Your Arch Enemy
Posted July 13, 2010on:
How’s your footprint these days? More importantly, how do your feet feel at the end of a long day of standing? Throughout my childhood, I was constantly diagnosed with “flat feet”, so that when I left behind a footprint, it didn’t show much of an arch. Yet arches are the shock absorbers of our feet, so they are important!
Years of orthopedic shoes later (and lots of money), and I still had “flat feet”. Believe it or not, I became athletic, using custom orthotics in my shoes. Still, my legs and feet would get achy before my friends’ would. I thought there was no solution.
When I started running marathons in my mid-20’s, the specialty shoe stores fitted me in motion control shoes in addition to my orthotics, to prevent my feet from running inward. I ran like the breeze… with cement bricks on my feet. Still, I’d reach the 20th mile with my lungs feeling great and my feet feeling terribly.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I received tremendous insight in combination from some runners and podiatrists who are “in the know”, so I thought I’d pass that along to you. More recent research has proven that motion control shoes often function more like a crutch, merely holding our weak arches up, doing the work for us, and not allowing them to strengthen. Wow. So I decided, then, to try running and working out in some (less expensive! hooray!) neutral-support shoes. I still used my orthotics, as I have structural problems that need correction, but using orthotics plus motion control was just over-the-top.
And the experiment was a rousing success! My feet are no worse for the wear. (I just need to get my joints happy enough again to experiment with more long running.)
I have also incorporated balance work to further strengthen my arches. Stand near a wall (so you can hold on in case you fall over), make sure your pelvis is level forward/backward/right/left, and just lift one leg off of the floor. Your hands can be on your hips, or out to the side. I suggest doing this barefoot to really work your arches. Hold as long as you can stand it, and work the other side as well. Your deep core will get a workout, as well, and this will also help you if you are a frequent ankle-sprainer!
Between switching shoe type and barefoot balance work, I can’t say that I’m not flat footed, but I’ve made significant improvements in foot pain, and also in knee pain (when your foot rolls inward, your knees follow). Try these things out, and of course, your mileage may vary. I’d love to hear your experiences!