) In fact mine are like DR Hoffmans “before” and “after” feet I’ve used the Yamuna balls, the miracle balls, yoga for toes and anything to do with foot exercises and can honestly say to anyone with orthotics, get rid of your orthotics, free your feet and give them the sensation they deserve!! I’ve developed a core training programme called Body Sensing to improve posture any body awareness and guess what? We start with the feet first because the arches are a very important part of that deep core. Oh yeah forget your abs its the feet you wanna start with and the results are phenomenal!!

  85. Okay young lady, if this is true i will love to hear from you and see some pics or just have correspondance as i am in dire need of strong feet. I will do anything and will thank you for help in the best way possible. Please get back to me

    scuttersred@hotmail.com

  86. I have flat feet and bad knees I am 25 lbs overweight and have bulging discs at T7 and L4-5 and deterioration at S1. I am 34 freakin’ years old. I worked construction for many years and when I could safely do so I wore my Airwalk sandals. My Mom and her family are all barefooters and in my early 20’s I adopted an almost exclusive barefoot at home policy. I also learned recently that my foot problems and weak ankles are due to improperly sized shoes. It seems that until it was up to me I was wearing ill-fitting shoes that crushed my feet. I wear an 8.5 EE so that means my Vans are 10’s so my feet and toes aren’t squished together. I have tried the Nike Free and they were okay but I did not like the heel and they aren’t very durable. I really want some FF’s for cycling/walking and some Feelmax Pankas for the office. Has anyone else tried these?

  87. I was using OTC arch supports for years and they seemed beneficial but what I found is that they are a band-aid. Wear them all week and kick off shoes for the weekend and by sunday arches have fallen, toes are crooked and the knees fall inward. My chiropractor scanned my feet to fit me with custom orthotics but I don’t think I am interested anymore. Shoes are just awful. Now for the most important thing: I need motorcycle boots that will protect my feet offer the freedom of minimalist shoes. Any suggestions?

    1. I have gone through most of the comments and noticed one thing completely missing. I had flat feet and any new pair of shoes used to hurt my feet so much that I had to take them off after 15 or 20 minutes of use. This continued on for many days and in some cases weeks. The only thing that worked for me was none of the so called exercises for the arch, but a few yoga poses while watching television or listening to the music. It took about 5 to 6 months but the arches are fine and I have never had the problem again.

      I started to sit in Japanese meditation pose, also called the Hero Pose and I tell you that sitting for even a few seconds used to kill me. I used the back of the chair as a help and kept at it a few seconds at a time.

      After the sitting, I used to lie down for a few seconds or minutes as the throbbing made it stressful to stand up right after sitting. Then I followed this sitting with what is called TRYING to sit in a lotus pose for a few seconds. Here I literally mean trying to sit in as this only meant stretching my feet in side position and then try to stretch my feet in the opposite direction for few seconds.

      It took me about a month to sit in the Hero Pose for about 2 minutes and after that, it kept getting better and better. You can try it and it may help you but be warned that sitting in Hero Pose is extremely painful for a flat footed person in the beginning few weeks.

      1. By this, do you mean the Lotus position? And was your practice indeed strengthening and curative at the end of the day, if you will?

        Glad some folks are mentioning Yoga and other such asanas/overall body conditioning. It’s been my thought to give it a go. Once my baby starts walking; no doubt the constant carrying of this 20-lb-er on my left side is adding to my previously out-of-balance problems on the right.

        Thanks also to the practitioner who mentioned hip stretches; I have long had sciatica on the right side, which became *excruciating* immediately after my second childbirth–my right leg was completely numb while I was in hospital/pospartum recovery. Anyway, I feel a lot of my foot problems are rooted in my right hip, conversely speaking. Don’t have fiduciary access to a PT, but will investigate what I can do to lengthen the hip and unkink this mess. Cheers.

    2. You could try a sturdy leather moccassin in combination with gaiters or long pants. Doc Martens are relatively flat inside (read: no “arch support”) and the leather is relatively flexible if you lace them up loose. Or you could find some old army boots at a surplus shop!

  88. hi all i m 30 year old

    i also gone through all comments
    i have also same problem of ankle pain….but it just started recently….
    basically i am a basketball player….generally its started paining after my sport activity……so i took massage for the same but its not helping me
    so could you please give me a permanant solution for this problem
    what kind of excersise i should do?
    what all precaution i should take?
    what kind of shoes i should wear? could we get those shoes in india?
    please help me

  89. Koshish:
    Go see a good Physiotherapist and get thoroughly evaluated. We have no idea and no way of knowing the nature of your problem from the small amount of info you have posted!
    In any case, it MAY be helpful for you to strengthen your fee, and following Mark’s recommendations in this article may be of benefit to you.

  90. Thanks for your suggestion Lan
    yesterday onwards i have started doing some exercise related to ankle as Mr. dalepanesar’s suggestions “hero pose’and lotus pose of yoga excersie

    let see how it goes….

    previously i love my flat foot….its different from others but now i m not loving that much…..:(

    if any other suggestions or comments if anybody has then please do let me know

  91. i m having flat foot and i was loving my flat foot because it was different from others but now its started paining so these days i m not loving that much….
    becasue of pain some times i cant walk also…:(
    hope will find out some solution on pain

  92. Going barefoot isn’t always the best. When I run with no shoes on, my feet will hurt afterwards. The only thing that helps me is wearing orthotics because they do provide support for my feet.

  93. Kristi that is because your feet are weak. Your feet get sore because the muscles that don’t get used while wearing shoes get sore. I used to have the same problem when I worked on my feet all day in boots. For the last five years I have been barefoot or minimal shoes and my feet never hurt anymore. You may need to just get over that initial hump and take it slow

  94. im 16 and i have been doing ballet since i was 4. i seem to have partially flat feet, but my teacher will tell me i have strong feet. Does ballet have anything to do with me having flatter feet??

  95. i guess i don’t get it cause i am ALWAYS barefoot. as soon as i get to work i take off my shoes and walk around without them. when i am not standing, i have a nice arch and then when i stand my ankle’s role in. but if being barefoot helps so much, how come i am always told i have such flat feet?

  96. Mark,
    I completely agree with your opinions. I have completely flat feet, which are probably a hereditary. My father has completely flat feet, and my daughter was born with completely flat feet.
    When I was younger I wore steel sided shoes to “help form an arch”, and I always had some new orthotic. All these “solutions” only caused more foot pain. I felt infinitely better once I wore normal shoes that were EEEE width.
    I have been running injury free for 13 years, and have completed 2 marathons in the last 6 months. After reading “Born to Run” I was compelled to get back to basics.
    I have been wearing Vibram Five Fingers exclusively at work for the last 2 months. I started running in them 2 weeks ago. The transition period was a bit uncomfortable at first, but well worth it.
    I am running very well in them now; there is no way I could master the Pose technique of running in normal running shoes. Although I am still new to the minimalist concepts I am confident my running will only improve.
    Any time something feels a bit uncomfortable while walking or running I automatically adjust in ways that aren’t possible with shoes. There is no doubt in my mind running shoes enable us to run in very unnatural ways. This unnatural impact is probably what leads to the knee, hip and ankle injuries that debilitate so many runners.
    I encourage my three and a half year old daughter to run barefoot. Despite her flat feet she is very fast, and runs with excellent technique. Her cadence is high, and she takes short strides. She lands exclusively on her forefoot and her legs are always slightly bent. In summary, she is running in a comfortable and natural way.
    Like so many modern comforts it seems that orthotics and orthopedic shoes are the cause of problems, not solutions to them.
    I believe that podiatrists and shoe companies have a lot to learn!

  97. Here is some more medical research pointing toward going barefoot.

    http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm

    This is the beginning of the article:
    “Running barefoot is associated with a substantially lower prevalence of acute injuries of the ankle and chronic injuries of the lower leg in developing countries, but well-designed studies of the effects of barefoot and shod running on injury are lacking. Laboratory studies show that the energy cost of running is reduced by about 4% when the feet are not shod. In spite of these apparent benefits, barefoot running is rare in competition, and there are no published controlled trials of the effects of running barefoot on simulated or real competitive performance. ”

    Enjoy!!!

  98. Hi,

    I have severely pronated (or flat) feet and have been doing alot of barefoot running, both long distance and short distance and also in vibram five fingers.

    Just recently I started getting a lot of pain in my arches and after a days rest they have started to swell up. Just wondering if this would be because of the adjustment to barefoot running and will go away or is it something I can’t help. If it continues and I am unable to train for days then I will have to go back to shoes, but I really dont want to as barefoot running is so much more fun and I find it much easier than running in shoes.

    I would love to know your thoughts. Thanks.

  99. My son has flat feet and is a very good athlete despite this. He is trying to get faster at running so he can play professional ball. Currently he wears an orthotic device. His foot does not appear as flat now. Are we on the right track or is there something else he can do to correct the look and the functioning of his foot?

  100. you all DO realize that walking barefoot, esp in the grass, on house carpet with pets, in the streets/sidewalks, etc, while Primal, is also a PERFECT and consistent way to introduce worms into your body, yes?

    Not a fun thing… get the Vibram, and go safe… Anyone who underestimates the reality of a couple foot long tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, are in for an exciting suprise…

    1. If you’re so worried about parasites, I’d advise you not to lick your feet after walking around barefoot.

      Kudos to the flexibility you must have, though.

      1. Hookworms at least can enter the body through the soles of bare feet.

  101. Mark, thank you for writing this fantastic article.

    I’ve had flat feet since …well, before I can remember! I went through the store-bought & custom orthotic insert phases and nothing has ever felt right… especially not *walking in shoes* full stop. When not at work I’m barefoot or in flip flops.

    I wear a low profile insert in my running shoes (only) as I felt something was amiss when in sport shoes alone. I can’t really articulate that point as I have nothing for comparison.

    I try to go barefoot as much as possible… unfortunately here in Australia the Vibram Five Fingers are expensive and hard to find (I want to visit a retailer and not take a punt on the size).

    Will do the exercises you suggest and otherwise try to do my best.

  102. I have been a runner since I was 12 years old. Once I hit high school and began a serious running schedule, I began to have issues with my shins and knees so I started buying shoes with tons of support and cushion and did strengthening exercises like crazy- nothing helped. I eventually stopped running because I was so frustrated and thought it just “wasn’t for me” anymore. However, a friend in college told me that I should try running barefoot. All of a sudden, my knees stopped bothering me and I haven’t gotten a single shin splint since! I could run longer than I could have before, the actual shape of my legs are changing (I feel less squatty now, haha!), my running form was automatically corrected, and my toes are becoming more spread. Basically- I’m addicted. And I’m so happy to see that there’s a huge community out there in favor of barefooting!

  103. I have gone barefoot as much as absolutely possible my entire life and. I’m not one of those women that worship high heels. I am constantly barefoot at home and I remember the day my arches fell. I went to catholic school and at that time, it was required that we wear very good quality type of shoes as part of the uniform. I wore them for 8 years and then in high school I wore super super flat shoes. They were called Chinese shoes, so flat I could feel the cement on the sidewalk. I wore those shoes because they were as close to being barefoot as possible. I wear flip flops for that now but the leather ones by Clarks. Anyway, one day I literally felt my arches fall. Literally, and my feet have never been the same. Prior to wearing those super flat shoes as a teen, I had zero foot problems while wearing the quality shoes during school 1-8 and being barefoot after school and on weekends as opposed to afterward with the super flat shoes. If we were meant to be barefoot then we should be able to wear super flat shoes. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think comfort shoes with wide toe boxes and good arch supports are very comfortable but they are hideous and difficult for a woman to wear in our society, so it’s much harder for women than for men to care for their feet.

  104. Hi mark,
    So ever since I can remember, I’ve had flat feet. It hasn’t really bothered me, *knock on wood*, until recently. I started playing soccer and I am in love with the sport. I have got pretty good at it as well all except on problem, I can’t point my toes because I have no arch.

    What can I do, naturally of course, to point my toes more and build an arch? I need to be able to hit the ball with my shoe laces but my big toe always hits the ground first and boy does it hurt. Anyways thanks for your help!

    Soccerboy

  105. Hi Mark,
    Interesting article and even more interesting comments and stories.
    I have a flat foot since I can remember, in fact when I was about 6 my folks took me to a doctor who said that if it is not aching, no issues. He did however tell me some exercises to do,…but being a kid…whatever…never did!

    Now at 26, suddenly I have started noticing my foot a lot. I was always into sports in school…never had a problem. I went to a mountaneous area some time back and for the first time, after walking around for about 1.5 hours, my foot (particulary where the arch is/ is not) starting aching like hell!!!!….i had to bind it to stop the pain. this is when my uncle told me i should go for insoles when doing some physical activity and even generally.

    Some questions….does having flat feet make you tire much faster while doing physical activity? like Aerobics/ dance/ etc…? … i read a lot about going barefoot, and can manage that at home…but is there some way now at this age to prevent anything that might come later on????

    thanks for your suggestions!

  106. “About 20% of adults have flat feet.”

    Do you happen to have scientific source for this claim? There was that indian research paper, in it there weren’t such a big percent of flat feets..

  107. Mark,
    First off…great article! Flat foot running has always intrigued me.

    Here’s my situation. I’m a very serious soccer player (average about 12-16 hours a week of playing/training). I also work as a trainer at a soccer training academy on artificial Sprint-Turf. Recently, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis of my left foot. I usually wear shoes such as Sanuk, Nike Free 7.0, or sandals when out and barefoot around the house. I had my running analyzed, and the tech said that my arches weren’t completely flat, but you could see them collapsing a bit. Being that I sprint a lot, I run totally on the balls of my feet.

    I have run into a conundrum though. If I wear my soccer cleats/running shoes/ or go barefoot, my heel kills me painwise pain-wise. But if I wear my Super Feet inserts for soccer and Nike Lunar Glides, my pain subsides. Unfortunately I have noticed a lack of ankle strength in my mobility for soccer since this fasciitis started. So I’m worried about the weakening of my feet.

    Any suggestions? I have a long month of intense training ahead of me this month for tryouts, and really don’t want to have fasciitis or weak ankles stand in the way. Thanks!!

  108. Any suggestions for my husband who has to wear black steel toe boots for his job(in factory)? And for myself–I have gone barefoot as much as possible or wear birkenstock sandals and then developed plantar fascitis in my left foot–which of course my Dr said was due to going barefoot. I am now wearing my birks in the house instead of going barefoot and it has gone away. I still go barefoot in our yard. So if barefoot is good why do some of us develop problems? I was also one of those kids who never wore shoes from spring to fall except in school–and then we wore keds–which I am fairly sure were pretty flat. As a teen I wore flat moccasin (hippy!)type shoes. I am 53 now btw.The last few years I have been so frustrated with the lack of any shoes on the market that do not have any kind of heel! I like my birk sandals because of the no heel and room for the toes but they don’t work for hiking which my husband and I do a lot of. We are looking at the vivo type shoes for that purpose–but I think I will stick with the Birks for every day wear.

    1. It could be a problem with tight tendons elsewhere in your leg. I had plantar fascitis after I delivered my son. I managed to correct it by doing deep squats (knees pointing straight forward) and allowing my heels to come off the floor, hold the position for at least a count of 10. It stretched out the affected area really well. Now I have no trouble with my feet.

  109. My question would be: walking on concrete, barefeet do not hide a few side effects? i mean VFF on feet all day but walk up and down doing all days business, the body may absorb tons of shock caused by concrete, that other surface wouldnt do.

    what are your thoughts about it?

  110. Is there some health concern with flat feet? I don’t really understand the problem.

  111. I am 27 and have had flat feet my whole life. You spoke if it wasn’t genetic you could do this pretty sure mine is genetic. Is there anything I can do? The problem I have is that if I go bare foot with in like 15 minuets my back, knees, and ankles start to hurt and if I go a whole day with out any type of support my arch totally collapses and my legs go numb.

