Oh, My Achy Flat Feet!

Is Having Flat Feet a Problem?

Overpronation of the Right Foot

Having flat feet, technically known as overpronation, invariably causes a myriad of issues that will continue to get worse unless corrected.  Untreated overpronation can lead to imbalances that transmit up through body, including the knees, hips, low back, shoulders and even the neck.

As imbalances slowly get worse, the result is chronic pain during movement. When it hurts to move, we move less often, and the cyclical effect begins to snowball leading to less activity, weight gain, and more pain.

Snowball Effect

Overpronation Can Lead To:

  • Calluses
  • Bunions
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Achilles Tendon Pain
  • Shin Splints
  • Pain While Standing or Walking Especially for Long Periods of Time
  • Knee Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Low Back Pain

What is Pronation?

Pronation is normal movement of the foot collapsing inward toward the middle of the body to absorb transmitted forces while moving. If our foot collapses too far inward (overpronation), a disruption in normal function occurs and it causes additional stress to other body areas.

  • As we walk with a flat foot, the leg impacts the floor at a different angle, altering the direction of the pressure as it reaches the knee.
  • This causes the knee to cave inward.
  • The caving in of the knee causes the hips to shift forward, which can lead to hip and low back pain.  
  • Do you see a pattern here?

The Key Point Is:

“The Feet and Ankles Literally Form the Foundation of the Human Body.”  We learned in Mobility and Stability are The Keys to Movement Efficiency that the foot provides stability to create force production while the ankle allows for mobility.  Overpronation will most certainly affect our entire kinetic chain.

Quick Test:

  1. Stand barefooted and look at your feet. Can you see an arch?  If not, you have flat feet.
Flat Feet
  1. Pinch your calf muscle. Is it tender? If so, there is a good chance your calf muscles are overactive from improper striking of the feet.

 

Self Help For Flat Feet:

  1. Release the fascia through Self Myofascial Release.  
    Roll the Bottom of the Foot
    • Roll the feet on a golf ball 1 minute every day.
    • Use a tennis ball if the golf ball is too painful.
    • Start while sitting, and as pain diminishes, stand up and roll.
    • Foam roll the achilles tendon and calf to release those restrictions.
    • Use a soft ball or lacrosse ball for more advanced rolling of the achilles and calf.
    • Use the Fascia Blaster Mini 2 or full size Fascia Blaster to get deeper into the fascia. (Click on link for direct transfer to Amazon).  Note: Clicking on Amazon Affiliate links through this web site provides a small monetary return to this web site.  There is no extra fee for the purchaser when clicking through this site and all products are delivered through Amazon.
      Fascia Blaster

      Fascia Blaster Mini 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Stretch the foot and calf muscles to increase flexibility and retrain correct movement pattern:

Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch
  • stand with feet in a staggered stance with feet facing forward.
  • Gently lean forward keeping both feet in contact with the ground.
  • Pull up on the the toes to get a deeper stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and switch to the other side.

 

 

Foot Stretch

  • Stand barefoot with toes pushed up against a wall.
  • Keep the ball of the foot in contact with the floor.
  • Slowly collapse the foot into pronation to stretch the plantar fascia then pull it back to neutral.
  • Hold for 30 seconds then switch to the other foot.

 

3. Strengthen the muscles by retraining good walking mechanics.

  • Go barefoot and actively pull your arches up by putting pressure more on the outside of the feet.
  • Practice raising the toes off the ground while keeping a good arch.
  • Practice splaying (spreading) your toes apart before bed every night.

Having chronic pain means people have slowly grown accustomed to the discomfort. Don’t suffer any longer, try these easy solutions to see if we can get rid of your foot pain. It will take a few weeks to see improvements so don’t get discouraged. 

 

This video will outline the steps we mentioned above:

Remember when you move better…you feel better.

Mobility Part 1 – Soft Tissue Restrictions & Self Myofascial Release

Soft Tissue Restrictions 

When we are unable to move a joint through a normal range of movement, it results in a lack of mobility.  One of the primary causes for lack of mobility is soft tissue restrictions, or trigger areas, that result in tightness and pain.   This restricted tissue is the fascia, a very thin, collagen-like substance that permeates the entire human body from nerve endings, to muscle fibers, to bones and organs.  

fascia
Fascia on chicken breast

Think about that clear layer on a piece of raw chicken breast, that is fascia.  Fascia in humans is a living seam system and provides a soft tissue scaffolding system to help support your body as well as assist in movement.

The fascia is responsible for the huge range of movement we possess. The fascia can get tacked down, and restrict the movement of different layers of tissue.  Thus  we lose functionality or have movement painful.  Think scar tissue and matted down old tissue that hasn’t been required to move in a long time (i.e. you haven’t done a full squat in decades).  These tacked down areas are called adhesions, knots, trigger points or scar tissue.  

