It is estimated that some 20% of adults have flat feet. While a smaller portion of these people inherit the condition, for the majority of people, it develops over time. In fact, few people are actually born with flat feet.
If you are suffering from flat feet, read on to learn more about the condition, including what you can do to avoid it and whether or not it can be treated.
Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet are the result of weak arches. The arches are the inner part of the foot that “bend” between the toes and the heel. As already mentioned, for some people, flat feet is hereditary, a condition that is in the genes and is passed on from family member to family member; however, for most people, flat feet are developed over time.
The most common causes of flat feet (other than genetics) include:
- Wearing shoes that don’t support the arch for long periods of time
- Excessively wearing high heels
Flat feet is another term used to describe fallen arches. When the arches of the foot are not properly supported, they can lose their strength, and as a result of gravity, they can literally start to fall. Flat feet that are not inherited are usually the result of weakened muscles in the foot that occurs with aging and/or injury, placing heavy strain on the feet or standing or walking for prolonged periods of time in shoes that do not provide proper arch support.
Flat Feet and Shoes
It is a common misconception that not wearing shoes can cause the arches to weaken, which can lead to the development of flat feet. However, quite the contrary is true.
Human beings are born not wearing shoes. In fact, our feet are not genetically designed to wear shoes. Of course, in order to provide our feet with protection from the elements and in order to avoid exposing them to dangers, such as walking on glass or stepping on stones, shoes were created. While there is no doubt that shoes do shield the feet from the elements, they do little to support our feet. In fact, shoes can do extensive damage to the arch of the foot, which can result in flat feet.
Think about it: The more the feet are in shoes, the more reliant they become on them for support. As a result, the arches are not able to develop their own strength, which essentially weakens, causing them to drop – and hence, flat feet are developed.
So why does wearing shoes that do not support the arches cause flat feet? – Because the feet adjust to the shoes, and if the arches are not being supported, they start to conform to the shape of the shoe, which can lead to fallen arches, or flat feet.
Given this information, it is actually a wise idea to wear shoes as seldom as possible. For example, walk around barefoot when you are at home and even outside (in locations where your feet won’t be exposed to elements that could injure them, such as cold weather or broken glass.) Parents should try to avoid putting shoes on their children’s feet for as long as possible. Doing so will allow their arches to develop the strength that the need in order to prevent them from falling.
How can you Prevent Flat Feet?
There are a number of ways that you can prevent flat feet from developing. Exercises that strengthen the arch are the most effective way to prevent the condition from developing.
Here’s a look at some highly effective exercises that will strengthen the arches of your feet and help to prevent the development of flat feet:
- Toe Spreads: Toe spreads are an excellent strengthening exercise for the arches. To do to spreads, start by sitting, standing or lying and then spread your toes out as wide as you possibly can. Make sure that you create a space between each toe when you are spreading them out. Hold the toes in the spread out position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Do toe spreads once a day with each foot for optimal benefits.
- Toe Pointing: Find any object and point your toes toward it. Once your toes are pointed toward the object, flex your foot and hold it for five seconds and release. Do this exercise 10 times for each foot, once a day, to attain optimal strengthening. In order to increase the effects, try to trace the alphabet with each foot while holding the in midair.
- Toe Stands: Stand up on tippy-toes, while barefoot, and walk around for about five minutes without letting your heels touch the ground. Do this exercise for five minutes every day for the best strengthening results.
- Side Walking: While barefoot, stand up and position yourself in a shoulder wide stance. Bend your knees just slightly and roll your weight out onto the edges of your feet. Hold the weight on the outer edges of your feet and slowly raise yourself up onto your toes. As you are doing this, you should feel a stretching sensation, and once you do, hold the position for five seconds. Do this five times a day for the best results.
- Sand Walking: One of the biggest benefits of walking in the sand is that it is ever-changing. It changes its shape and texture every time you apply the pressure of your weight to them. Every time you take a step in the sand, your feet are forced to adapt, and as a result, your arches are strengthened.
While these arch-strengthening exercises are highly effective for preventing the development of flat feet, it is strongly suggested that you ease into them. If you jump into these exercises (pun intended) before your feet are strong enough, there’s a good chance that you will overturn your feet, which can cause serious injury.
By employing these exercises and going barefoot, you can not only prevent flat feet from developing, but treat them, as well.