    1. NOTE: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice – just my opinion.

      @Alex, as I have implied, very few people are born with a genetic abnormality that would result in flat feet. In some regards, all humans are “genetically predisposed” to flat feet if they bind their feet in restrictive shoes from an early age and unburden the important small muscles of the feet long enough. It has taken 27 years for you to get to this stage, so reversing it won’t happen overnight. Nevertheless, I am confident that almost everyone with “flat feet” can retrain the muscles in those feet to regain a functioning arch and greater mobility. Just start REALLY, REALLY slow with barefooting around the yard, climbing a few sets of stairs focusing on toes and midfoot, etc. Add a bit more each day in the same way you would add weights to your gym workouts.

      1. I did see where you had posted that. I was just curious if because of my condition if what you recommended would work for me or if my condition would be different. I am definitely going to give it a shot! I would just love to be able to where sandals to the beach and not be in agony! Or be able to walk around out doors more with out shoes… I stumbled upon this article while looking for sandals that might give me so relief in the summer and glad i did.

  112. Thanks for the post! I’d read a lot about the benefits about going barefoot for health, but no mention of whether its also advisable for those with flat feet.

    I have practically flat feet, and I think its partially genetic(father has same feet, and he grew up on a farm in the 1960’s in China, so probably no excess shoe wear there).

    It really started to bother me around 10th 11th grade high school, when my leg would go numb due to the combination of fancy shoes and bad circulation due to years of running in them. For that, I got orthotics(which added like, 5lbs+ plus to my already clunky shoes), and which gradually made my lower body problems worse.

    By 19, I had horrendous hip problems, and radiating pain from that to my knees, shins, and lower back.

    I’ve thrown out my orthotics now for 3-4 weeks, and have reintroduced running into my program slowly. I run in either my really cheap cross trainers, or my now old and non supportive running shoes. Given that I can’t afford vibrams, I taught myself to toe run and it has gradually become more natural.

    Outside of this, I’m mostly barefoot around the house, and try to only wear “crap” support shoes-old Vans sneakers(no new ones!-too supportive), converses, flipflops and flats.

    I’m happy to say although the structure of my feet haven’t been altered(again, probably partly genetic), my hip problems are now gone(plus or minus overzealous strain injuries from too much running), and I don’t feel like a young useless cripple with bad feet.

  113. Hey Mark 🙂

    You sound like the person I need to go to for some help. I have yet to see a podiatrist or someone about my flat feet… I started wearing flats at the age of 15 and they did not allow my toes to spread out properly when I walked. 3 years pass by and the feet I once had with perfect arches are now gone. Now, my knees bend slightly inward. It bothers me a lot because it keeps me from standing up straight comfortably in one spot — it feels as if there is tension and I keep rocking back and forth from one foot to the other. I also notice that my hip bone has shifted and im sure my spine is starting to curve to the left.

    I’m not sure what my next step is…is the only solution surgery?

  114. I’m am completely confused now! I have two children and both of them went barefoot or in soft leather moccasins to ensure proper foot development. And they BOTH have flat feet! How can this be??? And what do I do now? (Kids ages 3 and 6)

  115. I’m am completely confused now! I have two children and both of them went barefoot or in soft leather moccasins to ensure proper foot development. And they BOTH have flat feet! How can this be??? And what do I do now? (Kids ages 3 and 6)

    S

  116. We are all born with flat feet or muscle pad. Usually between the ages of five or seven, our arches start to develop or not.

  117. I’m about to go for a 4 hour hike up a mountain in NH for the 4th of July. Family is insisting hiking boots for “ankle support”, I know my feet need to ease into the barefoot mode, but not sure how to compromise on a challenging hike.

    1. Heather, I sure wouldn’t start my barefooting experience with a 4 hour hike. I tell most people who want to use VFFs to bring along a pair of comfortable hiking/running shoes in a backpack, so you can transition after a reasonable initial time spent “minimal.”

  118. I don’t have a problem with barefoot running, but in my opinion its best in moderation for most. You must remember, our feet were not designed to walk on flat surfaces ( concrete). I would not be so quick to tell people to stay away from arch supports….

  119. I glanced at a couple of comments and found many thinking they’re the exception. I just cannot accept that certain genetic dispositions extend into so many areas of our life. Some, maybe even quite a few, but not so many. I’ve heard it too often as an excuse for a lifestyle. Just a thought.

  120. I’ve been a barefoot walker all my life. If I’m indoors, I don’t have shoes on. My arch is medium and my inline is straight with a good spread between my big toe and the little toes.

    I’m still a bit nervous about going completely barefoot outside though. I’ve gotten nasty cuts from glass and sharp plastic. I also can over-extend my arches and I have a pinched nerve in my right foot. I wear custom made orthopedic inserts in my shoes. After reading this though, I might give barefooting outside more of a shot. I can’t afford Vibrams and things.

    1. Try using sandals designed for barefoot running. Very minimalist. Look them up on Barefoot Ted’s website and/or invisibleshoes.com. You can pick a sole that is thick or thin per your preference.
      Take a look

  121. Mark, do you have any recommendations for people with overpronation (ankle rolled towards center)? At least what I thought was flat foot-ness was diagnosed as overpronation. Was prescribed insoles, advised to wear ‘shoes with sturdy support’ and all that jazz.

    At home or when wearing sandals, I kind of self-correct my ankle position by putting my weight on the outer side of my feet…bad idea?

  122. hey mark,i want to be in the army but i have i flat foot.is there any way this i get it treated in 2 months.i have tried arch supports but it pains a lot.can u help??

  123. hey mark,i want to be in the army but i have i flat foot.is there any way this i get it treated in 2 months without much complications.i have tried arch supports but it pains a lot.can u help??

  124. I don’t have flat feet, but due to overpronation and wearing very, very bad shoes for about half of my life, both my forefeet are supinated, they are turned outwards. That makes it difficult to find my balance. Does anyone know how I can solve this (they suggested custom insoles with a forefoot post, but I don’t think that will be the solution).

    1. First, pronation is the same thing as flat feet.

      Second, I suggest seeing a physical therapist. They will help solve the balance issue and any other physical problem you may be experincing (other than bone/structural issues… which by the way a chiropracter CANNOT fix for the long term). I believe in this because I’m a physical therapy student. Thank you very muuuch! 🙂

      1. Well, my arches are normal, and I don’t agree that pronation is the same as flat feet.
        And I did see a physiotherapist. Unfortunately he couldn’t help solve the balance issue, since I can’t keep my balance because of the supinated forefeet and elevated first ray … I went to see a doctor in the hospital, but she couldn’t help me either, only suggested I’d have myself made a pair of new orthotics !! (I’ve tried 8 pairs over the last 5 years already)
        By the way, no one knows if the supinated forefeet are caused by the overpronation, or if I’m overpronating because of the supinated forefeet, it’s a chicken and egg problem … So I’m still struggling …

  125. Help- so much conflicting advice! My 13 year old son has size 11 flat feet and is really suffering from heel/ankle pain. He plays basketball and baseball, and is currently playing soccer but suffering terribly. He was fitted with orthotics last year during soccer and is currently wearing arch support straps as well…still the pain continues. He has always preferred to walk barefoot around the house and still does. I made an appt next week with a Podiatrist, but am not too confident that it will help. He is such a trooper about it & wants to continue on, but to see him struggle to walk and play is heartbreaking. His feet are begging for help and I don’t know which direction to go.

    1. Did the podiatrist help? My advice: see a physical therapist… They treat the whole body rather than just the foot. Sometimes leg pain can be caused by issues further up the line (his back) and vice versa.

      And since he is most likely going through a growth spurt (as he is 13) a vast majority of his muscles are going to be put on stretch and cause other physical symptoms due to the rapid growth.

    1. Ian, thanks for the link, interesting concept. After researching a bit, I think he might have Severs Disease (an overuse injury during growth spurts), which causes agitation on the muscles and tendons around the heel area. Over and over again the info says that during Rx, not to allow the patient to walk around barefoot, as it worsens the pain. Interesting though, that my son continues to want to walk around the house without shoes on, despite the pain he is in! Perhaps the VFF is something we can look into once his “heels heal”. And perhaps he doesn’t have Severs and the Dr will say something else…who knows? Thanks for your reply.

      1. Oh, and yes, I agree…he needs to strengthen & develop his feet. In the meantime, we are working on stretching exercises to do just that.

  126. Please read the following rant by Steven Low:

    Re: Vibrams and barefoot running?
    I’m only going to talk about this once before I actually write the article that I’m going to about this topic.

    This is a conglomerate of posts from another thread…

    —————————-

    Shoes are basically casts for your feet….

    Your muscles atrophy, you lose proprioception, etc.

    Decrease proprioception is strongly correlated to falls as you get older.

    Arch support is bull****. The body has natural arch support for your feet called ligaments (spring, long and short plantar ligaments) , and muscles. Strengthen the muscles, your arch is supported. When your muscles atrophy, it puts lots of pressure on your ligaments. When your ligaments stretch, your plantar fascia/aponeurosis takes the brunt of the stretch…. and then you get plantar fasciitis and flat feet. In barefoot cultures there is no such thing as flat feet… hmm wonder why.

    Studies have shown there is no decreases in injury rate by selecting shoes for type of foot (supinated, neutral, pronated).

    Minimalist shoes or barefoot FTW.

    Anything else you would like to know?

    —————————-

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Saved4Life
    “That helps a lot. So ligaments are all the support you need. But for someone with already flat feet. Is support better for comfort.. or should they go barefoot to strengthen”
    Wrong. You did not read what I am saying.

    Ligaments provide support in “last case scenario.” Like the knee you DO NOT want pressure to be on the ligaments. You want your MUSCLES to be strong enough to handle the forces so that there is no stress on your ligaments.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Coopesam
    “I have completely flat feet from my flexor digitorum longus tendon being too long. This causes my foot to rotate out and down. I’ve been to the podiatrist and have been prescribed prescription orthotics to give me an artificial arch. With the feet I have, I can easily say, no VFF’s for me lol. If I don’t use my orthotics, I get massive shin splints on the inside of shins, and problems from the ankle up through my knees and hips and even to my lower back. I love the idea of the Five fingers and I really wish I could use them, but I’m going to have to stick with cutting the insole to fit my prescriptions into my Ariakes.”
    Wrong again. Arch can be strengthened by strengthening the foot muscles.

    People with flat feet, depending on severity, in some cases can regain their arch through proper foot strengthening which includes a lot of barefoot activity and exercises to build those muscles up (IF such activity is non-painful).

    Orthotics DO NOT fix your problems, and often decrease your already low amount of proprioception and muscle strength which allows you to be injured more easily.

    If you are going to use orthotics you should only be using them in one instance which is To not have pain or aggravate a condition, especially if there is required physical activity (for a job such as the military). They are a temporary solution which you shoudl be addressing with proper proprioceptive and strengthening protocol for the feet.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand that pes planus (flat feet) and too high arches are NOT NORMAL CONDITIONS. You do not want these conditions. You want to take steps to correct these conditions. You don’t want to just deal with them for the rest of your life.

    This is like doctors and diabetes now. Eat low fat, high carbs. Dose up that insulin. WHy not eat low carb and actually REVERSE diabetes? If you’re pre-diabetic or even diabetic you can actually reverse diabetes (in non-severe cases) to the point that you don’t need ot take insulin anymore.

    So stupid.

    ——————-

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dom Rocco
    “Orthotics will also run you hundreds of dollars so definitely think about what Steve is saying before you or your folks go shelling out the dough for them
    The problem is when something is common people tend to believe it’s normal.”

    It’s not normal.

    Everyone can tell obesity is not normal. But it’s becoming a norm in our culture. Same thing with risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, IBS/celiac/etc. These things are NOT normal.

    In most cases they can be corrected by proper diet. Most of us on here know that.

    So why not other physical ailments of civilization such as this?

    It makes no sense to me.

    edit: I decide I’m going to write an article on diseases of civilization…

    —————

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Coopesam
    “I’ve been using orthotics for about a 3 years now, and I can say they have helped a great deal. There’s no possible way for me to shorten up the tendon responsible for me to get an arch. No matter how many times I go barefoot or do any sort of workout in my calves or shins will any bit of arch show up. My issue is genetic, and really only can be fixed by surgery or the artificial arch supports (orthotics). The orthotics allow my ankle and feet to move with proper mechanics when moving, keeping them from pronating outwards. The only thing that will decrease chance at injury in my feet ankles knees hips and back is by wearing the orthotics and using my calf muscle along side to hold my weight on the outside of my foot. As for the price, they’re seen as a necessity and are covered by health insurance and only cost about $50 and last about six months until I move on to the next prescription.

    I also agree with Steven Low, if doing foot strengthening exercises is non-painful then do them. But if you have feet like mine, you can’t start out without support in trying to improve foot strength. I use the orthotics as an aid to keep my foot in the correct place, and then I use my muscles to hold it in that place since orthotics only work when your feet are on the ground but barefoot just doesn’t work for me.”
    Again, you ARE NOT shortening tendons. YOu are activating/strengthening/shortening MUSCLES. It should be obvious that this can occur.

    If you are still growing (<21.. maybe even up to 25 years old) the bones are VERY pliable (via Wolff's law + fact that you are growing) that you can reform your arch given correct application of orthotics combined with proper rehabilitation work.

    IF, however, you are much older and had the condition for a while foot strengthening will still help, although it may take an extensively longer time for this to occur for however much longer you've had the condition.

    I don't believe in genetics for flat feet or high arches. Every human is born with an arch, and there hasn't been much significant evolution in feet since we started wearing padded shoes. It's environmental factors that may affect it towards one way or the other.

    Again, if you have problems with PAIN, and you need to wear orthotics to have no pain. That's fine. But you should be strengthening and doing activation work for the muscles to help reform your arches inn the meantime so that you can eventually rid yourself of orthotics.

    1. No, everyone is NOT born with arches. Where do you get off on that claim? What medical/physiological reference(s) can you cite to verify such an egregiously ignorant statement, Ian? And as this noble website/forum implies, what evidence can you provide to

      1. substantiate that orthotics work for anyone. You need to read STEINDLER’s Kinesiology…Normal and Pathological Conditions to get the REAL scoop on orthotics.

  127. Hello everyone …
    I am 14 years old, Male. I have Osgood Schlatters Disease and I have flat feet . The doctor said that the flat feet caused Osgood Schlatters Disease, can flat feet really do that ?
    I am very sporty, and I have been playing football(soccer) since I was 7 or so … I use narrow nike shoes , I aim for the lightest. So my toes are kind of close to each other. My doctor also gave me insole orthotics and told me to get a cross trainer for better support, the insole orthotics have a bump for the arch of my feet, but I don’t wear them a lot. The shoes are similar to this( http://www.rei.com/product/763575 ) but this is not the shoe. I really didn’t see any improvement for wearing the shows and orthotics. Do you think that if I got the Vibram Five Fingers or the Feelmax Pankas, my flat feet will get better or will it at least help ? Which one do you recommend ? and I live in Saudi Arabia, where can I get it from, shops or online ? I can afford both if they will both help 🙂 and instead of going barefoot , can I wear socks instead ? ^_^

  128. I live a barefoot lifestyle. I only wear shoes to business meetings with brand new clients. After that I let them know my secret. Shoes are now so uncomfortable! Oh, the place I climb also makes me wear shoes too.

    My two boys, ages 4 and 6, mostly choose to be barefoot everywhere we go. This will be my first barefoot winter and I am fascinated to see how it goes. The ground here in the UK is still beautifully warm and the circulation in my feet is amazing – the backs of my heels look red due to how much blood flows through them!

    The other day i put shoes (minimal ones – terra plana vivos) on for a meeting in London – after 1 hour my toes were going numb because they were so static!

    Great article mark. Thank you so much – I’ve put it on my facebook profile to tell everyone why my feet are so happy!

    Bea

  129. For all those that need a minimalist shoe to wear at work (and don’t need to have brogues etc) I recommend Vivo barefoot Dylan model. They are good looking, available in white, black, blue and beige. Very good space for toes and true to size.