Self Myofascial Release

SMR
Self Myofascial Release

Using self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques, we can break up those adhesions and restore the sliding surfaces of the various layers of tissue. The main tools used in SMRF include foam rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, and even barbells and kettlebells.   By using friction, pressure, and movement with a hard object over these areas of adhesions, we begin to break up the knots. A recent study in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation (1) found the foam rolling is more effective than static or dynamic stretching in acutely increasing flexibility of the quadriceps and hamstrings without hampering muscle strength, and is recommended as part of a warm up in healthy adults.

SMR can be performed before a training session to help loosen tissue and improve mobility for that workout, but should also be done after the workout to release those areas tightened during the workout.

How To Perform Self Myofascial Release

Foam Rollers
Foam Rollers

Lie on a foam roller, using a slow up and down movement, roll over the tissues applying pressure to the muscle.

  1. When you find an area that hurts, stop and hold pressure for 30 seconds.  
  2. Then slowly move your body around to apply different pressure points.
  3. Roll slowly, no more than one inch per second.
  4. Bend and extend the limbs in the area you are working to untack the tissue.  
  5. Roll each area for up to 2 minutes or move if the pain subsides.

SMFR breaks up the adhesions, but it can be very painful the first few times you do it. Don’t get discouraged, the more you roll, the less painful it gets. When the pain diminishes, tissue changes are occurring and the adhesions are being broken up.  Your fascia is free to move again.

This 13 minute video shows how to foam roll the entire body:

SMR Don’ts

  • Do not roll over joints or a bone (like the front of the shin).
  • Don’t foam roll your lower back. Use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball or two balls taped together in a peanut shape. Place the ball(s) on the side of the spine and slowly roll along the spine.
  • Don’t roll to the point of excessive soreness.

Here is a good reference chart showing how to roll various areas:

Foam Rolling
Foam Rolling Basic Patterns

Other Tools for SMR

Tools for SMR
Lacrosse Ball
  • The lacrosse ball, VooDoo Floss reviewed in this article, tennis ball, edge of a kettlebell or even a barbell can be used in place of the foam roller to target deeper tissues.  Be creative, humans have used rocks and man made tools for years to work out areas of discomfort on their bodies.  I have a lacrosse ball in my car to roll out my back and shoulders during my drive.

Quality products to help you begin your SMR journey include:

 

Double Lacrosse Balls
Voodoo Floss Bands

 

12″ Rumble Roller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This page may contain referral links to help support the site.

 

References

  1. Su H, Chang NJ, Wu WL, Guo LY, Chu IH. Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. Journal of Sports Rehabil. 2017 Nov;26(6);469-477.

What Causes Poor Mobility?

In the article Mobility and Stability Are The Keys To Improving Movement Efficiency we learned that Mobility is how well a joint can move, while stability is the ability to maintain control of joint movement.  Mobility is key for moving better, and moving better is key for feeling better.

Many things can limit mobility resulting in less than desired movement and performance:  

Muscle Imbalances
  • Soft tissue restriction.
  • Shortened and tight muscles (tissue elasticity).
  • Joint range of motion dysfunction.
  • Motor control problems.
  • Postural misalignment.
  • Muscle imbalances.
  • Neural dynamic issues.

While this list can be daunting, many of the techniques to improve mobility will fix the most common problems.  If the basic corrections fail to improve mobility, or discomfort worsens, a comprehensive assessment by a specialist is encouraged. Specialists will likely prescribe a follow up regiment of soft tissue mobilization, dynamic and static stretches and/or self mobilization to reinforce the manual work.  

Remember it took time for the dysfunctions to build up, so reversing the damage will take time as well.  But a few proactive minutes every day addressing problem areas, can improve movement efficiency, speed recovery, and improve sports performance and make moving feel good.

Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk Might Lack Mobility

If you lack adequate mobility, you could be the Incredible Hulk and still find it difficult to do basic body movements like bending over to tie a shoe or put your pants on.

 

Movement is Medicine

Kelly Starrett, a Physical Therapist, CrossFit Gym Owner, and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard writes “we believe that much of the orthopedic dysfunction we encounter in our physiotherapy and human performance coaching practice results from people either not having a movement practice or exercising like fiends in poor positions and in narrow exercise ranges”.

The other area I see mobility issues is in people who are busy with their life, and do not spend enough time moving.  Sitting at a computer for eight hours a day will shorten muscles, cause restrictions, and even cause muscle imbalances if poor posture remains the position of preference. 

Establishing a daily personal movement practice will greatly improve our mobility.   The three most pertinent areas we can work on include:

  1. Loosening soft tissue restrictions with Self-Myofascial Release (SMR).
  2. Addressing shortened and tight muscles (tissue elasticity) by stretching.
  3. Improving joint range of motion (ROM).

Stay tuned, we will break these areas into three separate articles in the near future.