Collapsed arches are a very big problem in the athletic and fitness community and it often goes unaddressed. Although by itself a collapsed arch will not be that noticeable or even cause too much pain. After time though, this “simple” problem can cause a multitude of other problems.
Here’s just a short list:
- Knee Pain
- Flat Feet
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Low Back and Hip Pain
- Shin Splints
In this post we are going to examine collapsed arches; what causes them and some exercise remedies that may help to fix them.
The arch of the foot is made up of the tarsal and metatarsal bones as well as joints and ligaments. This structures purpose is to help support the foot when bearing weight and also to help disperse energy during locomotion (i.e. walking, running, etc.).
We like to think that there is only one arch in the foot, but there isn’t. We actually have 3 arches in each foot. Two of them are called longitudinal arches and they run parallel from the back to the front of the foot. The other arch runs across the middle of the foot and it is called the transverse arch.
These three arches form a triangular structure to the foot, where weight is to be evenly distributed along these three contact points for the foot to have the most mechanical advantage. With a collapsed arch, however, this structure becomes compromised.
Causes Of A Collapsed Arch
There are many things that can cause collapsed arches. One of the most popular culprits is genetics. Some people are born with very low arches or even no arches at all.
Another cause is from old injuries of any kind that happened to the foot. If the foot was injured in any way that affected the tendons, ligaments and/or muscles surrounding the arch, then that may lead to collapsed arches as well.
Tendons or ligaments that are warped or weakened in any way can contribute to collapsed arches as well.
Another cause is from walking with your feet turned out. If you are on your feet for a long period of time, then sooner or later your feet will get tired and stiff, as a result most people will start to turn their feet out to the side when they walk. Weight is unevenly distributed and the arch begins to weaken. This rings especially true if you have shoes with poor arch support.
Bad squatting mechanics also cause collapsed arches. Assuming the lifter doesn’t know how to generate torque with his/her hips, when people squat with their feet turned outwards they will commonly have valgus knee collapse at the bottom of the squat. This causes weight to be unevenly loaded on the foot. The arch will collapse inward along with the knee.
Overall tightness of the achilles tendon. Ironically, this is also one of the contributing factors to plantar fasciitis. The achilles tendon is one beast of a tendon, considering the amount of force it absorbs and delivers. If tight though, then the tendon will restrict ankle dorsiflexion and lead to a collapsed arch. The body will compensate by turning your feet outwards.
How To Fix Collapsed Arches
The first and most effective way to deal with a collapsed arch is through soft tissue work. You need to first mobilize the region before you strengthen it.
A foam roller or lacrosse ball should suffice. Now take your time, focus and be prepared to work. Spend a good amount of effort rolling out the entire upper leg, lower leg, heel cord and the bottom of the foot.
Since the feet are the base of support of the body, you can bet that a movement restriction here will lead to tight muscles somewhere upstream of the foot.
Once the area has been loosened up a bit, it is time to strengthen the muscles that make up the arch.
The muscle group that is primarily responsible for holding up the arch is the tibialis posterior. This muscle attaches onto the navicular bone of the foot. The navicular bone is a tarsal bone on the medial side of the foot, right where the arch is.
There are more muscles responsible for supporting the arch, but it is not necessary to list them all. The tibialis posterior is the most important one.
To strengthen this muscle requires some fine motor skills. Place a coin on the ground (doesn’t matter what type) and place the foot over it so the coin is just below the big toe. Now from here, push down hard with your big toe. Think of pushing the coin into the ground.
You will notice that your arch will start to rise up again.
Just make sure that you relax your little toes and keep your foot straight. You should hold this for 30 seconds at a time and then work your way up to 2 minutes.
Now that you have some understanding about what the arch does and what creates it, it is time to put that knowledge to the test. You may be able to do the exercise, but can you maintain that arch throughout the day.
Well, if you keep walking with your feet turned outwards, no you won’t.
You have to learn how to walk properly to let your posture naturally support the arch. To do this just walk with your feet facing straight ahead. This will allow for the arch to naturally be present when walking.
By making this a habit, the arch will continue to make itself present. Don’t complain, I know it’s tough but think about how much your joints will be thanking you in the future.
Most athletes are unaware of the importance of their arches and the significance of collapsed arches. Pain or discomfort that may interfere with performance may actually be a problem in the foot instead of the knee or hip.
Remember, the feet are the foundation of the body. If the foundation is weak or dysfunctional, then the entire structure is at risk for future damage.