    I’ve been wearing my for a month now and I like them. My only gripe is that the sole could be a little softer, they can be a little “noisy” compared to trainers on hard office floors.

  130. I enjoyed reading this, very interesting. My daughter is almost 4 and was diagnosed last year, age 3 with flat feet. Her father, and grandfather also have flat feet. Up until about age 3 she was always bare foot, rarely wearing shoes. Once she started walking more, and for longer periods of times she would constantly complain of foot pain. I just thought she wanted me to carry her, like a typical 2/3 year old. However her doctor stated that flat feet could be causing this pain. So they did prescribe her orthodics, she has been wearing them about 50% of the time for a year now. They really seem to eliminate the pain. Do you think that this is something that can be changed or just genes?

  131. I’m 27, and don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a problem with my feet/knees/hips/lower back.
    I’ve always been told that I have flat feet through genetics. I know that I went barefoot a lot when I was younger, but I also know that I wore shoes a ton, as well as arch supports, probably starting in my early teens.
    Junior High is when I first started really having problems. My knees would pop pretty bad. By high school, I was wearing more severe arch supports, because the problems were going into my lower back and hips.
    Throughout my 20’s my ankles have always hurt. I broke my leg, about 1 inch up from my right outside ankle. All the muscles atrophied from about 10 weeks of no movement, as well as a walking cast for another few months.

    Currently, I have pretty severe over pronation – basically walk on the inside of my feet. I’ve modified arch supports with large washers to lift the arches even more, because it felt like nothing was enough.

    I came across this article about 1 week ago, with a google search about arch supports not working. It seems to make tons of since! I’ve supported, and immobilized my feet so much, that I don’t have any strength in them at all!

    For now, I took the washers out of my arch supports, and have been trying to wear sandals when I can. I kick my shoes off when at home. My feet feel so free!!! All the muscles around my ankles and into my legs and knees are sore, but that just means that they are getting stronger.

    My toes spacing, seems pretty good. I always had to have lots of space for my toes in shoes, or they bugged too much to wear. My feet actually look more like the shoe-less photo a lot more than the other one.

    I’m hoping to go barefoot at least 50% of my day to day life, and I’m going to try out the Feelmax Panka’s when I need to actually wear something.

    We’ll see how things go! I’m really excited for some improvement. Cause almost 2 decades of doctors prescribing insoles/arch supports, have done absolutely nothing to help. Hopefully going the complete opposite will do something for me.

  132. Update to previous comment above^^^

    It’s been about 2 weeks now since I found this site. I’ve only been wearing sandals, and going barefoot. For the first week and a half, all my ankle, foot and leg muscles were all very sore. For the last few days, that’s mostly gone away. I feel really springy now in my feet. I’m walking on the balls of my feet, and if feels so natural.

    On the down side, I can’t wear my shoes anymore! I put them on, and within 5 minutes, my ankles started to hurt, and within 10 minutes my knees started to hurt. Don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s getting colder, and I can’t take the cold (Raynaud’s and Chilblains). I think I’m going to have to buy some of the barefoot shoes soon.

    Is there any way to wear ‘normal’ shoes after going barefoot a lot? Or is it always going to cause pain from now on?

    1. Hi Brad

      I’m glad you’re having such fun being bare! I’ve started posting some tips on twitter about barefeet in colder months. You’d be amazed how much your feet are creating their own heat when in use – sometimes the backs of my ankles look red, as if raw, because there’s so much bloood going through! Keep the rest of you warm – long-johns under trousers etc. 100% wool socks (lose fitting) if you are sitting still because this is when feet may get cold.

      i find shoes unbearable now too – my toes go numb within an hour because they can’t move and that is in barefoot shoes (vivos). I also get blisters now from my vivos even though i had worn them in to a comfy state before i went 100% bare.

      see how your feet go as it gets colder – don’t ignore previous struggles with the conditions you mentioned, but also don’t rule out that your feet may be able to do better than you suspect. they will talk to you!!

      ps. i am not sure yet how my feet will handle the snow when it comes! 🙂

  133. I hate the cold on my feet. I found that a proper fitting boot with a wide toe box and no raised heel is the only thing I can wear besides my extra wide Van’s. I am dreading the coming cold because there are going to be a lot more boot days! Next year I am going after a pair of VFF’s Trek they are righteous shoes I tried them on but they did not have em in black so I decided to wait

  134. So, are u guys saying that orthopedic insoles and stuf like that are completely useless? There were some ppl there saying they get good results for their children. Im in my early twenties, how would that be different for me? Also, how about playing football on grass or basketball (would u still do it barefoot ?!) And if not with insoles or not? Thanks for the tips in advance!

  135. Hey Mitko and everyone, to fix those alignment problems I really recommend finding a great PT/Chiro/Soft tissue/movement coach. I only know of one such person and he has a blog where he posts daily mobility drills that can do wonders for impingement and muscular imbalances. Check it out here (I am in no way affiliated with the blog, it just works!):
    http://mobilitywod.blogspot.com/

  136. What would you recommend for someone suffering from an inflamed plantar fascia as well as a heel spur, other than the exercises?

  137. I’m new to this and wanted to get your thoughts. I’ve never liked flip flops that are completely flat and have always felt more comfortable when my flip flops have a wee bit of arch cushion. Do you think my feet are just not strong enough or do some of us just need a little support? I’ve always been barefoot/socked at home since I was a child.

    And just to make sure I understand…when you do wear shoes outdoors/stores/snow, it’s best to have thin, flat soles, yes?

    Thanks!

  138. I have fallen arches and a great deal of pain. I’ve been using orthodics for several years and they aleviate the pain but I have a lot of foot and leg pain. Standing and walking is very painful. What exercises can I do to help this. I am crying right now at just the thought that i might be able to get some relief….

  139. I was interested in reading more about the effects of flip flops, since today after perusing the shoes at a local shoe store trying to decide if I wanted the new Sketchers Shapeups (which I caved in and got if for no other reason than to try to disprove their claims), I was stopped by a shoe salesman, older gentleman, very polite. As he stood there talking to me he looked down at my feet, which were as always, in a pair of $2 Old Navy flips flops. I was sure I was about to get a lecture on how bad flip flops are for your feet. I had heard it a million times before. I was born on the coast of N.C and have lived here 30 years. I wear flip flops (no exaggeration whatsover) from March 1st to December 1st every year. I wear them day in and day out, with shorts, skirts, jeans…it doesn’t matter. I live in a pretty mild places, in regards to tempretures. Right now for instance, it’s dipping into the 30’s at night but the days are atleast 50 degrees. To me 50 degrees is comfortable as long as I have jeans on and a jacket if needed. I’m sure in some places, such as Boston, Jeans, a sweater and flip flops would seem odd. But here, the cold really just comes from the wind blowing, not necessarily the temps themselves. It’s the wind chill. And as long as I have something to cover my bare arms and legs, which the wind actually hit the most, I’m fine. My feet don’t get as cold.

    Now by December 1st, just before Christmas it gets a bit colder. Most years I’m doing my Christmas shopping, even in early december in flip flops but by Christmas it usually get’s much cold suddenly and there are a few weeks, maybe 12 that its just cold. Usually by easter we are already in flip flops and sundresses w/ light sweaters or cardigans incase of a breeze in the later part of the day. This past year we were in sleeveless sundresses, it was bright and sunny and perfect.

    My closet is pretty much filled with flip flops and high heels. I have flip flops in every color, size, shape, brand….you name it I’ve got it. Probably 20-30 pairs. I have another 20 pairs of sandals of various types & colors, be them peep toe, strappy, slingbacks, or just another variety of open toe sandals, flats etc. I have 4 pairs of nice pointy toe heels and 2 pairs of athletic shoes that are 4 years old and look brand new.

    I got out about once a month. Most times, even on those summer saturday nights, I wear flip flops. But in the winter when we go out it’s pointy toe heels, w/ jeans usually and a super cute top. The rest of my life I’m in flip flops, barefooted, or in slippers. I’ve always been told that this is going to cause permanent damage to my feet, blah blah blah.

    But I’ve persisted because I truly hate shoes unless they are cute dressy shoes. I hate running shoes, I hate pant boots (I do however love thigh high leather boots and stuff like that, cute stuff), but overall I hate shoes that have to be zipped up or laced. It is a must that I can slide my foot in and out without using my hands. So I’ve always ignored the warnings I’ve gotten from doctors and pretty much everyone else in my family over the age of 50.

    Today was the first time I was applauded for my super strong feet and told that I was better off than all the people that were standing there in athletic shoes.

    Ha. I knew it. I’m just happy to be able to effectively argue on the behalf of my flip flops next time my nagging great aunt decides to give me a lecture about how I’m going to ruin my feet wearing those flat shoes like that with no laces. 🙂

  140. Hi Mark,

    my (now 28 months old son) was born with toes that were very close to each other, some even almost crossing each other). He did look like he had arches though. When he was about 15 months old, we noticed that his ankles were collapsing when walking and that his legs looked like an X, so we went to a doctor who prescribed insoles, which we promptly starting using. He also said I should massage his feet. He does seem to be walking better with the insoles, his ankles don’t collapse anymore. I was intrigued by your article and have now orderd VFFs but I am worried that if he walks ‘barefoot’ he might get arches (he has arches if he holds his foot up but they collapse when he walks) but he will continue to have collapsed ankles and his legs will grow to be in the shape of an X. What do you think? I am not a native English speaker so I hope you understand what I mean :-).

  141. i am only 14 and i hav flat feet a week ago i went to a doctor and he suggested me to wear heel cups…….and i see them working…….

  142. I was born with flat feet and I got it from my father. I hate my feet. They look ugly. I’m rather a sedentary person and flatfeet haven’t caused any physical pain or problems so far, but it’s a pain knowing that I have a birth defect. It even gives me low self confidence when thinking of it.

    It becomes more of my concern because my husband and I are planning to have kids. I don’t want any of my children to have such feet and sometimes I even think if I should not have any kids just because of this. I don’t want my children to have such painful thoughts when they look at their feet. (If humen beings still lived in the wild, flatfoot ones would be slow in the chasing games and easier got eaten. So it makes sense if I just give up my gene by myself.)

    1. Mindy, Mindy. Sounds like you don’t have anymore sense that that? What I would suggest is a serious attitude adjustment in the WORST way! If your flat feet don’t cause any pain or problems yet you “hate” them and worry if your kids will have flat feet and question if you should even consider having children out of some ostensibly PERCEPTIVE view that ALL flat feet, when non-pathological, are somehow a curse from their appearance alone. I’m no psychotherapist, but your problem is, in my opinion as an observer of human behavior, NOT with your (and potential offsprings’)flat feet, it’s probably some other part of your body. You can take that for what it is!

  143. I’m a physical therapy student. Today we did a gait analysis on our classmates which re-confirmed my knowledge that I have flat feet. Woo hoo! This response is for those who posted on here in regards to foot orthotics causing knee/hip/back problems. Honestly, whoever gave you those orthotics didnt look high enough to fix the problem. Your back can be causing problems lower down the line… and you can note this POSSIBLY by the presence of greater arm swing on one side of the body than the other. I say possibly because this is only one of many possible causes. (Visit a physical therapist who specializes in gait analysis to know for sure… haha. I had to put that in there). But I agree with author of this website on fixing the root cause (muscle weakness, tight gastroc/soleus, limited toe dorsiflexion) rather than fixing a symptom of it (adding orthotics). It makes sense to me but I’m no pro! I just e-mailed my professor to see what his opinion on the topic is… So, we’ll find out!

  144. Hi Mark,

    I was told for YEARS and by my Ortho doctor that I should have NEVER gone without shoes as a kid or around the house now, and that has cause my “flat feet” My doc suggested that I wear shoes all the time to help strengthen my arch which is the OPPOSITE of what your saying. I’m so confused! I want to wear 4 inch heels so bad, but they hurt like hell. When I stand up, a shooting pain goes through the top of my ONE foot. What should I do? PLEASE HELP!

    1. But why would you want to wear 4 inch heels? I’m not saying you shouldn’t wear heels at all, but if you want to wear heels there are so many shoes with lower heels that make you look feminine or sexy as well.

  145. Even doctors can be misinformed, epsecially old ones. Modern mecicine is not an ancient art and in the early part of the 20th century a lot of medicine was still shady as hell and some of the myths created to sell “medicinal products” persist today.

  146. hi, my problme is that i applied for air force, but i am flat feel, i wanna know that is there any treatment possible so i could be able to join for forces such as army, navy, police or air force. my age is 18. thanks

    1. yes and no. it really depends what kind of flat feet you have. it could be caused by a structrual bone formation or a muscle imbalance. if it is the former, that cannot be treated. however if you suspect that you have tight calves or have limited dorsiflexion in your toes (pointing them to the sky) then stretching both of those regions COULD help. It really depends on the degree of pronation (flat feet) you have.

  147. Well that explains why my feet look “deformed” to my family. They’ve worn shoes their whole lives, whereas I’ve been barefoot since birth (with the exception of in winter).
    Oh and my brother is flat footed, and he started wearing shoes before his first birthday.

  148. Hi mark,
    I’m 15 years old and have no arch nor did I ever. Both my parents have no arch and me and my bro don’t either. It wasn’t until recently when I started to pain, and shortly after a friend of mine told me flat feet were abnormal (yea I actually thought everyone had flat feet lol). I’m just wondering, since my flat feet is most likely hereditary, would I still be able to form an arch?

    Thanks,
    Linda

    PS I also didn’t start walking til a late age (about 2 years and 3 months) just in case that effected it in any way

  149. I’m mixed and my father has flat feet and it’s the same with my sisters, is flat feet more common in black people? They’re also wide and I have a certain fondness for high top converse and nikes which are said to look bad with wide feet anything i can do to reduce?

  150. I have to completely disagree with this article. I kept both my kids out of arch support shoes and was a huge proponent of going barefoot and wearing mocassins (avoiding arch support). I now have two kids with extremely flat feet. I regret ever following the advice of ill-informed naturalists! The one thing that no one seems to take into account is that going barefoot today is nothing like going barefoot even a hundred years ago, much less a thousand or more years ago–our streets and floors are flat and don’t encourage the arch development that would be found with our rugged-terrain walking, tree-climbing ancestors.

    1. Flat feet are not an abnormality and whether or not you can develop an arch by going barefoot has no bearing on whether or not shoes are good or bad. Shoes are to protect the feet not help them develop and this is proven science. Shoes will never and can not ever help positive development of the musculature. Can’t happen.

    2. Dear Sandra: Streets and floors have NO bearing of how feet develop. Where is your brain? Did you lose it somewhere? Childrens’ feet are STILL developing. My very best childhood friend had severe flat feet with pronounced medial projection in BOTH feet and HAD to wear moccasins to school,after having to get special permission from the Admin people with a Dr’s order. When he got older, about 14-15, he developed perfectly normal, well-arched feet of near “cavus” type. You pre-judge this noble site for what my research with articles from ORTHOPEDISTs from the internet about the “correctness” and “nature” of juvenile pes planus (flat feet) and the general outcome from just leaving them “UNCORRECTED” is normal feet can indeed develop. I was born with congenital flat feet due to foot structure “anomalies” and though my feet are profoundly flexible and completely flat as pancakes, I consider them a tremendous gift as I NEVER had ANY postural/pain issues and I also happen to love them they way they are. They are MY BEST FRIENDS and I challenge anyone that they are somehow bad. Feet, like the people who own them, are as individual as nature will have them to be. So what’s your REAL problem?

  151. I have flat feet and i hate them..I knw we should love every body part god made for us…But theres nuthing sexy bout my flat feet.when i have heels on my feel slide to the front cause theres no arch support to keep my feet from sliding

    1. What makes you think feet have to be “sexy?” And what makes you think “heels” are really good footwear to begin with? And my final question, since you mentioned God, who do you think you are to question His individual body assignments to each of his children? Huh?!

      1. Oh my, for one of those religious people you seem to be quite good at attacking people and not so good with all that love and kindness thing. Are you sure your god would have wanted you to talk to your brothers and sisters like that?

