Confucius say. “A man who questions the norm is a man I want to hang out with”
Confucius might not have said this…. But I’m sure he would of thought it.
When we look at flat feet, are orthotics really the answer? Or are they an old fashioned, easy road our practitioner and we take to solve a more in depth problem?
Do we realise that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (actual physics law by Newton) therefore by placing ourselves in orthotics we are going to cause an equal and opposite reaction elsewhere in the foot and body.
Typically, by placing ourselves on the outside of our foot (if the orthotic is providing medial arch support) and loading laterally, we are going to cause more loading on the outside of our foot, contributing to overload through the outside of our lower leg shin muscles or peroneals, in addition to increased activation through lateral quadriceps, hamstring and iliotibial band overload all of which can lead to gluteal overload, as these muscles work harder to stabilize the inefficient lower limb. Hip issues lead to back compensation. I think you get the picture
I myself was prescribed orthotics as a teenager for my foot arch pain. Although I did not enjoy wearing them I persevered, as it was the only solution my health care provider had given me for my “flat feet”.
It wasn’t until halfway through my rugby career when I met a biomechanics specialist that I realised the secondary issues I was provoking by wearing them. Fixing my arch pain was as simple as getting rid of the orthotics and understanding what was really causing the pain.
Now as a Sports podiatrist with Evolutio, I help elite athletes to your everyday runner get rid of the orthotics forever, saving the individual hundreds of dollars in the process and fixing the problem for the long term.
So far since joining the team in October I’ve got 63 individuals out of their orthotics forever. That’s 63 athletes who will never have to fork out for another pair of orthotics in their life. Say this athlete is 20 years old, and they currently buy a pair of orthotics every year for the next 50 years and your typical pair of orthotics is $500. That’s $25,000 over 50 years they have saved by getting the problem fixed forever.
Now, let’s talk feet. There are 26 bones in the foot and more than 100 muscles and ligaments attached to them.
We live in such a modern world where shoes are worn at least 80% of the day. Shoes (and even more so orthotics) block normal foot movements preventing the muscles of the foot from functioning and therefore the more we wear shoes (and orthotics), the weaker our feet get.
We need every bone in the foot moving, and we need every muscle in the foot firing for us to have optimum performance from the ground up. If we don’t, our body will have to compensate as discussed previously.
Causes of Foot Muscle Weakness
Footwear is the biggest contributor to foot muscle weakness. Shoes that have rigid soles and narrow toe boxes constrain the movement of the toes. Inside of a shoe the toes no longer have the ability to spread apart, or grip. Too much time wearing shoes and not enough time spent barefoot could certainly cause the muscles to become inactive and lose strength.”
So lets not get ahead of ourselves and assume that our flat feet need orthotics! Here are three simple exercises to get you out of your orthotics. I'd also suggest coming in to see me for a specific assessment tailored towards you.
1. Trigger point work with a golf ball on the base of the foot
(Check out our Instagram on Friday (evolutio_) to watch James demonstrate this and his revamped swing after taking a few lessons from Alex and I.
2. Theraband exercise focusing on big toe with resistance
3. Loading exercises with a ball between the heels walking out 10-15m
4. Theraband work on creating to improve ankle range of motion
…Now that we are working on the foot it is important to understand there may be issues coming further up the body. Best to see a practitioner who understands who to link the foot to the rest of the body. Yes we are out there!!!
And remember – going barefoot once and a while is better for you (not to mention cheaper) than wearing your shoes and orthotics.
Other parts of the body that can contribute to flat feet and foot pain
Excessive horizontal flexion in arm swing (creating force)
Thoracic / lumbar limitation
Sacro iliac joint dysfunction
Anterior / posterior pelvic tilt
Limited hip range of motion
No glut activation
Valgum, varus quadriceps angle
Limitation of the ankle
No movement of the bones of the foot.
Issues that can develop from wearing Orthotics
Lateral calf issues and ongoing calf tightness/fatigue
Stress fractures in the foot
Hamstring tendinopathies (especially biceps femoris tendinopathy)
Gluteus medius tendinopathy
Lower Back Pain
Thoracic Stiffness and Locking