Fix Flat Feet, Inverted Ankles, and Foot Pain


Here at MoveU, we are all about strengthening your body’s foundations. In some ways, your core (including your back) is your foundation because it’s so central.


However, your feet are your base. If your base is weak and misaligned, the rest of your body is going to be affected.


Flat feet, also known as pes planus, is a condition where the arches of the feet are low or absent, causing the entire foot to come into contact with the ground. All babies are born with flat feet as arches are supposed to be developed through early childhood - typically by age 6.


Flat feet aren’t a problem for some people, but for others it can seriously impact your functionality and well-being.

Are Flat Feet Considered A Disability?

Visual of bottom of foot through glass table.

The answer to this question is - it depends. Way back in the olden days, you could actually be rejected from serving your country if the doc found you were flat-footed. The VA considers being flat footed a disability under certain conditions; but it really depends on the type. 

What are the types of flat feet?

Flexible: Flexible flat feet are the most common. You (or others) can see your arches when you aren’t standing, but they disappear when you put weight on your feet. Flexible flatfoot develops during the childhood or teen years, affects both feet, and gets progressively worse with age. Tendons and ligaments in the arches of the feet can stretch, tear and swell.


Rigid: If you have rigid flat feet, you have no arches regardless of whether you’re standing or sitting. This condition develops during the teen years and progresses with age. You may have pain in your feet and find it difficult to flex the feet up or down or move them side-to-side. Flatfoot can affect one foot or both sides.


Adult-acquired: This is also called “fallen arches'' and occurs when the foot's arch unexpectedly collapses. This typically affects only one foot and is usually caused when the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and supports the arch gets weak over time or tears.


Vertical talus: Sometimes known as “rocker-bottom foot” due to the way the foot resembles a rocking chair, this condition is a birth defect (congenital disability) that prevents the arches from forming due to the talus bone in the ankle being in the wrong position.

What Problems Can Flat Feet Cause?


Having weak, flat feet alters your foot mechanics, gait pattern, and weight distribution - starting a domino effect that leads to even further imbalances and pain.

  • Altered posture: Flat feet can cause a forward (anterior) tilt of the pelvis and an exaggerated lower back curve (lordosis). One outcome of this can be sciatic pain or herniated discs. 
  • Gait changes: Flat feet are typically connected with overpronation, where the foot and ankle roll in too much. This can create pain in the knees, ankles, and feet.
  • Uneven weight distribution: When your weight isn’t evenly distributed, it can create stress on other areas of your body; particularly your low back. 
  • Lack of shock absorption: Because strong arches act as natural shock absorbers, the forces and pressures of walking, running, and standing are evenly distributed. For people with flat feet, that lack of arch support limits their ability to absorb impact effectively.

Again, we want to emphasize that not all flat feet are problematic. It is possible for a flat foot to still be functional and strong, so if this is something you’re concerned about, you may want to see a local practitioner for an evaluation.

What Are the Signs of Flat Feet?

  • Absence of a natural arch when standing.
  • Pain in the middle or near the arch.
  • Swelling on the bottom or inside of your feet (not due to a recent injury).
  • Ankle, knee, and/or back pain.
  • Poor posture.
  • Knees that buckle or turn inward.
  • Overly pronated feet. Here’s how to tell if this is you. 

For a deeper look into your misalignments, try our totally free posture assessment tool!

What Are the Potential Causes of Flat Feet?

Flat feet can develop due to various factors:

  • Genetics: Flat feet can be inherited, leading to flat feet from an early age (although this is not the most common).
  • Foot and ankle injuries: Trauma or damage to the ligaments, tendons, or bones in the foot and ankle can result in fallen arches and flat feet.
  • Aging: Without proactive strengthening, the supportive tissues in the feet can weaken and stretch out over time, causing the arches to flatten.

Do Orthotics Work for Flat Feet and Fallen Arches?

Orthotics can provide immediate, short-term relief from pain for those with flat feet, particularly when it comes to high-impact sports or activities. They provide comfort, stability, and reduce shock and strain on the feet.