  152. Very interesting topic. I just wanted to thank everyone for their 2c. I am 45 and have always had extremely flat feet, to the extent that many people have commented on them over the years. (and sadly for myself and many others I see, I have built up a fair amount of self-consciousness about them) Just a couple of comments. 1) I’m not sure how rare it is from a hereditary perspective. In my case my half brothers feet are similar though not as bad, and my daughters feet also are very flat. Perhaps there is a hereditary propensity at least. 2) I have a sense that trampoline work might be helpful. I have a little house model and it seems like my feet get a very good workout. I’m not saying structure or the look will be improved but… It may help, it’s not a huge investment and the kids love it.
    I’m sorry to those of you that have this problem, I know it can be very painful in more ways then one. Hang in there and work on bringing better mobility through self massage and strengthening muscles. your value lies in other places!

    1. I’m NOT sorry I have flat feet. Just the opposite: I love them being totally flat. I think they’re really cool to have. So don’t speak for me, thank you!

  153. I think you’re onto something here. I have been flat-footed since birth. I was born with loose ligaments they told me. Just recently, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I was the kid who always stood with my knees bent backwards and whatnot. Anyway, my feet hurt sooo bad when I was a kid. My feet and legs actually. I hated having to wear dressy shoes as they especially pinched my feet and made my bunions hurt. I’m not even certain when I started developing bunions as they’ve pretty much always been there. Anyway, I did notice that as I got into college my feet started improving some. It was at this point that I just threw my orthotics in the closet and started wearing sandals while walking to classes. Looking back, my feet probably hurt the worst as a kid and have improved over time as I built muscle naturally and then were the best when I was the most muscular and did the most variety of things with them. Because I’m extra stretchy I’ve actually always been able to do things like pick things up with my feet so I used to do lots of weird and fun things with them which I think helped. Since finally settling down into a “grown up” job I’ve been having trouble with spinal issues and now, of course, my feet are hurting me again as I attempt to change my posture. But, I’m hopeful that all I need is to get my feet strong again and used to a new position. Here’s to muscular feet!

  154. Ok, when I was 16 or so I was a competitive figure skater with the foot, knee, and hip problems to prove it… I went to a foot doctor and got the expensive orthodics molded to my feet and the whole sha-bang. That and a summer of physical therapy not only cured my joint problems but helped me to be a better skater 🙂 now i’m 21 and haven’t skated for real in about 3 years and my feet are going south. It literally feels like my arches are ripping in half when I walk (that’s been happengin for a couple years increasingly) and even more recently my heels feel bruised. I stretch them on a tennis ball and that seems to help but I don’t really know what else to do. I wear my orthodics but only in one pair of shoes and I don’t wear those every day. The good news is I havent had knee or hip pain since I got the orthodics but it’s really no fun walking to class every day with my feet feeling this way… [my feet aren’t super flat but I think my arches are falling]

  155. Help! My daughter who is an avid soccer player just came back from a physiotherapist. He told me that she needs custom orthotics because the tendons in her left foot are stretched beyond repair and she could have serious damage within one year. I still have to followup with our family doctor for the report from the physiotherapist. I’ve been dealing with a left knee problem for over one year now and I recently brought her foot problem to the doctor’s attention. What would you suggest I do? Thanks in advance. Kelly

  156. Thank you for your article. I generally agree with your points. I have reasonably healthy feet myself, but my daughter had naturally occurring bunions and hammer toes. They were surgically corrected, but the tightness from scar tissue is making it difficult for her to achieve healthy feet.

    Walking barefoot is not always practical or acceptable in our society. What do you think of Vibram’s FiveFingers toe shoes?

    I want to point out a typo in your article. You said, “I cannot, however, agree with the contention that lack of shoes without “proper arch support” is the problem….” So many negatives made it easy to slip up. You should remove “lack of”, or you could say “lack of “proper arch support” in shoes”.

    I’ll also make a fine point about toe running. I imagine that you mean that you stay on the balls of your feet, not just on your toes, unless you’re into ballet. Same point with walking around for five minutes each day on your tippy-toes.

    Thanks again. Your advice is useful.

    Mary

  157. My 13-year-old daughter who plays soccer just saw a physio therapist for her foot and knee problems. He told me that she needs custom orthotics because the tendons in her feet have stretched and she could have serious problems within one year. All the problems are with her left foot and knee. She always walks with her left foot pointing out and if she doesn’t then she complains of knee problems. I’ve always recommended she go barefoot as I thinnk it makes sense but now I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

  158. I would just like to point out an oversight in this article.
    While I fully support running barefoot in the sand or mountains, our society does not allow for that. The majority of places athletes or really anyone are running are roads and sidewalks- flat, harsh environments that have been proven to cause damage to bare feet. Pretty much the only reason shoes are necessary these days (which they absolutely ARE) is because our feet are NOT evolved to run on concrete or even packed dirt. Shoes are designed to counter this, that is why they are cushioned. Living a barefoot life in a city, town, or even rural area can cause much more damage to your feet than wearing shoes ever could.

    1. I agree with you about the enviromental concerns for our feet. I wear all-leather, Native American-style moccasins whenever going out in public for the very reasons you describe most eloquently. I also have “special-occasion” footwear of all types, from boots to sandals, but at home, it’s barefoot all the way. I won’t go to the store, or any other “risky” place, without at least wearing my moccasins.

  159. This article was really interesting to read, because I feel like one of my arches may have broken down recently. I think this is because I have a pair of (about) 2 inch wedges that I started wearing several weeks ago. Because I still go to school and we have gym, I can only wear them every other day, but I also wear them for weekends. Already, my arch is kind of dead, which proves that heels and stuff aren’t good. But I do want to point out that a really cool/fun excercise that I found out one day. I don’t know about shoes, and I don’t know if this will help fix flat feet, but try walking or running backwards. Walking or running backwards forces you to land on your toes/ball of your feet before rolling back onto your whole feet. And if you move fast enough, you’re forced to stay on your toes the whole time. It is very tiring though, and it excercises your thighs instead of your calves, so I don’t know if it’ll fix or help any arches.

  160. I have a flat foot, have had this my whole life, as far as I am aware, and also I pronate strongly (not severely). How can I mitigate the pronation while being as barefoot as possible (and in shoes sans orthotics)?

  161. well looks like the only comment in two years was to call this bs….but i dont think so.

    I do think i have feet genetically inclined to be flat. They are not quite flat now but they were as a child…the drs had my parents buy the ugliest shoes, saddle shoes, with arch supports until i outgrew them….new pair just the same every time.

    Perhaps the shoes i wore from 5 to 10 were a blessing in disguise they did not help my arches but they had nice wide toes in them. A few years after moving to normal shoes, i almost shed shoes completely….i have the b foot.

    And even if i am inclined to have flat feet, i have an arch but a small one. I do believe walking in barefeet helps.

    I googled this article trying to find exercises to increase this arch.

    Unfortunately there is loss to the gain of this arch, my feet are shaped like the b feet….yes u can draw that line and it looks just right. My feet and toes are very wide, try squeezing those into a fashionable shoe. Of course when i do wear a heal, I not only get all of the problems that women with more formed feet get but also my feet yell at me for pinching the toes together, even if just for a day.

    Big wide feet give a stable foundation and i do not have any of the traditional problems associated with flat feet but I get so tired of beating the transvestites away from the big wide shoes i want to buy. Mostly, I buy mens shoes for the every day things i must do in shoes.

  162. Mine and my daughter’s feet are pretty identical to your ‘barefooted peoples’ pictures up there. Clarks (who specialise in wide fitting school shoes) don’t manufacture shoes wide enough for my daughter so she has to wear shoes that are too long in order to get the width and I have long since given up on that weird thing that other women do with their friends – shoe shopping!
    Oddly enough I looked at all the vibram/barefoot stuff and thought – nah, not wide enough!
    Still, at least our feet are in good nick – even if they’re ugly, wedge shaped and generally crammed into something your gran would reject.

    1. Been running in the Vibram Fivefingers for a year now. I pretty much do everything in them. Ran a marathon, Triathlon, and were them when I’m not being a college endurance athlete as well….like to class. I’ve even ran through January and February with them in the Blizzards of Upper Peninsula Michigan and my hometown of Indiana. I’ve had flat feet as long as I could remember and also really wide feet too. What this guys article says may not make a whole lot of sense to you at first, but take it from a guy who’s made the transition. This ideology works!

  163. I have the feet neuropathy for several years. I have also flat feet. Is it possible, that the neuropathy was caused by the flat feet?

  164. I am 70. I have flat feet but also the polyneuropathy of the feet. Are the flat feet connected to the feet polyneuropathy?

  165. my feet are sore everyday and flat feet are the cause and feel swollen inside and i wear a work boot everyday with heavy lifting involved and im 43 yrs old and i actually cant quit my job to pursue a easier job to play in the sand and what not ,just would like relief from this pain and gel soles dont work ,supports are garbage and hurt my feet worse…HELP!!!!!!

  166. I’m completely flat footed, I have no arch what so ever! I’m 21 now and I was born club footed. I can’t point my toes, I can’t tip toe, and of course that means I can never wear heels… My feet constantly affect my back and neck, and I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t tip toe… Is there anyway I’d ever be able to have arch my feet and look good in a decent pair of heels?

  167. I thought my flat feet were forever. I was in horrible pain if I had to walk in shoes without orthotics. Never went barefoot because it hurt too much.

    I saw a physical therapist for an ankle I’d sprained many times. He figured out that I had certain hip and leg muscles which were very weak and a poor gait that had my feet turning inward as I walked. The tiny bones in my feet were basically locked into a bad position from 30+ years of this, and I also had extremely tight soleus muscles which meant I couldn’t dorsiflex, further screwing up my gait.

    He gave me a battery of exercises and stretches. About 6 months of doing them faithfully and I started developing arches. It’s two years later now and I can work out in bare feet and can wear any shoes I choose. Foot pain is in the past. I haven’t sprained my ankle again either, although I hike a lot (and I used to sprain it once a year at least).

    See a good PT. They work magic!

  168. i have high arches and i realized that i am barefoot a lot everyday. i noticed that my feet r stronger and takes a lot to hurt my feet. i could walk all day and they wouldnt hurt. if i ware shoes they r most of the time flat and r flip flops.

  169. I wholeheartedly support this approach.
    As a kid I had flat feet. My mom first went through the conventional channels and had me wear terrible orthopedic shoes. Then she decided to ditch all that and make me walk barefoot. I grew up on a Mediterranean island with plenty of rocks and pebble stone beaches. My mom’s intuition and the environment did the trick! I no longer have flat feet and to this day I prefer walking barefoot 🙂

    On a sidenote, when I lived in Taiwan I remember these footpaths set up in parks which had large pebble stones stuck in concrete that you could walk on with bare feet to massage them.

  170. I have an 11 year old daughter who was born with flat feet – it was obvious from the beginning. I had no idea it was a problem. She always goes barefoot and very rarely wears shoes but now she is having lots of ankle problems. doctor says her tendons in her ankles are distorted from the flat feet. He recommended never going barefoot as she needs the arch support. Barefoot didn’t seem to work for her – any suggestions

  171. I sure hope this works! I’m a 29 year old who is pretty much in agony each day from foot pronation, now I have terrible knee and hip pain. It’s gotten so bad by the end of each day I wonder how much longer I will be able to walk and it depresses the hell out of me.

    Basically had no problems until 18months ago when I started training for a half marathon. After getting fitted for some snazzy running shoes I was told I had the worst foot pronation they had ever seen and I’d better get myself to a podiatrist. At the same time I was having to ice my knees they were beginning to hurt with each run I went on. First came the physio who sent me to the first podiatrist to fit me for orthodics, then I developed intense hip pain so off I went to a chiropractor who told me to ditch the over-supportive orthodics and go for some softer arch supports. These didn’t feel like the provided nearly enough support so as a last effort I found the very best Sports podiatrist in perth who fitted me for… Yet more hard orthodics.

    So now in more pain than ever, with more health complaints than I started with, I have nothing to lose by trying bare foot. Funny when I look back over the last excruciatingly painful few months, the most relief I found was during summer when I wore the least support.

    Who knows, perhaps for even the worst foot-pronator around, there might be hope yet…

    I think it was a blessing to find this post.

  172. Brian, it’s interesting that you think running barefoot makes no sense. For me, it makes perfect sense.

    When I was in High School track & field in the late 80s, our sprint coach was a recent transplant from Europe (can’t remember exactly where) who introduced us to interval training and running barefoot on the beach. She used to drive us down to the beach and we’d do a ~5 mile warm up run on the sand (barefoot), mostly in the not-super-deep-sand that is just beyond the hard pack sand along the water, and then do our sprint drills in the deepest sand we could find.

    At first we thought she was a little “out there” for having us train this way, but it sure felt good. My arches had already fallen by that point – probably from basketball, where I also sprained my ankles several times and played with a sprained ankle a bunch. My feet loved running on the sand!

    Then in 2000, my chiropractor did give me orthotics to help with the pain in my feet – I could only stand for about 5 minutes before they’d start to cramp – but he also gave me exercises to strengthen my feet. He explained how the foot is supposed to work and how we should be able to basically walk all day without pain. What a foreign concept to me!

    One was putting a bunch of marbles on the floor in front of my chair and using my toes to pick up and move the pile of marbles, one by one, from one side of my chair to the other and back again. He also had me massage the soles of my feet by rolling them around on a golf ball placed on the ground in front me while I sat in a chair.

    He said the best thing I could do to re-strengthen my feet was walk barefoot on sand as much as possible. At this point, I lived an hour from the beach, so I never did it. And I only half-heartedly did the marble exercises. The other piece of advice my chiro gave me was to wear Earth Shoes because they’d put my foot in a position similar to walking on sand, with the heel a little lower than the rest of the foot. I pretty much ignored that advice because I thought the shoes were ugly. And I didn’t even wear heels or other “cute”, “girly” (narrow) shoes – I couldn’t, my feet would cramp and my toes are too wide from a childhood spent mostly barefoot.

    The orthotics allowed me to be able to stand / walk for about 20 minutes before the cramping started, and that was a huge improvement, so I just accepted my fate that I would always need the inserts.

    Then 5 years ago, I got a job where I would need to be on my feet A LOT – more than I would actually be sitting at a desk. After having a small panic attack because even with orthotics I could only stand for about 20 minutes, I decided to give Earth Shoes a try. http://www.kalsoearthshoes.com

    No more orthotics with the Earth Shoes!!! And I could be on my feet all day (in the shoes) with minimal pain. That’s what most of my shoes are now, even my snow boots. My favorite pair is the Kaslo Lite Lazer, which is not part of their current “collection”. It seems to be similar to the Nike FREE.

    In December, I did the Insanity workout program and my feet felt so much better barefoot than in my Nike asphalt running shoes, my Brooks trail running shoes, or even my Lazers. I know, I know, the video says to use a cross training shoes, not a running shoe, but seriously – I did not want to buy ANOTHER specialized athletic shoe. Sorry. With all the jumping around, it seemed like I had better stability barefoot. I read Four Hour Workweek a couple months ago, and read about Vibram Five Fingers and Terra shoes on the accompanying blog. Reading about those led me to read more about barefoot running. This site was very informative for me: http://trainingclinic.vivobarefoot.com/step-by-step

    Since reading the info and watching the videos on the Vivo Barefoot site, I’ve started to wear my thin sole foldable ballet flats more and more. And my feet are hurting less and less. Huh. As much as I love my Earth Shoes, I guess they are still a crutch for my weak feet. Going forward, I’ll be looking for minimalist shoes, and maybe even give the VFF a try – much to the chagrin of my high-heel-loving “super girly” best friend, I’m sure. She already hates all of my shoes because they’re not cute enough. And she thinks it’s weird that I can’t walk in stilettos. Oh well. Too bad for her. 🙂

  173. I have flat feet. When I was younger, my mom told me that I had weak ankles – it took some doing to convince her to buy me roller skates. I guess what I really had was flat feet. I have always had leg probs & couldn’t walk far or stand in my kitchen to cook or bake for long periods of time. I got some orthotics years ago & it’s helped me tremendously – no leg pain anymore. I suppose, having flat feet is permanent for me. I can no longer go barefoot for long – I always wear shoes w/orthotics. I can’t help but wonder if I did any of these exercises, it would’ve prevented my feet problems?

