Strengthen your arches and kiss goodbye to foot pain!
1. Try New Footwear
Modern footwear commonly weakens arches, not only with arch supports but also with thick heels that place your feet on a ramp and position the ends of your arches on the uneven ground. To promote stronger arches, look for footwear that has flat zero-drop soles with no arch support, no toe spring and no tight or tapered toe boxes that pinch your toes together. Thin and flexible soles will also help your feet bend and flex naturally.
Of course, if you want the ultimate footwear for strong arches, you already have it: bare feet! While it isn’t always acceptable to go shoeless, walking around barefoot a little each day and paying attention to your body’s natural signals to avoid pain may do wonders.
2. Foot Arch Exercises
These simple exercises, presented in beginner and advanced versions, can be done in your own home, and all you need is a penny and a pen! Try doing them for a few minutes each day, increasing as your arches strengthen. Stop if you feel pain, and remember to take a day off here and there to let your muscles rest and recover if they feel sore.
Easy Beginner Version:
- Start with your barefoot on a flat surface, toes spread out.
- Place a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under the middle of your arch (sticking out from the inside of your foot).
- Activate your arch by flexing your arch muscle. You should feel the muscles on the ball of your foot pushing down on the penny, but your arch shouldn’t be pushing down on the pen. These tools help you (1) avoid rolling your foot and (2) avoid pressing down with your toes (as an extra tip, you can slide a business card under your toes before doing the exercise–when you activate your arch, you should be able to slide the business card out easily with your fingers).
- Do your best to keep your toes relaxed.
Once you’re ready to move on, you can try this advanced version. It builds on the above exercise to incorporate full body twisting and balance, helping you to maintain proper arches while you move:
- Using the same ideas from above, stand on a flat surface in your bare feet with a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under your arch. This time, stand with your back a few inches away from a wall or a door.
- Lift your other leg (the one without the penny or pen) and stand on one foot. Use the wall for balance, if necessary.
- Lift one arm and stretch it across your body until you touch the wall or door on the opposite side, maintaining a straight back. Keep your foot straight and your arch on the penny but above the pen. Your arch will want to follow the movement and roll off, but you will need to activate it to stay stable during the movement.
- Lift your other arm and stretch it across the opposite side of your body, still keeping your arch in place.
Massage therapy is a great way to loosen muscles and help improve mobility in your feet. As many people with foot pain have discovered, tight muscles in your legs or back can lead to tense foot muscles. All those muscles are connected, so the tension in your back can cause tension in your legs which can pull the tendons in your feet and cause stiffness and pain. Getting acupuncture or a professional full body massage are probably the best ways to deal with this, but there are also some simple tricks you can do at home to help keep muscles limber. These are great for loosening up and improving circulation, both before and after exercise:
- Use a Tennis Ball: place a tennis ball under the arch of your bare foot and roll it around, stretching the muscles in your foot and promoting blood flow. You can also roll the ball under your calves and upper legs to work out stiffness and knots. If you feel the tennis ball is too easy, try a lacrosse ball for a deeper massage. This is also demonstrated in the exercise video above.
- Use a Foam Roller: those big overpriced rolls of foam that are now available in every department and sporting goods store are fantastic for self-massage (why a roll of foam costs $30 is beyond us, but they do work wonders—our advice is to not waste money on the more expensive fancy grooved ones because even the simplest rollers work great). The exercises you can do with foam rollers seem to be endless, and there are literally hundreds of free videos online showing how to use them to massage every part of your body.
4. Get Professional Help
Hopefully, these tips will help you prevent, treat or even cure arch pain, such as plantar fasciitis. If you find you have persistent foot pain, if your pain appears to be getting worse or if you believe your problem is more serious than something that can be treated with simple home exercises, then it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional.
An expert physiotherapist can explore many other variables that could be affecting your feet and prescribe treatment specific to your needs.
If you’re experiencing persistent foot pain, call PCA for a consultation today on 0813 028 0496!