However, they have their limitations and don’t address the root cause of flat feet, which is something we are huge proponents of. 


If you don’t address underlying foot strength and function issues, your feet will become dependent on external supports and grow weaker and less capable of supporting themselves.  


If you use orthotics, they should be thought of as crutches… a potentially necessary tool for the short term, but not something you want as part of your life forever.

Can Flat Feet Be Corrected?

In most cases, YES. However, it’s going to take some effort to reverse what has likely taken some time to develop. Keep reading for where we begin that process!

Choose Better Footwear

Dr. Mike with VivoBarefoot Shoes

Your shoes can either help your feet be stronger or allow your feet to grow weaker. If you want your feet to be lazy, by all means encase them in a shoe that does all the work for them. But strong, engaged feet need to be put through their paces (pun intended) and be challenged a bit - just like every other part of your body. 


Consider the following factors when selecting shoes:

  1. Toe Box Space: Wearing shoes with a roomy toe box allows your toes to spread naturally. This allows your whole foot to engage the ground and create a more stable foundation.
  2. Heel Drop: A raised heel can shorten your achilles tendon (you don’t want this). Look for a zero to low heel drop (flat) shoe to allow your foot to mimic a more natural posture.
  3. Cushion: Too much padding underfoot is like walking on marshmallows. It may feel comfy, but it’s an ankle sprain waiting to happen. Your brain also benefits immensely from your feet being able to sense the variations in the ground beneath your feet.

    Important notes on barefoot shoes:

    1. If you're used to wearing highly supportive shoes or orthotics, you may need to transition gradually to minimalist footwear. This will help your feet gradually adapt and strengthen as you provide them with more natural stimulation underfoot. 
    2. While we generally love the most minimal shoes, we must acknowledge that a lot of concrete walking can be hard on the joints and some cushion may be warranted. We think Anya's Reviews is a fantastic resource for finding just the right minimalist footwear for your environment and lifestyle. 

    Exercises To Fix Flat Feet

    Feet become flat in part due to weak muscles. To reverse this, you need to make them active and strong. There are two specific types of exercises that can help:

    1. Arch strengthening exercises help strengthen the muscles on the bottom of your feet and promote better foot stability.
    2. Toe spreading and gripping exercises help activate and strengthen the muscles responsible for toe control and overall foot stability. 

      Keep in mind that the hips and glutes directly influence your feet, just as the feet directly influence your hips and glutes. Weak glutes can also be contributing to your flat feet and fallen arches. Everything in your body is connected!

      Banded Squats

      Resistance band just below knees
      1. Place a small resistance band just below or above your knees.
      2. Drive your knees outward into the band.
      3. Use good squat form to perform bodyweight or weighted squats with a focus on keeping your ankle aligned in a neutral position.

      Pseudo Arch

      Model showing Pseudo Arch
      1. Stand up tall with your feet directly under your hips.
      2. Roll your feet and ankles out and then curl your toes under as much as you can, creating as much of an arch as possible.
      3. Return to flat foot and repeat. Take it slowly.

      You should feel the muscles in the bottom of your feet working hard here and may even cramp some. This is normal. 

      Toe Spready

      Model showing Toe Spready
      1. Place one heel on a yoga block and let your toes hang off. 
      2. From there, spread your toes as much as your can unassisted and then slowly curl them underneath as much as possible.
      3. Continue to slowly flex and extend your toes to their fullest range.

      *We also love passive tools like these toe spreaders!

      Calf Raises

      Model showing Calf Raises
      1. Stand on a ledge or step and place a tennis or lacrosse ball between your ankles or heels. Your feet should be very close to each other and pointing straight forward.
      2. Slowly come up on the ball of your foot, keeping that lacrosse ball in place.
      3. Continue to raise and lower for at least 15 reps.


      MoveU Membership Dashboard

      Your feet are the base the rest of your body relies on. Without proper foot function, you’ll struggle to move well which will affect other aspects of your health.

      Build that base starting with the Knee, Ankle & Foot program found in the MoveU Membership and work your way to a strong, mobile body.


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