  174. I definitely agree that these supports weakened my feet starting at age 9 when I tore tendons in my feet from gymnastics. After the tendons healed, it was straight to cushy shoes with supports. Thank God I live in Hawaii and wasn’t in full on shoes. Still spent lots of barefoot time.

    It wasn’t until Yoga became an everyday facet of my life that my feet got strong. Balancing postures were and still are the most difficult for me, but I know how strong they make my feet. When my practice slipped and I waited tables in shoes on uneven surfaces, I sprained my ankles for the first time in 5 or so years. They still haven’t recovered from the sprains and it’s been a year. I’m stuck in a rut! What do I do?

    My feet hurt walking barefoot due to the injury, but I want them to be stronger. I’m comfortable barefoot on absorbing surfaces- the yard, sand, etc. But hard floors! Forget it! I do think we were made to be barefoot- but on soil, not on asphalt or concrete, or even wood. So in my tiled-floored house where I wear houseslippers, or suffer from severe pain, how do I heal?

  175. I am 20yrs of age with flat feets which i inherited.they make my knees n legs look weak when i walk or stand.My knee caps are so loss and the ankle on ma right foot moves in n out at times and causes reumatic pains sometimes when the weather is cold.to make it worse, my legs are tinny.i still have hope that something can be done about it but i dont know how.

  176. Im 14 years old and I think have flat feet but I rarely go to a doctor because I always have absolutely perfect health (Haven’t been sick in 10 years!) And my parents arw to cheap to take me to a doctor unless im sick.
    Any ways ive always been teased for my large feet ny my family (even my own parents end up mentioning it like every other day and laughing and teasing) for having big feet. I think I have low arches because my feet are very wide.when I must wear shoes I always wear converse but Ive almost ALWAYS walked around barefoot and my feet can handle almost anything from running up asphalt roads barefoot to jumping and running on rocks and gravel. But my feet are still so wide? I hate it I can never fit into high
    Heels like every one else and cute open toed shoes are a no for me becaused im so ashamed of my feet. Lately ive been trying exercises and I think maybe it might be working but I have no idea how to track it.. Please help me il do anything!

    1. Please don’t be embarrased by your feet! For one thing you are probably not done growing–my feet seemed huge when I was 13-14 yrs old but I grew more and then they fit the rest of my body! And high heels are not healthy for anyone! Go barefoot as much as you can and find some cute shoes for dress that you like and are comfy and don’t worry about what others think. I think that most people don’t notice others feet unless they are wearing something that attracts attention(like super high heels) or they are not well groomed (like long dirty toenails)

  177. I am 17 and my flat feet have been just starting to be a problem. i have them through genetics. reading this article, i was doing some of the excerszes and already feel the muscles in my feet working.
    thanks 🙂

  178. Has anyone had experience with cartilage removed from their knee through arthroscopic surgery? I had this happen to my left knee a long time ago, 10 years maybe- I’ve always had knee problems.. So I tried the orthotics, they helped but now I cant go without them or my knee will kill. I cant ever run more then a couple miles too often before it would swell up. I’ve been looking up barefoot alot lately and want to go for it. Has anyone any experience with this type of knee problem and then going barefoot?

    1. Not the same but I have a large prominence of Osgood-Schlatters on my left knee (bone growth that I got as a teen but had remained a problem all the way till I started wearing the five fingers). My left knee always bothers me from either being on my feet all day or after a run but not since I switched to the Five Fingers or if I barefoot run. Relative to your problem, all I have to say is take it very gradually. It will be worth it. I know people personally with either Plantar Fasciatitis or other foot problems and they got better after wearing Five Fingers more freequently. Before going barefoot, start with the Vibram Five Fingers, build up some foot strength, before going barefoot.

      1. Thanks for the advice. I did have a problem with Osgood Shlatter myself when I was younger, between that and skateboarding my cartilage just tore, I’d say thats what caused the surgery in the first place. I got my five fingers ordered so I’m really looking forward to see how this goes. Thanks again.

  179. Hi, I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been trying to find an answer that will realy help me with flat feet.

  180. Mark

    I normally wear Keen sandals because they have arch support. Without arch support my feet ache terribly. I went walking for two days in a row on the sand, barefoot. My right foot in particular was quite sore; sore enough that I no longer wanted to walk on it. I put sneakers on with inserts and could now feel the insert on the right foot now supporting my arch, where previously I could not feel it. I walked gently on only the outside edge of that foot as it was way too sore to put down normally. The funny thing was that several hours later the foot did not hurt quite as much. Today several days later, I can walk on on it even though it is still sore, but I still feel the arch support on the right foot. What do you think went on?

  181. I have always believed in barefeet and allowing the foot to develop naturally and keep functionally the way they were intended. I never put shoes on my children until they had to use them when they had to go some place that they needed them. We homeschool, so they spent most of their time barefoot. Along came my youngest who, even today at 13 will rip off his shoes and socks immediately as soon as he can. He is the one who developed a lot of foot pain this year and I took him to a podiatrist on suggestion from my chiropractor and found out he was flat footed. How did this happen? We so much want to help him. Telling him to wear inserts was like giving him a jail sentence. He wore those shoes for the time they said it would take to stop the transitional soreness in his feet, did not work. His feet hurt using them. So, he’s back to barefoot. I guess it looks like it’s genetic for him, but can’t this still be solved some how? He wants to be able to run around without pain! We’ve been having him do these exercises ever since his problem was diagnosed about 6 months ago.

  182. Dear Mark & other readers, I need an advice on website / shoes brand recommended for office (executive environment) for ladies. I read that one of readers had posted the same case. Unfortunately, there was no picture on shoes or info on the professional place to “make” the proper office shoes for flat feet. Thanks in advance for all of your advices and really look forward for those advices

  183. Can people who have had postive experiences helping their flat feet please email me and let me know if you are welling to help me.

    I find it hard to communicate thru the blog
    thank!
    lgopin@hotmail.com

  184. Is there any way to fix flat feet if they are genetic. you kept stating in the artical that its a small ammount of people but i am included in that. As far back as I 100% know. Me, One of my brothers, my mom, and her dad all have had flat feet all out lives. I actually hate wearing shoes and I never wear them at home. Because of my flat feet, i have the knees of a fifty year old man, and im only 18. So my real question is. Is there anything i can do to save my feet, ankles, knees, and rest of my body?

    1. I also do want to say. my feet actually have a muscullar bulge on the side which i think my feet have developed to help balance. And another note. The only shoes i’ve worn since i was in middle school are archless skate shoes, and wrestling shoes ( which is like a sock with a sole) accept when i played football. But even my cleats got flattened out when i wore them.

  185. i need some help…what i can do 4 my foot
    i mean what i must 2 do??

  186. my arches fell after an auto accident but worse than that I have no fat on me feet so when I walk, I am walking on bone. If I don’t wear orthotics, the bone causes breaks in the skin. What’s your answer for that?

  187. Dear Mark,
    I am 42 years old. I have had foot pain since I got my first job at 16. I started running when I was 14. My dad was always big on buying me shoes with good arch supports. When I was 21, I really started increasing my running distance. I would always have pain on the inside of my ankles. When I was 23, I had an achilles tendon injury, and had to quit running. At 25, the doctor prescribed orthotics because my feet were always hurting. They were in shoes 99% of the time, and when I would first wake up, it was hard to walk. The orthotics have been great, except I still can’t run, and I feel like I have the weakest feet ever. I have followed the doctors advice for 16 years, and never go barefoot. For the past three years, though, I have been wearing Crocs to walk around the house, which is the closest to barefoot I’ve been since I was a kid. Now, I’m trying to be brave and go barefoot, but my feet hurt. How slow should I take this, exactly? I don’t want to injure myself trying to do this. But, I’m so envious of my friends who can walk around barefoot all the time, while I’ve been stuck in my shoes for decades. 🙁

  188. The article mentions such thngs as –

    “Next, spend as much time as humanly possible with your bare feet”

    “You can certainly strengthen your feet simply by removing your shoes and going barefoot as often as possible”

    “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”

    I came here looking for a solution to my flat feet – and basically for past 5years I never wear shoes in the house, and when i go out i wear flat pumps that have no support in them and are very spaceious. My feet are still flat and hurt to walk on after a couple of hours, so this solution is useless :p

  189. I have had flat feet for as long as I can remember and my dad has flat feet too. I go barefoot at home (in the winter I wear slippers because the floor is very cold) and whenever I go to the beach. I take ballet and when I wear my shoes, it feels like I am barefoot. None of this has ever helped me. My feet are very wide and the bone below my toe is wider than normal.

    I tried wearing shoes that were un supported for a while because they were comfortable. But it only got worse. When I switched, my feet got better immediatly.

    I’m not saying your article is bad, but there are many exceptions to your article.

  190. You need to strengthen your arch from rehab exercises, the muscles have atrophied to the point where your weight is too much to activate these muscles. Start out with slant boards, standing and balancing on the balls of your feet at all angels, leaning over your foot. This site is amazing, unfortunately, we learn incorrect things growing up, and receive incorrect advise from people as adults.

  191. I have to say I never thought much about shoes and feet. My ankles rolled around a bit and my parents got me to wear orthotics briefly as a kid but I hated them so never stuck with that – I preferred to go barefoot or wear flat sandals most of the time – I have very wide feet and have always found shoes hot and uncomfortable. I only wear high heels on special occasions and I kick my shoes off at work and go barefoot if I can get away with it.

    I never had any problems until I had a baby. Following the birth I had excruciating pain in my feet every morning from when I got up until I’d taken about 30 steps. I didn’t know what the problem was until I took my baby to a physio when she was about 7mo because she had borderline hypermobility (she would literally sit with her legs forming an 180 degree angle all the time). The physio noticed that I was hypermobile in some joints too (which I hadn’t really noticed in my new baby tired haze – I just thought I was weaker, particularly getting up and down off the floor) and said this was likely continued production of the hormone that relaxes the ligaments for birth. My baby was getting it through the breastmilk and it was contributing to her hypermobility. She suggested I wear Birkenstocks, which I was not particularly keen about but which I gave a go. Within a few days, the excruciating pain in my feet completely disappeared. I really did need the arch support despite never having needed it before and never wearing shoes with arch support before that – between the ligaments and the extra 20kg or so of baby and leftover baby weight I was carrying around, my muscles could not cope. I have gradually introduced more barefoot time as she has moved onto more solid food and the hormone goes from my system – but when my feet start to hurt I pop on the birkenstocks and it really gives them a break.

    Have you considered how pregnancy and breastfeeding affects your ability to go bare-footed? Your examples in this article focus on men and don’t consider the impact of gender.

    Also, I live in a house that is all tiled, and I notice my feet get much more achy than on other, softer surfaces. They almost feel bruised after standing barefoot on it for a few hours. This is different from the collapsing arch pain. Walking around on tiles today isn’t exactly what we evolved to do either. I would always pop on a pair of cheap thongs and walk in those which cushioned the tiles a bit.

  192. I am 47 years old. I have always had bad feet. My feet were flat and I have bunions. I also weigh over 200 pounds. I decided to quit wearing shoes and I have been wearing thin sandals or I go barefoot. My first week I had a lot of pain but it got better. My bunion is smaller, my toes are separating and my arches, which were non existent are improving. It is simply a miracle. I have started walking barefoot with a few minutes of running. I will say that age and size do not matter. When I had to stand or walk for long periods, I would have to take 800 mgs. of a pain reliever but now I can stand or walk for long periods without any pain medicine. I am so grateful. I have lost 5 lbs. so far. I need to loose about 80 more lbs. I can not fit in the 5 fingers so I got the Merrell pace gloves for cooler weather. God Bless. Carla Beaver.

  193. My feet look like the first one! Maybe that’s why i can’t find shoes that fit :<

  194. Nice site to have ‘stumbled’ upon Mark. Thanks to you and all the people here for posting. For three years roughly, been wearing the Vivo Barefoot ‘Aqua’ and ‘Old Street’ (a high top version of the aqua more or less) and they are the next best thing to walking/running barefoot, and when you are in an office/corporate environment. They wear very well, and have held up to all sorts of punishment, just keep the silicone spray handy to protect them from wet weather. Orthotics, you name it, did not help my back pain or flat feet and aching calves, so researched,and found LESS is MORE! My calves are much larger, toes definitely are more spread out now, feet wider, and arches have improved slightly due to walking much more on the balls of my feet. Whenever I can, including driving, it is barefoot. ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall really helped to encourage. The Vivo’s and barefoot running techniques can be seen on my Youtube channel spikedpunk.

  195. Hi, I’m am 12 years Of age and ever since I started walking I have been walking on my toes. I have shortened my muscle in my calf to the point where it hurts to walk flat footed. I have tried using an ankle brace.. But nothing seems to help. I have also tried flexing my foot inward and outward for about a half an hour a day. However , that didn’t work either. I would really love to walk flat footed before I’m 15. And if you could give me any advice, I’d be so grateful. If you could email me, that would be even better.
    Here’s my email: renae.cameron@gmail.com
    Thank you so much! -renae

  196. My oldest two children are flatfooted. I get why my second is. He has hypotoniHa and so low muscle tone all over. However with my oldest I’m baffled. He’s spent most of his 11 yrs barefoot. He pretty much only wears shoes to leave house and is homeschooled so has always spent the majority of his waking hours barefoot. He also has really strong muscle tone, not week or loose at all. But gosh he’s got AWFUL flat feet. And I don’t know of anyone he could have inherited it from. My husband and I don’t have flat feet.

  197. So what’s so wrong about his having flat feet if they are not a problem to him?

  198. I’m losing my arcs and its effecting my knees, the lose of my left arc contributed to me tendonitis. I am freerunner and i dont want to mess my knees up anymore as well as my feet. I have a pair of vibrams five fingers (toe shoes) which were told to me the could of cause the arc loss. I dont believe thats true because i was losing my left arc before my right stared. I want to solve this quick because the feet are the foundation+to the body. What should i do?

  199. I’m a dancer, I dance barefoot every day, I have very strong feet from Pointe and yet I have no arches what so ever, it’s difficult because it is affecting my dancing. Am I beyond help?

    1. I’m no doctor, but in my opinion I don’t think having no arches is anything to be worried about. I have no arches, either, but going barefoot has been the best for me, although my feet are a bit overly flexible. I just make nescessary compensations for what intrinsic limitations my feet might have and I am not one to seek orthotics ever. I love my flat feet just as they are and perhaps your thinking you are beyond help might be premature. Maybe you should rethink your position on this matter.

  200. Sadly, that kind of dancing is probably not so great for your feet. I just saw an awesome concert last night featuring Bolokada Conde (look him up on Youtube) a master African drummer. The local Jenbe ensemble opened for him and they were amazing also. The traditional African dancers and drummers were all barefoot. I am taking a belly dance class and it is also all done barefoot. I feel my feet getting stronger along with my abs and hips as I dance. I highly recomend traditional dance for great exercise!

  201. Now, you said that hereditary flat feet is not nearly as common, but I think have inherited my flat feet because my granddad was flatfooted. Now, I know that’s not exactly rock-solid evidence, but my parents have also told me that I have ALWAYS been flat footed. Now, with that in mind, how can you explain the fact that one of my feet is, in fact, flatter than the other? Yes, it’s true. Just look at my footprints in the sand and you will easily be able to tell the difference. How can that be explained?

    1. No one else seems to want to step up to the plate, so I will. Feet are not the same even on the same individual. Really!

  202. If any one is doing a lot of toe running and on the toes exercises make sure your stretching your calf gastroc and soleus (calf muscles) at least 3 times twice a day. The increase in the strength of the plantar flexors can cause a muscle imbalance leading to decreased dorsiflexion range of motion and strength of the dorsiflexors.

