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Physical Therapy for Flat Feet – Information, Exercises, and More

Pain in your heels? It could be caused by your flat feet. 

Pain in your knees? It could be caused by your flat feet.   

Pain in your back? It could be caused by your flat feet. 

Your body is an intricate machine. When your feet aren’t functioning properly, it can affect many other areas. If you think flat feet are causing your pain, physical therapy can help.

Not sure if you have flat feet? This article answers your questions about flat feet and shares how you can find relief. 


What Are Flat Feet?

Flat feet are feet that have a lower than normal or even absent arch. You may also have heard it called fallen arch. This allows the entire soles of your feet to touch the floor when you stand up. 

This can lead to over-pronation where the foot rolls over toward the inside. If you look at your shoes from the back, you would see the insides of the heels showing greater wear than the outsides. 

From birth, we all had flat feet — and our arches are typically formed by age 6. But about one or two out of 10 children will still have flat feet as adults. 

2 Types of Flat Feet?

There are two general types of flat feet:

  1. Flexible flat feet
    • You have a normal arch when you’re non-weight bearing. When standing or walking, it is absent.
  2. Rigid flat feet
    • Considered “true” flatfooted, your arch is non-existent when weight-bearing or at rest.

What Causes Flat Feet?

Flat feet are common in children and can be caused by:

  • Heredity 
  • Tight Achilles
  • Laxity of ligaments
  • Lack of foot exercise 

Adults can develop flat feet in many ways, including:

  • Heredity 
  • Injury and fractures 
  • Overuse and strain
  • Age
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes or obesity
  • Failed or injured tendons
  • Achilles Equinus contracture
  • Pregnancy 
  • Neurological or muscular diseases 

Flat Feet Symptoms

Your arch acts as a natural shock absorber for your entire body. If you have flat feet, you’ve lost some or all of this archaffecting your entire body.  

Some flat feet symptoms are:

  • Heel, foot, and ankle pain
  • Foot, arch, and leg fatigue
  • Knee, hip, and lower back pain
  • Rolled-in ankles
  • Abnormal walking patterns 
  • Shin splints
  • Bunions
  • Hammertoe
  • Arthritis 
  • Plantar fasciitis 
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD

Flat Feet Treatment

Surgery isn’t usually needed for flat feet unless they’re caused by a bone deformity or a tendon tear or rupture. 

There are many non-surgical treatments for flat feet, such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Weight loss
  • Medication 
  • Daily activity modifications 
  • Exercises 
  • Supportive footwear
  • Bracing and supports
  • Custom orthotics 

Can Physical Therapy Help With Flat Feet?

Yes, physical therapy for flat feet can help reduce your pain. A physical therapist can treat flat feet pain and help you with lifestyle changes. They may also show you exercises to improve flat feet. 

How Can PT for Flat Feet Help?

Your physical therapist will examine your specific problems and help determine any underlying health problems. They’ll explain how the feet work as the foundation for your entire body and the importance of maintaining foot strengthwhich can help pain in other areas

Your physical therapist will create a plan for you and prescribe the necessary treatments for your specific needs. 

Your physical therapist may prescribe: 

  • Better footwear with arch support 
  • Insoles to relieve pressure 
  • Daily stretching exercises
  • Ice therapy
  • Ankle braces
  • Injections or surgery (in extreme cases)

7 Exercises for Flat Feet

Your feet are the foundation of your body. If there are “cracks” in the foundation, the body can suffer. Working on strength and flexibility in your feet can help to rebuild your arches. 

Your physical therapist may prescribe tailored exercises for you to do at home, but here are seven common exercises to strengthen flat feet.

#1: Heel Stretches

  1. Standing, rest your hands on a wall or chair at shoulder level.
  2. Keep one leg forward and the other extended behind you. 
  3. Press both heels into the floor. 
  4. Bend your front leg and push yourself into the wall, keeping your spine straight. You should feel a stretch in your back leg and Achilles tendon. 
  5. Do each side 4 times, holding for 30 seconds.

#2: Tennis or Golf Ball Rolls

  1. Sitting on a chair, put a tennis or golf ball under your foot.
  2. Roll the ball under your foot. Focus on the arch and maintain a straight spine.
  3. Do this for 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Repeat on the opposite foot. 

#3: Arch Lifts

  1. Stand with your feet in line with your hips. 
  2. Roll your weight to the outer edges of your feet as you lift your arches as far as you can, keeping your toes on the floor.
  3. Release your feet back down.
  4. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. 

#4: Calf Raises

  1. Stand and lift your heels as high as you can, using a wall or chair for support if needed.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds and lower back to the floor. 
  3. Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions. 
  4. Hold the upper position and pulse up and down for 30 seconds. 

#5: Stair Arch Raises

  1. Using steps, stand with one foot one step higher than the other. 
  2. Use the higher foot for balance as you lower the bottom foot down so your heel lands lower than the step. 
  3. Slowly lift that heel as high as you can, focusing on your arch. 
  4. Rotate your arch inward as your knee and calf rotate to the side. 
  5. Slowly lower back to the starting position. 
  6. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions on both sides. 

#6: Towel Curls

  1. Sit in a chair with a towel under your feet. 
  2. Curl your toes to scrunch up the towel, rooting your heels into the floor. 
  3. Press your toes into your foot.
  4. Hold for a few seconds and release.
  5. Make sure to keep the ball of your foot pressed into the towel, focusing on your arch. 
  6. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. 

#7: Toe Raises

  1. Stand and press your right big toe into the floor and lift your other four toes. 
  2. Press your four toes into the floor and lift your big toe. 
  3. Do each of these 5-10 times, holding each lift for 5 seconds. 
  4. Repeat on the other foot. 

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Flat Feet

You don’t have to live with pain caused by having flat feet. 

As the #1 rated physical therapy clinic on Yelp and Google, we have treated many people with symptoms of flat feet and hundreds of patients suffering from other aches and pains. 

Our team is dedicated to helping you optimize your health and maintain your independence. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our physical therapy clinics.

In Motion O.C.