  203. All I can do is share my experience. A year after I gave birth to my 6th child, I was ready to begin seriously exercising again. I was warming up and bent in half to stretch resting my hands on the floor. I went to tuck my fingers under the arches of my feet only to discover there were no arches! I hadn’t had pain or issues with my feet, but had completely lost my arches at some point.

    I was researching running shoes because a friend of mine told me how important it was to get good cushion and support when I stumbled upon barefoot running. I read on this site about Vibram Five Fingers and proceeded to read every other site I could find with barefoot information.

    I decided Vibrams were about the same price as the New Balance I normally wore and figured I’d experiment and get the Vibram Sprint. Within 6 months of using them every day, my arches returned. Not as high as they used to be, but they seem healthy and I have not had the chronic twisting of ankles I used to endure. It took me two years to wear out the soles of my Vibrams (not so much running, mostly walking, hiking or normal everyday use (store, zoo, etc.))

    I did have some problems with my Achilles tendon for awhile (it felt way too tight), but I backed off how often I walked long distances in my Vibrams. I also branched out and got some Vivo Barefoot shoes to wear giving my Vibrams time to breathe. Have not had any problems since.

    Bottom line, it was the best decision I ever made for my feet.

  204. Hi all,

    I was “diagnosed” with flat feet and my doctor told me I could never run and suggested insoles to support my flat feet.

    This was at age 10 (1984).

    This year (after training barefoot and with minimalistic shoes) for 2,5 years I completed one of the worlds toughest 1 day competitions, finishing in 13 hours and 50 minutes.

    The course was 10K swimming and 56K off road running.

    Two things about running (IMO):
    1. weight is your enemy, if you are overweight your body will be more stressed.
    2. you need to exercise you muscles (weight training), running in good form requires strong muscles

    Keep running,

    Jonas

  205. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  206. I think that is one of the such a lot vital information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna statement on few general issues, The web site style is great, the articles is in reality nice : D. Good job, cheers

  207. i was born with flat feet, few ppl n my family have them as well, mine r very very pronounced tho i guess u can say they. and my heels are crooked about 75*s off where they should b. doctors say its because my tendons r too tight its pulling them of center and i cant lift my food up all that far. they’ve given me inserts before, as well as custom ones casted from my feet. stretches nothing has worked for me n im not sure wat to do, just standing alone on my feet for more than 5 minutes causes me severe pain. i would love to b able to work and come home and still be able to walk around my house. it imobleizes me after a 6 to 8 hour shift of being on my feet all day. a dream would b able to wear shoes that arnt flats that can stretch and to b able to walk on the beach without ppl looking at the foot prints left behind weird cuz it appears i have two very flat right feet. email me if u have any suggestions.

  208. i should sent u a photo of my foot prints :p there very interesting

  209. A very informative piece, thank you. I just have one question: My Dad drummed it into me from an early age that you should stand with your toes pointing outward, and the further out the better. Do you know if this is true? I now have bunions, slight flat foot and often pain or discomfort in my knees. Although it now feels weird for me to point my toes forward, I know I can retrain myself to stand and walk like that if it is contributing to my problems.

  210. Well, no one seems to want to step up to the plate so I will, as an avid reader/participant to this forum. Feet are not alike even on the same individual, so put your mind to rest about having feet not the same, flat, arched, or anything in between. Really!

    1. Sorry to hear about your intense pain issues. My flat feet are totally pain free and in fact I love them. I’ve even posted one of them on YouTube under “I Love My Flat Feet.” Check it out as to how to have fun with flat feet.

  211. Hey, i have no arches, i cant honestly say that i know when i had them… from birth or it happened, but i am also a ballet dancer, i have been for over 5 years now, i do a lot of pointe work and in flat shoes, a lot of the time im on my toes, no pun intended or im in demi pointe, occasionally we do it without our shoes and im told constantly about my flat feet. Because im a ballet dancer i should have all the strength in my feet and reading what i have read to fix it, is a load of BS, i do this more times a day then what is said to do it. I still have no arches, even tho my feet get stretched everyday.

  212. Do as I do as I also have no arches and NEVER had them. Love your flat feet and be thankful you don’t have high arches which could “kill” your feet with that kind of rigidity.

  213. Any information on the emotional and mental impact of going barefoot? I’m just thinking of all the pressure points that e.g. foot reflexology practitioners claim are in our feet? And having started running and working out in Vibrams a few months ago, I can see that there could be a connection there?

    Thanks in advance and thanks all for the great conversations!

  214. I have one foot 1/2 a size bigger than the other. How can I correct that? what should I do? it it even possible to correct

    1. Apparently you don’t read the posts. I stated quite clearly that feet are different even on the same individual. Read next time!

  215. It is perfect time to make a few plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy. I have learn this publish and if I may I wish to suggest you some attention-grabbing things or advice. Maybe you can write subsequent articles regarding this article. I want to read more things approximately it!

  216. I must state that I am NOT trying to stuff this forum with a multitude of my comments/replies, but it seems that Mr. Sisson has not been paying much attention to this forum as he’s apparently quite busy, as is his esteemed colleague, Dr. Nirenberg. I just try to help where I can within my scope of expertise in foot biomechanics/structure. Please accept my apologies if I appear as some kind of “busy-body” in affairs of flat feet, and feet in general.

  217. Hey mark,
    You no when you get out the bath and you can see all your feet apart from the arches, that’s a high arch isn’t it? Or normal? When I walk your ment to go on your heel, to your toes etc but I don’t seem to be doing it so much on the left foot is it serous?

  218. Hey mark,
    You no when you get out the bath and you can see all your feet apart from the arches, that’s a high arch isn’t it? Or normal? When I walk your ment to go on your heel, to your toes etc but I don’t seem to be doing it so much on the left foot is it serous? Could you inbox me back instead thanks

  219. HI I HAVE FLAT FEET AS WELL I HAVE WORN TRAINNERS WITH SUPPORT IN ITS DOING SOME GOOD NOT A LOT GOOD EVERYDAY I WEAR SHOES AND SOCKS FOR WORK GYM THEN IAM IN MY BAREFEET ALWAYS AT HOME ON HOILDAYS ON THE SAND, WATER, AND ON TOP ON THE GRASS I LOVE AND ENJOY BEING IN MY BAREFEET ITS SO GREAT TO FREE MY BAREFEET OUT IAM VERY VERY EXCERLLY TICKLISH ON MY NECK SIDES ARMPITS TUMMY BACK ON MY KNESS LEGS AND TOPS AND BOTTOMS OF MY FEET I LOVE AND ENJOY BEING TICKLED TO DEATH IAM SO LOUD I LOVE BEING TICKLED IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY ITS SO MUCH FUN I LOVE BEING TICKLED WITH A FOOTSCRUBBER AND NAIL BRUSH I LAUGH AND SCREAM THE PLACE DOWN.

  220. This is an excellent article, Mark. I have no doubt in my mind that a pair of orthotic shoe inserts that were prescribed to me by a “Chiropractor”, about 10 years ago,(I was 59 years old at the time and had worked in my career for almost 40 years, never having any foot problems.) caused my disability. I visited the chiro for a lower back problem. The orthotics altered my walking gait and my foot structure. These inserts were called “footlevelers”, and were supposed to be good for the pelvis and spine. After only 6 weeks of wearing them, I could not longer walk normally, and have continued on this path for 10 years. Both of my hips are inwardly rotated in the same direction (right), I have pinched nerves in my lower lumbar spine, one hip joint is “backwards”, and I have developed idiopathic scoliosis. My knees are also pronated like knock knees. When I first was examined by a phisotherapist, I was explaining to him that I felt the shoes had caused the problem, but he would have no part of my explanation. My knees became pronated early on, and now my ankles are getting so stiff, both feet turn outward from the horrible flat foot problems I have. About the only thing any doctor will say is “Well, I’ve never seen anything like this”, but not one of them has any suggestion or expertise to help the situation. I have walked bare foot most of the last ten years while inside my home, and being disabled I don’t live a normal life anymore. No matter what shoes I try to wear they do not fit. And I’m not going to ever try orthotics again, because I truly believe the ones that were prescribed to me altered my foot bones, caused all of the problems I described above, and totally ruined my life.

  221. Hi Mark! I came across your article because I was wondering what could of caused my flat feet, and also “high heels” was probably in your tags or something because it caught my eye, I thought it would of been something like “high heels for flat feet” MIRACLE SHOE, may I say? Anywho, I’ve always remembered not being able to wear any decent pair of shoes because they hurt too much at the end of the day. Even “flats” or “ballerina shoes” are hated by my flat feet about mid-day. I have bunions and I’m only 18.. is this normal? Could this be caused by genetics? (grandmother has really bad bunions) I’ve wanted surgery but they’ve told me no because I’m too young (odd). So I’m guessing I will have to suffer to look good haha:)

  222. Hello Adam, Thank you for your interesting and very doable and fun tips. My 15 yr old son got back from school (in a cold country) for Xmas holidays, and we noticed his very flat feet. Reading on the topic on this website, I started the foot exercises together w him. We will walk at the beach (living in Micronesia since 1/2 yr), and I will now not wonder why locals love to go barefoot. They might have much healthier feet than we do. I have a fantastic physio therapist on the island, and will take my son there during his 4 week holiday. This said physio therapist has been working on my back for 3 mos now, and it is helping. I have over flexed hip since childhood and I am finally at 50 sorting it out w proper physio, rather than w chiro.
    I want long term solutions, to address the problem.
    I look forward to seeing if the exercises, barefoot life and physio will work on his feet. And whether he can forgo insoles. All doctors would suggest those immediately. Many thanks for your insightful website! Adele

    1. Adele: Accoring to Steindler’s KINESIOLOGY, foot exercises ARE USELESS for restoring the arch structure of the feet. Any “physio” telling you otherwise is having “smoke blown up your …” and would be wasting your money. Going barefoot, otherwise, would help strengthen your son’s flat feet even if they remain flat, which is the gist of this forum.

  223. Dear Mark,

    i am 12 years old and i have flat feet to the max and i was hoping if you can advise me with some exercises can you ? well if you can please send me back an Email.
    Thank you,
    -Mark

    1. Dear Mark Noun: Please read the post just before your’s. Exercises might help strengthen your flat feet, but they may well remain flat, although you’re 12 y.o. and your feet are still developing. They may spontaneously develop with arches or may not. If not, just learn to appreciate them as they are as I have with MY flat feet. Take care.

  224. For those interested, Dr. Harry F. Hlavac’s influential book, “THE FOOT BOOK: Advice For Athletes,” is available at extraordinary low prices at AMAZON.com and it fully explains the nature of the “normal flat foot” and how no “corrective” measures need to be taken. I have ordered a replacement copy so I can cite from it chapter and verse. Check it out from an expert DPM.

  225. Hello,

    I had flat feet with big toes bending in almost 30 degrees (and bunions with pain) plus others toes crammed close together. I saw a physio who said I can get you out of those orthotics (which in hind site were the worse thing for me as they just made everything worse as they made my feet even weaker). I did the five exercises over 1 year and my feet came alive. I could hold my arch properly my big toes now point forward with a large gap and the other toes I can fan out. All the pain has gone away – I walked bare foot around the house. Then I started walking with vibrams shoes (five fingers) out doors and my feet muscles were so sore for 6 months. It was good sore muscles (like lifting weights). I would get out of bed and stand on my feet and outch – but I persist and now I can run with vibrums. All the pain and gone a way and I can run faster. I was so happy that my feet were better as it was affecting the way I walked. Super happy as I have recommended it to other people who have begun the exercise and have started to see success. There is no doubt that flat feet can be corrected as I am living proof. I think not all flat feet can be corrected this way but please try as it was enlightening for me. Our life in shoes is largely to blame!

  226. i have had flat feet for a long time now and i have seen doctors e.t.c. and all they have said is that i have fallen arches. i get really bad pain all the time up and down both legs and sometimes i find it hard to walk. i was also given orthotics for my shoes but i found that they cause a fair amount of discomfort and they also didn’t make any improvement. i have read this site and i have tried all the different things to make them better but i’m still getting pain. please tell me what else i can do.

  227. Harriet: As an avid reader/participant to this forum, I don’t know if Mr. Sisson takes much time with THIS one as he apparently is very busy with other health issues, but I can offer this bit of information: According to STEINDLER’S Kinesiolgy, my “physio bible,” rotation of the legs OUTWARD raises the arches; conversely, INWARD rotation lowers them. Try working with your legs instead of focusing on mechanical support for the arches with orthotics. Also, the muscles of the feet only work the TOES. Arches are maintained with ligaments and once stretched out or even torn, there is little short of surgical repair to them to try to restore the arch structures. This is from that book and if you can ever obtain a copy of it, you’ll have a body of knowledge that any ORTHOPEDIST would desire to have in his/her reference library.

  228. For those interested, Arthur Steindler’s “KINESIOLOGY of the HUMAN BODY UNDER NORMAL and PATHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS” is available through Amazon.com with prices starting at $193.35. I practically “worship” this extremely enlightening book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone desiring to enhance their knowledge of the body in motion in all situations. It also dispels the B.S. that a lot of you hear/read from a good many sources.

  229. Hi Mark –

    I’m a big fan of going barefoot and had worn shoes as little as possible for most of my life. However, I began to have hip and back pain in my late 40s. My chiropractor/kinesiologist told me one of my arches has fallen causing misalignment of my body. His advice unless I’m on sand I need to wear arch support … either an insert or shoes like those made by Orthaheel.

    I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding his advice. If you disagree is there any scientific data you can point me to that supports going barefoot? I respect my doctor and want to have an intelligent conversation with him about the two different options.

    Many thanks,
    Teresa

  230. The best way to treat flat feet is to walk
    on sand and rub your feet’s fingers together. This will work as your missing bone in you feet.

    1. This is total nonsense. What medical reference can you cite from that states there’s a “missing bone?” I guess some people’s ignorance of foot anatomy, even a basic understanding, is MOST profound. I’m not trying to be insulting, but THIS answer has got to be the most egregiously ignorant one I have ever come upon. Really, a MISSING bone?

  231. There’s one question on my mind: If I was born ‘flat-footed’ or whatever you call it, is there a cure to come back to normal feet?
    I really hope there is 🙂
    thanx a lot, I hope someone would help me, will be waiting *

    1. Apparently, you have not done ANY reading of the posts on this site. Why don’t you have a look at them and arrive at your own conclusions. As for being born with flat feet and wonder if they can be cured, what’s the reason for a “cure” unless they cause painful symptoms? I was born with a condition that has my feet completely flat and I enjoy them greatly. I wouldn’t trade my flat feet for arched ones ever. I love them just the way they are! THINK!!!

  232. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really recognise what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my web site =). We will have a link trade contract between us

  233. My feet are soooo useless. They are straight out flat and the worst thing is that i’ve has them since birth. Skinny Long Flat Feet! I think I agree with Brian in saying that shoes is the cause of this.

    1. Shoes ARE the problem, not the solution. That’s the purpose of this forum is to expose the myth that shoes, special or otherwise, CORRECT foot problems. Shoes deform and disable feet and barefoot is best.

  234. Wow, Mark, amazing, eye-opening post! So much useful information. I wish I could just dish my shoes forever. I am determined though to get rid of my flat arches and your post gave me the right confidence! I gave birth 5 months ago and I carry my 19-pound baby a lot! Lately, when I get up in the morning, my feet really hurt and it’s hard to walk for the forst 20 minutes. Flat arches also affect my knees and lower back I think, so it’s hard for me to run without hurting my knees. So, it’s definitely time to do a lot of restorative work!!! Thanks again!

    1. Hi there! A thought ocurred to me reading your post and I thought I’d comment. (Disclaimer: if this doesn’t apply to you take me with the proverbial grain!)

      In the months after I had my daughter after I gave birth my feet began to really hurt upon arising every morning as well. I went to see about it and was asked if I’d given birth in the last year.

      Apparently bone spurs during pregnancy happen more often because of increased calcium absorption combined with hormonal changes that cause all the bones and tendons to loosen and get softer in preparation for birth. The planar fascia can stretch, leaving a small depression in the heel that miniscule bits of bone ‘pour’ in to fill.

      At least this is what happened to me!

      Anyway, if your heels and arches are hurting it might be this. One more thing to thank your darling little one for, along with hemorroids. (*grin*)

  235. My daughter just turned 5 and she’s had flat feet since birth, she doesnt complain about her feet hurting now, but i have a sister thats 35 also born with flat feet and she complains about them hurting. Neither one wore shoes very often when they were younger. so wondering what i should do for my daughter now, so she doesnt have to have the pain like my sister.

  236. As a Foot & Ankle Specialist who deals with this issue all day, I am more than happy to contribute my two cents. There are 2 types of flatfoot: Congenital or Acquired. The former is usually more severe and more difficult to treat. I routinely treat kids and teens who want to play sports and cannot due to the pain and fatigue of their foot and leg tissues. In these cases, the most appropriate (both empirical and anecdotal) treatment is orthotics and proper shoes. Physical therapy and strengthening is adjunctive for this patient population. The acquired flatfoot, however, is different. Usually this is from obesity, muscle imbalance or bone assymetry, injury, or disease states such as diabetes. I feel that being overweight is the major cause. I get these folks to change their diet and start low impact exercise either through walking, cycling or aquatic means. I also promote regular weight training to help build lean muscle mass. The beauty of Mark’s work is that it is exactly what I try to implement with these folks and it has changed lives. Saved lives to be exact. I refer them to Mark’s site and it always gets them motivated.
    Finally, I do make orthotics and I educate them on proper shoes, but I also emphasize the need for strengthening the intrinsic muscles in our feet through therapeutic exercise and barefoot exercise. Diabetics are special in this regard, since the risks are high for infections with barefoot activities. I normally recommend physical therapy (aquatic work too) to help these patients. In conclusion, I see the best results by combining orthotics/ shoes with strengthening of the foot and leg muscles (either through therapy or barefoot activity, or both).
    Bottom line is, every person is different and one size does not fit all. Flatfeet affect young, old, thin, or obese people and finding the right combination tailored to the individual is the key.

    1. According the the great Harry F. Hlavac, DPM, orthotics DO NOT correct feet. They only correct GAIT. If you are trying to pass off the disinformation that you can “treat” flat feet with them, then you are no professional I would ever trust. You are WRONG! I don’t care what degree(s) you might hold, you are taking your client’s money with LIES! Shame be upon you!

  237. I walk around barefoot all the time! My best friend and I even go on walks barefoot and I have completely flat feet. But I was born with it and got it from my dad.

  238. Are you saying I shouldn’t wear my doctor prescribed orthotics? Are you an orthopedic? I was born with very flat feet and I’ve been to at least 6 orthopedics and not one of them said anything you just said except for the fact that Nike’s will mess up your feet. Walking bare foot doesn’t work either it’s the complete bone structure that’s been changed. If you can change or “fix” your flat feet like you say, then there would be a surgical way to do so. Everything you wrote was basically wrong and you have spelling mistakes in your writing.

  239. This is probably my last comment as I have found this site to be infested with woefully ignorant individuals who are seemingly more interested in the aesthetic issues with having flat feet, or that they are phobic that their children who might have such feet, have a “problem” that most likely needs NO intervention (according to the vast majority of orthopedists)but they feel compelled to “do SOMETHING” because they somehow have the rationale that flat feet are “bad” and MUST be “Corrected” at all costs. With this I am resorting to becoming an observer of this “fountain of ignorance” and will say no more. I am done here. Good luck to all those who are of the mindset that all flat feet are bad and shame on those parents of children so gifted for making their kids feel “deformed.”

    1. Well to be fair to those parents, my feet hurt all the time. Like now… I’m barefoot in my bed and my left foot is KILLING me where the arch would be in a non-flat footed person. It would be nice if it was, but the world wasn’t built for flat footed people. So it is something that for comfort reasons would need to be corrected. god knows I’ve tried so many times… just so I’m not in so much pain.

      1. Well, I have had flat feet ALL of my life and have never experienced ANY discomfort with them. Most people with flat feet don’t have any problems with them, as the majority of orthopedists would attest to. It’s the “whiner minority” that keeps podiatrists busy with their otherwise worthless orthotics that gets the attention. You know, “the squeaky wheel…” In my observation, painful conditions with flat feet indicate the feet need conditioning, not “correction,” which orthotics and most surgical procedures DO NOT WORK, EVER!!! Most pediatric flat foot cases usually resolve themselves by age eight to ten years, but I seen advertisement sites for things like HyProCure for children as young as three. Children’s feet are still in the development stage especially at that age and to install stents like the HyProCure or orthotics in these individuals borders on “quackery.” So you have pain in your feet because they’re flat? Like this site recommends, go barefoot more often to condition your feet. You claimed that you tried many times to “correct” your feet without success. Doesn’t that tell you something? Good luck!

        1. wow the “whiner” majority, nice wording there! As someone who has seen a physio, two podiatrists, a chiropractor and is awaiting an appointment with an osteopath, and after three pairs of orthotics I can safely say that due to constant pain in my knees, hips and backs through overpronation of my feet apparently because of flat feet (and yes I have ditched the orthotics and done half a year of work trying to strengthen my feet/hips/glutes,) I would say a lot of people should be allowed to whine over what is an incredibly painful condition!

  240. I have flat feet for 18 years and every time I do sports or run a lot my ankles start to hurt it even caused me to quit wrestling. And I’ve tried everything but it it doesn’t work. What do you think I should do

  241. My flat feet are hereditary. I was born with them, and they go back five generations in my family. But walking barefoot is the only thing I’ve found to help. I’ve tried inserts and orthopedic shoes, but my feet always hurt like hell. they basically scream at me. I also have naturally very wide feet, and I think that’s a factor. I usually wear flip flops so I can take them off whenever necessary and do most of my walking barefoot. thank you for this article.

    1. Three cheers for you. You’re smart to just go barefoot with your flat feet. That’s the way to go.

  242. Here’s what I do to condition my flat feet so they stay in shape is to stand barefoot on a pair of flip-flops, the forepart of the each foot on the back part and the heels on the hard floor and stand on my feet for half-hour intervals, helping to stretch the inter-osseous ligaments so they’re not tight anymore and when I’m done, my feet are firmly flat on the floor; the talo-navicular “zone” pressing hard to the floor and my flat feet feel totally relaxed and I don’t have pain issues, ever. I don’t know if that method will work for all, but it sure works for me.

  243. I was born with one flat foot on the left and one arched foot on the right. I’ve even had a piece of my left hip surgically removed and inserted like a wedge into my left foot on the outer edge to help alter where the weight of my body wears on my foot. I have bad bone spurs which were removed and have returned that grow on the top of my foot by the ankle. I have to stretch my hamstrings and pelvis everyday several times a day just to function. The muscles in my left calf have all but atrophied into nothing because I can’t move my left foot in ways where I could even work out, exept to ride a bike. I live in the desert southwest and going barefoot is out of the question. When I go barefoot in the house it kills my left foot, my knees, and my hips and pelvis. I don’t even exercise at all and I am in pain on a daily basis. I have had pain in my foot since I can remember and I just wanted to write on here that I am so glad that people like you are trying to help people with feet pain. If your feet hurt it can really affect your life in so many ways. It is my own personal prison.

  244. I’ve had flat feet since I was about 9 after walking around in completely non-supportive rubber shoes for 3 months straight.
    Now I use arch supports in my shoes but they hurt my feet so dang bad when I’m running!
    Does anyone know if running in shoes with no support or with support is better for a flat-footed person?

    Also, I only got flat-foot after I quit my dance lessons. Before I quit I walked around barefoot constantly and danced a lot.

    Anyways, thanks for the exercises! I will try them and see if they improve the ache in my arch which is getting worse.

  245. Megan, who posted on Feb 5th, only mentioned practitioners who ostensibly are NOT going to help her much. A chiropractor for foot issues? REALLY!? If she is seeking relief for foot pain that seems intractable, then perhaps she should seek advice/treatment from true professionals like ORTHOPEDISTS who specialize in foot structure and abnormalities. As for the “whiner” comment is concerned, an old saying goes like this: “Toss a rock over a fence and it’s the hit dog that howls.” Go figure!

  246. Hi,
    I’m 24 and like many of you I have flat feet as well, this started about a year ago that the pain came out of nowhere, the doctor said that I had weak feet, I explain to the doctor that it hurts all the time but it hurts more when I’m standing for long periods and when I play soccer, it don’t hurt when I ice skate and he said that’s because the hockey skates have inserts with good arch support and prescribe me some inserts for my shoes that I’m yet to buy, he also said to keep my feet dry and try not to walk barefoot, will barefoot exercises be good for me?

  247. Mark, I am a chef in a very busy restaurant. I’m on my feet on a not level tile floor. I’m working 10-12 hours a day like this. With flat feet and my left foor being 1.5 sizes smaller than my right I have to buy two seperate shoes. I didn’t start doing this until last year. My left foot/ankle is aching terribly every day. And I believe my feet issues have assisted in now having 2 herniated discs in my back. My question: is there any type of shoes that I could use in the kitchen, I have to wear black shoes, with a nonslip safety sole. Or should I just think about changing professions??

    1. I’m not Mark Sisson, but I am in the know of what you need. It’s “Chefs’ clogs” and you can order them from the CHEF WEAR catalog or online from them. They are what sounds like “made-to-order” as you can get for what you are describing. Check them out. I’ve have done quite a bit of business with CHEFWEAR and I can attest to their quality and reliability.

  248. I am in my mid 30’s I have always been very active in most outdoor sports, especially snowboarding. However, about 3 or 4 years ago I started to develop really bad muscle aches in my feet. At first it was just at the end of the day but now I can maybe get 3 or 4 runs in and then I am literally tearing my boots off in pain because my feet hurt so bad. My research has brought me to barefoot training. So I am just curious, does this sound like weak feet to you? Do I need to be strengthening my feet and rebuilding my arches? I am willing to try anything as I am seriously looking at losing one of my most favorite pass-times due to these muscle aches.

    1. Foot muscles are so small that exercises to strengthen them will not rebuild your arches, as it’s not musculature that make up the arches, anyway. It’s ligaments that hold the arches and going barefoot will help condition your feet so they might not hurt as much or anymore. It’s just that simple and orthotics are of no value, anyhow.

  249. How do you feel about crocs or those new vibram foot shoes? If you could email me an answer that would be great. Thanks!

  250. what do you do if you cant go around barefoot and you cant afford the shoes that give you good support. and i was born with flat feet. and is it normal to get really sore ankles and knees or is that something else?

  251. i was born with flat feet im 11 and i cant go around barefoot so what do you do if you cant afford the proper support shoes or orthodics or whatever they are called. and is it normal to get severe pain in your ankles and knees or is this something else?

  252. Hi out there to all the flat footers who think they have tried it all. I can tell you what worked for me.

    I was born with flat feet that seem to be hereditary. Through childhood I always wore special orthotics I was prescribed by a podiatrist. They never seemed to help much and I had back and knee pain all the time, as well as a progressively curving spine.

    I started dance at 3 in traditional Ukrainian style that uses rigid shoes. When I was 15 I switched to dancing ballet and lyrical, which (for practice, unless you are doing pointe which is another thing again) uses thin canvas foot coverings so you can feel the floor, or bare feet. By the time I was 17 or 18 I stopped needing the orthotics and I would go days without my feet or legs bothering me. My spine not only stopped curving but REVERSED some of it’s previous curvature (today I am 21 and it’s only 13%)

    My podiatrist of course has the record of my footprints over the years. You can see the difference as soon as I started dancing barefoot, I developed a little bit of an arch. I didn’t connect the two things at the time, I just thought I was lucky to have grown out of it. Today I have a little arch, so my feet are still technically flat, but they are not as flat as they were.

    They look funny, but they are very strong! And they carry me around the world without hurting me.

    So I can only speak for myself, but maybe try ballet/lyrical exercises in your bare feet. If nothing else, they are great for developing all the little stabilizer muscles in the leg and improving speed and co-ordination.

    1. Dear Jenica:

      Your problems were most likely caused if not exasperated by the rigid shoes and orthotics you were using in childhood. I am an “anti-orthotic activist” and appear on other sites with my “mission” to stamp out orthotic use, especially when children are prescribed these evil devices and having those orthotics ruin little feet to satisfy the vain and frivolous desires of some wicked parents who just can’t get the idea that flat feet in children are completely normal.

      Your stating that minimalist footwear and going barefoot is reversing your problems confirms what Mr. Sisson is claiming—barefoot is best!

  253. I (34 yrs.) inherited the problem of flat feet from my father (68 yrs.). Now my little boy (1.5 yrs.) is seemingly developing similar symptoms.
    How should I save my beloved baby from this ailment???

    1. So glad you brought this subject up. Many orthopedic studies on pediatric flat foot have been done and the consensus is that flat feet in children, especially at the age of your little one, are COMPLETELY NORMAL and arches do not start to form until about age three and most don’t develop until ages 8 to 10. However, flat feet cannot be “corrected” at any rate short of surgical modification of the osseous (bone) structures to “create” arches, albeit they will most likely cause the feet to become rigid, which is a more serious problem for anyone, especially an otherwise active child. Orthotics, as PROVEN by the studies and research, are of absolutely NO VALUE and most likely will cause more problems than they are to ostensibly solve. The BEST thing to do is keep your precious child barefoot so the feet develop normally and flat feet in children generally cause no disadvantage even in sports activities. You can verify this finding by looking up pediatric flatfoot articles by orthopedists on the internet. I would caution against the PODIATRIC approach, as my exhaustive research into pediatric flatfoot has indicated that the podiatric “industry” is more geared to opportunism rather than true professionalism and they would essentially burden you with expensive but useless “treatments” such as frequent fittings for orthotics for the growing foot and even then, your child will, most likely, still have flat feet. Flat feet in children rarely cause pain as the feet and lower extremities can absorb any potential misalignments that can occur with tibial (lower leg) rotation.

      I can speak not only from my research but also from experience. I’ve had flat feet throughout my life of 54 years and I have never had ANY problems with them. And according to a New York Times article, flat feet are ACTUALLY protective against stress fractures and many athletically inclined find flat feet to be a genuine benefit as they are more structurally stable than their arched counterparts. This is proven fact as the U.S. military no longer disqualifies flat-footed applicants for enlistment.

      I hope you can find this information useful as to not worry about your child having flat feet and having to undergo needless (and useless) “treatments.”

  254. I have flat feet, planter fasciitis, stress fractures two dozen, arthritis, inflamed and deteriorated ligaments & tendons, bone Shri Kate, tight calves on both feet. Plus on left foot I have Morton’s Neuroma, 3 places of capsulitis at metatarsals 2, 3, & 4. I wear orththotics with metatarsal support. The podiatrist wants me in a wheel chair for 2months, after that I am worried about the rest of my life. HELP HELP HELP. THANK YOU, Evelyn

    1. Dear Evelyn:
      If it were me with those serious problems, I would definitely get advice/treatment from an orthopedic surgeon, not some podiatrist. Podiatry, in my opinion, has its place for routine foot care, but really egregious ailments like the ones you describe deserve genuine medical attention. The ball is in your court.

  255. I run track so I have to where shoes is there a way around the damage that doesn’t mean I have to quit??

  256. My son has fallen ankles he is two years old and I want to fix them asap for him so he doesnt hurt in the long run. He always sat with his feet turned out. My brother was born with club foot so I think it is hertitary(sp). But I want to do everything I can for my son. please help

    1. You’re not reading the posts, are you? Refer to my reply to Soumendra Mukherjee on page 9 and you will have your answer. In a nutshell, you are being an alarmist as a child at this age will have the flexibility that you find disturbing (for what reason remains a mystery)and flat feet, or as you describe as “fallen ankles,” are quite normal for young children. Here’s how to help your son—RELAX!!! And for the record, club foot is NOT hereditary!

  257. Hello my name is miguel i have been suffering with flat feet since i was 12 but now that i am 17 i feel much more pain, for example after any kind of physical activity my ankles hurt to walk on for at least two day and then they go back to normal do you think i can do something to make it better and what do you recommend and do you think my weight has anything to with my problem 6′-4″ 240 thank you for everything in this blog it really helps me alot and answered alot of my questions.

    1. You sound like you need ankle support. Laxity of ankle ligaments are common among us with flat feet and apart from nothing can be done about the flat feet, ankle support from high-top footwear for active sports, etc. may be what you need. I wear high-top Converse “All Stars” when I play tennis and they help with the ankle stability. If you have ankle pain during casual activity, try wearing snug-fitting Western-style boots. They’re good for bracing loose and painful ankles as well as being “dressy” for business professional wear.

  258. My son hasexternal tibial torsion and flat feet (my dad had flat feet), He prononates terribly.

    He cannot run properly, even after leg surgery last year that involved BREAKING HIS LEGS to correct the 50 degree rotation OUT of his feet.

    He used to run like a duck. Now, at 13, the feet point forward, but are still flat. He does not know “how” to run on the balls of his feet. The orthopedist says calf raises and rotations are the way to strengthen his feet. He recommends orthotics. When he is barefoot, he has no arch. When he sits, he still has no arch.

    And he is five five and has a size 12.5 shoe. Yes. You read that right.

    1. If the feet point forward, flat when he stands and sits, and there’s no pain, then there’s no problem. You got a “thing” about arches? Get real and accept the fact he has flat feet. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons, there’s nothing wrong with flat feet and in many cases are a benefit, especially in most sports activities. And orthotics are completely useless. The will never correct flat feet, according to the AAOS. Foot exercises only will strengthen the toes, as,according to Gray’s Anatomy, the foot muscles only act upon the toes. Do some research and quit complaining your son has flat feet. Just think about the people who don’t even have legs!!! Count your blessings.

  259. Hi Mark

    Searching for exercises for flat feet i found your blog. (I have very flat feet, no arch at all, bone on the ground). And when i looked at your exercises i realised i do these already dancing tango!

    It seems like a paradox since high heels are known not to be the best for your feet and back. BUT with the right contra movements to prevent your back from bending/breaking the lines; i think dancing tango on heels can even be good.
    There is so much concentration on the feet… its a constant exercising, walking on toes and pushing the floor. Of course it’s best to have open toe heels, then its easier to spread out your toes walking. My experience is that higher heels even work better than low heels since the middle of the foot is unstable. With super high heels its easier to go completely to the ball. (But please find a teacher with experience for good advises)

    Nonetheless… Still i am looking for some exercises for dancers with flat feet (like me) which can beautify the articulation of the feet.

    O and for those interested. A tango with flat feet you see here; http://tangolesinamsterdam.nl/video.html

  260. I got flat feet this last summer, yes my shoes were wearing off on the sides, I have osteratheris in my toes which I got this last summer as well, I went to doctors who didn’t know what to do or what it was besides the arthris, went to a foot specalist, I bought insoles but my feet are never comfortable, what can I do? I am 56 years old and work as a housekeeper in a hospital

    1. I am not licensed to give any medical advice, but you did not mention if your acquired flat feet cause pain. If not, then from my experience and exhaustive research from the MD community, nothing really can be done for your feet short of surgery. Insoles (i.e. orthotics, inserts, etc.) are of absolutely no value with the possible exception of relieving the rare cases of flat-foot discomfort. They will not correct your flat feet under any circumstances. You work as a housekeeper in a hospital, so from that I gather you’re on your feet throughout your shift. I worked in the warehouse/shipping industry all my working life and also was on my feet through the entire work day. My flat feet never bothered me and my observation was that my feet were to my advantage (no arches to strain). I’m 54 so I know where you’re coming from with the age issue. The only advice I can give you is to wear comfortable shoes that meet your occupational requirements (I had to wear work boots with steel toes, so comfort was at a premium) and if no pain is involved, then learn to live with having flat feet. You stated you recently acquired them. I’ve always had flat feet so I don’t know what you had in arches to begin with. Low-arched feet generally can handle full collapse better that normal-to-high-arched feet can.

      Like I stated earlier, wear the most comfortable shoes that are allowable in your profession and if there is any pain, then perhaps over-the-counter insoles can help. I would not recommend the over-priced “custom-fit” orthotics that you see advertised as they are just that—overpriced. If they can’t help your pain if you have it, then seek advice from an orthopedic specialist that has training in foot issues. I have found that profession (MD) more upfront and honest than the podiatric (DPM)community. They are more likely to sell you something that would be totally out of range pricewise and may not do you any better. Buyer beware!

  261. I came across this blog after wondering for so long why my feet hurt all the time.I have severe back pain. I exercise regularly and do a lot of stretching. I have spent a fortune in ‘good shoes’. now i know the simple way. barefoot! thank you ! I am starting tonight. can i walk with socks on? is it considered barefoot too?

  262. Barefoot with socks? Sure, why not. Just beware of slick surfaces.

  263. @ 13 years old, just diagnosed with flat feet and with the help of this article I will (hopefully) be able to convince my parents to buy me a pair of vff before more damage and God forbid…. Pain!

  264. For those who have been “brainwashed” into thinking that having flat feet is bad and must be “corrected,” I would like to refer you to this site:
    http://www.jonburras.com/pdfs/FLAT-FEET-
    FOR-HEALTH.pdf

    This will hopefully provide an interesting and factual observation on the goodness and healthfulness of having flat feet.

  265. Hello , , and yes I am having some bad problems with ”my flatffeet and weak arches , I am 53 yrs old 5′ 9” and 175 lbs , and my feet are giving me some bad painful days at work in the past few months , I had to buy news shoe/boots and currently using dr sholls gell inserts ,and only having 50/50 – 60/40-75/25 success ,I am having good days and bad days as well, and I have read about underdevelop feet from birth and about the cartilage that might not finish up forming, I have been on concrete floors for the malority of my life some 30 yrs plus time in the army ,It is just possible to have just beaten down broken down weakened cartilages and tendons , And I guees surgiry probly would not help? I am aware about arthuritis in the feet/knees/hips and other joints . Is it possible that maybe a joint complex product might rebuid this brokendown condition , it is getting to the point of effecting my work performance , I have been looking into some joint complex products ,” have you ever heard of flexprotex and supple, and there are some bodybuilder products that are related to joint problems as well , the joints in my anckles are really weakened bad . need your opinion

    1. So-called “joint complex products” like you are alluding to are of absolutely no value. Cartilage has a poor blood supply and really can’t be “nourished.” You’re 53, so your cartilage and tendons have been as developed as much as they’re going to be since you were 13! I worked standing on my feet for just as many if not more years with flat feet as you have and have no problems with my feet/ankles. You sound like you need to condition your feet and ankles with stretching exercises. I have posted on YouTube a conditioning exercise that you can try. It can be found under “Flat Foot Conditioning Exercises” by 1Whseman (that’s me) with your search engine, as well as other stretching exercises featured there in the listings. This exercise I feature worked and continues to work for me. It may help you.

      Surgery is really the only way to correct fallen arches as orthotics will not. Consult an orthopedic surgeon if nothing else can help you. Remember, though…surgery will fix the fallen arches, alright, but you will most likely experience new problems with having the joints of the feet fused. Do some research first and don’t take anyone’s word for anything for matters such as this.

  266. dear mark

    only one of my foot is flat ! and i am in a lot of depression bcoz of it coz i want to go into army and i can`t unless my feet are cured 🙁 plz help me !

    yours gratefully,
    raffay

    1. Dear Raffay:

      I will tell you up front that flat feet can’t be cured—only corrected through surgery. Orthotics have been proven useless and there are no exercises that will reverse flat foot conditions. You want to go into the army and from my understanding, the army (or even the more physically stringent Marines) no longer summarily rejects flat-footed applicants. It just depends on how flat your foot/feet are and if they are strong flat feet as opposed to weak.

      Don’t be depressed about having flat feet. That’s sick! A lot of minds, especially of the young, have been poisoned by the negative press that flat feet have been given over the many years and it’s something to overcome. I’m trying my level best to reverse that negativity through this forum and others and a fine young man like yourself who want’s to serve your country should not be made to feel less human for having flat feet, or in your case, a flat foot.

      Surgery like the HyProCure implant may be your only solution. Get an evaluation to see if that would help if you can’t find it in yourself to keep your flat foot. But I am convinced that you can get into the Army with your feet just the way they are from what research results have yielded to me. Talk to a recruiter and go from there. You may be fretting over nothing.

      1. thank you very much 🙂 i feel much more confident now

        thanks again 🙂

  267. I have am tired of flat feet. I will start going bearfoot. My ankles hurt badly when I play with them as in soccer and running. I may misplace my foot and make it tip over and my ankle “ball” sticks out and there is a large gap between the two. Its keeping me from being active also. One question though- does flipflops make it worse?

  268. (I am also the person above)”One question though-does flipflops make it worse?” thats me o3o and so I wanted to mention I was born with it and inherited it by my father.

    1. Normally, I would ignore questions like this, but since flip-flops with flat feet were an issue in my recent research I will respond here.
      Flip-flops are really too spongy for ANY feet, except for wearing in public showers and public pools, to help keep from picking up nasty fungal infections like Athletes Foot. They won’t make your flat feet any worse, but remember that even going barefoot will not change your feet.
      You state that you are tired of having flat feet. Maybe prosthetic feet would be more to your liking. There are lots of amputees who would love to have even YOUR flat feet. Just be thankful you have feet, flat or otherwise!

      Go barefoot to strengthen your flat feet, but they will always be flat, so get used to it.

  269. I see what you are saying but from a practical standpoint it’s “fixing” it. Literally no it’s probably not. My left foot is a half size bigger than my right, has no arch, and my toes are squished, My pronounced Morton toe is part of the size difference. My right foot is not the mangled mess my left is because it was fitted with the proper size shoe all the time. This is clearly the reason my feet look like they came from two different people. Ditching conventional shoes as often as I can for Vibrams has absolutely helped. My calves are stronger my feet never hurt, my right arch has improved but the left one may be a lost cause. I think that pronation is what is being fixed though. I think as my calves and ankles get stronger I stand and walk differently and that is what is making my arch seem more pronounced. Either way barefoot is the only way

  270. this theory of reversing and correcting can be place on a mild scale… The chinese in the old days use to “bind” there feet to make them smaller. By binding the toes backwords to for ones feet smaller…. The condition can be reversed to an exstense but when ones bone structure is archless there is no possiblities with out recontructiveness…..arch supports, foot exercises, and surgery seems like the only possiblities. walking in the sand does help…but reversing it entirely i think not….perhaps in time my study will be conducted and well prove this.

  271. hey there. iv been suffering from flat feet since i was born. but i only started to get the pain a year back. it is horrible. i flex my foot a tiny bit and in return i get horrible pain. i’m in secondary 1 so during my 2.4 i need to stop for my pain. the doctor has given me insoles for my shoes. i’m also wear in stability shoes. the doctor himself said that my condition is serious. he said that my calf muscles are too short or something like that, due to my sudden growth spurt. pls help

    1. Sounds like you have the classic example of short gastrocnemeus/Achilles tendon syndrome. The only way to help with this is by stretching exercises by standing barefoot with the foreparts of your feet on a phone book (or other large book) and stretching your calf muscles. Orthotics (insoles) are NOT for your kind of flat feet. The insoles will only increase your pain and make your problems worse. Stability shoes will also not help you.
      Go barefoot as much as possible and perform the stretching exercises to pain tolerance frequently so you can put an end to your pain ASAP. Remember, though, you will always have flat feet. You just need to keep the pain from occurring and that will take some time and effort. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help, but be sure you can tolerate them. Naproxen seems the least problematic of the NSAID group. And the pain relief is for much longer periods (12 hrs vs 4 hrs for aspirin and acetamenophen).
      Your dr said your condition is serious. Too bad he seems to not have a clue as to what to do about it. I’ve devoted many hours and reams of paper to “get educated” about all types of flat feet, especially my own. Most drs are too busy with their case loads to dedicate any extra time to research. I’ve got all the time in the world since retiring.
      Try the stretching routine and in time you should feel a lot better. It might hurt some at first, but as the old saying goes, “no pain–no gain.”

  272. There is really only one sure fire way to reverse flat feet and that is to use Barefoot Science insoles. The insoles are clinically proven to rebuild the arch muscles of the foot in 100% of cases. Check out the following neutral test by someone who had flat feet all their life http://www.toesalad.com/reviews/barefoot-science-foot-strengthening-system . I will be happy to send anyone the clinical test results we obtained from Huddersfield University.
    Kind regards,
    Patrick

    1. Sounds like your post is merely an advertisement for insoles. You are being too promising with a product that simply cannot work and for one simple reason that any anatomist (such as myself) can tell you: THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO ARCH MUSCLES!!! The muscles of the feet act solely upon the toes. The only muscle/tendon that has any action on the arch is the posterior tibial (tibialis posticus) and that is in the calf of the leg with the tendon inserted into the talonavicular region of the foot. It is the ONLY muscle/tendon that one can be concerned with and NO insole will condition it to rebuild the arch. Only resistance exercises can help to strengthen it and there’s still no guarantee that the arch can be reestablished.

      Your “clinical” test results are like most other such-like nonsense that one finds in television advertisements for a lot of bogus products. 100% of cases where the arches were rebuilt with these insoles? Give us a break!!! No clinical test of ANYTHING can return such a percentage. So peddle your otherwise worthless wares elsewhere and not use this forum to promote PROVEN ineffective appliances for the feet. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons state clearly that orthotics (insoles) have no effect on the so-called correction of flat feet and you can tell this Huddersfield University that they are clearly deceptive. And don’t spam this website with your meaningless product promotions. This site is serious and no the place for such garbage!

  273. Hi there, I have had flat feet since I could remember and my left foot has got worse over the years working retail.
    I work in a cosmetics department and on tiled floors so basically I’m standing all day for 8 hours.
    I noticed my left foot got worse and very pronated so I started not to wear my trendy shoes and opt for a more sensible shoe with insoles for support, I’ve even doubled them for more support, which on the whole feels more comfortable but later on my ankle is in pain especially at the end of the day and when I’ve taken my shoes off at home. Now I’m reading that these make it all worse, I don’t know what to. trust me if I would be working some where else but as we know jobs are not plentiful these days.
    Mr doctor I know is going to tell me what I already know and prescribe me something that I’m already use.
    I was about to invest in a ankle brace to help me straighten the pronation but decided to do a little more research and came across your site. I am going to try to walk more bare foot and try some of your exercises but what should I do at work?
    thank you.
    Anita.

    1. I know what you mean about having to work on your feet all day every day. All the occupations I’ve had required this of me and I have flat feet, too.
      What I would suggest is do as I did and wear boots. Women’s boots can be very fashionable and should help with the ankle situation. At home, barefoot is best, but at work you sound like you need some ankle support and braces really would be “over-the-top” ugly and a bit extreme.

      Try this and you should be OK after all day on your feet.

  274. OK So Mark was a little upset with my first post. He found it to be too promotional. He owns the website so I will refrain from promoting here on in.

    Let me ask you all a question if you broke your arm and were forced to wear a brace/cast for 8 weeks whilst your bone healed, would you continue to wear that brace/cast after 8 weeks? Probably not!

    When you took the cast off your arm after 8 weeks, please explain how your arm would look like?

    Did you realize that there are 20 active muscles in each of your feet that support your entire weight day in and day out?

    Is there any exercise program on the market that allows you to exercise your feet muscles 8 – 10,000 times per day (the average person is supposed to make that many paces per day according to the American Association of Diabetics)?

    Hopefully Mark allows these comments to make it through to his blog.