We have all heard this diagnose. We know kind of what it is and how it is treated. It is very possible you suffer from it too, without even realizing. But how bad it really is? Is it treatable? How we tend to treat it and is it the right way? Keep reading to find out more.
As a young kid, i was diagnosed with flat feet. And I was not alone. I remember being diagnosed with it in my early childhood. In the kinder garden, which in Bulgaria would be at the age between 3 and 7 years old, we were often visited by different specialists. Some tested our vision. Others tested how we talk, as well as how we walk. I remember being told that I have flat feet and I must go to visit another specialist in an orthopedic shop. There I will be provided with special insoles that will curve my feet and create the necessary arch. Of course, as a kid I was just observing this process being handled by my parents and our general practitioner. I was not just given the business card and the address myself. I was a kid after all, what could I say. At least, they said that this is necessary but almost all kids have it so I should not be worried at all.
Soon we got them. I had to have those uncomfortable insoles, which were not cheap either. They were probably the same price as a regular adult shoes. Bear in mind that as a kid you need shoes every other month, as your feet grow, so you need new insoles as well. The guy at the shop advised my parents to also look for shoes that have that artificial curve and are not flat. Since then, I remember always gravitating towards shoes with a significantly big sole.
Funny enough I remember always having low back pain, as well as my calves being super tight. So tight, that I would often be accused to walk on my toes like a ballet dancer. It does make sense though, but I realized it no longer that 3 years ago, when I started to read and be more interested in it.
The reality is that I was always in shoes. I never walked barefoot. As a kid my mom always worried that my feet will be cold or I will get injured or something, so she always wanted me to be with shoes. I don’t blame her. She was a great mother. The best one. She wanted the best for her kids, and she made sure to see that. and when she was advised to put me in thick sole shoes, she did. When she was advised to put insoles inside, of course she did. But, the problem was that always walking with shoes did not allow my feet to develop as they should.
As kids, we are not born with an arch. When we start to walk on our feet, we slowly start to develop strength in the muscles needed for walking. This is why the walking process is slow. It takes time to learn to walk without support. Remember, if there is a demand for change, the body will change. However, if the demand is not there, in other words we put cushions under our natural cushions, our brain will be fooled and develop the feet differently.
That is the first and most common mistake we do. We almost never walk barefoot, and we walk in shoes that provide us with artificial stability. Then we are diagnosed with flat feet and we must wear insoles to change the structure of the foot. What if I tell you that those insoles are in fact not helping, but the very opposite?
The arch of our feet is created and maintained by muscles. That muscles run along the base of our foot. When working correctly, those muscles bring the toes closer to the heel, creating that desired arch. If we have something to support that arch, instead of the muscles, we will eliminate the demand of that muscles to work.
Do this test at home. Stand tall and raise your knee as high as you can. Now stay like that for as long as possible. Soon you will start shaking, maybe you will even cramp. Now do the same thing with the other leg, but this time find something high enough to step and rest your leg on. How long can you stay now and how much of muscle activation you feel.
The same happens with the insoles. You are keeping the joints of the feet in that arched position, without allowing the muscles responsible for it to do their job. This over time results in atrophy of those muscles and worsening the issue. Essentially you become dependent of the insoles and sign a lifetime membership with the orthopedic shops.
OK. We must work on those muscles and walk more barefoot. How do we do that? Don’t worry! I got you covered.
Step number one. Connect with those muscles.
I will give two exercises to practice, so you can feel how those muscles work and what they do.
1. Grab a towel. Place it on a slippery surface. Step on the towel and try to fold it under your foot. The goal is to use only your toes, without lifting up the heal. You can start seated at first and then progress to a standing position.
2. For this one you will need a resistance band. You can do it with a cable as well, but you will need someone’s help, by pulling it away from you. The goal is to hold the band or the cable with your big toe, by jamming it down to the floor. You will feel your feet on fire, especially if you try to do a lunge on squat, while holding the band.
Step number 2 start to walk barefoot more often.
Don't go crazy about it and spend countless of money for barefoot shoes or even going barefoot outside. No, no, chill. Start slow. Walk barefoot at home. Feel the ground. Feel your feet. Do they roll inwards? Can you control the arch while walking? Switch to flat shoes. Sneakers are perfect. The less heel drop, the better.
This will allow your feet to slowly adapt to the change and will increase the demand of maintaining that arch. However, you must learn how to connect with those muscles on the first place, so do not skip Step 1.
Step Number 3. Be mindful.
The more barefoot you walk the more mindful you will have to be. Think about your feet. Play with your toes. Lift them up. Push them down. Try to spread them apart. As you are sitting, standing, walking, put your mind in there, and soon you won’t have to think about it at all. You will find that the more you practice, the easier it will become to maintain the arch. And eventually you won’t have to focus on it, as it will become your default pattern.
I am sure it is a great business to sell insoles to families with kids. But is it moral to do so? What if that specialist in the kinder garden would have advised my mom to make me walk barefoot, instead of selling her straight away insoles and saying that her kid is not developed well?
In some rare cases you will really benefit from orthopedic insoles, however in most of the cases, you really don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on magic stuff that are going to change you. You just need time and dedication. Yes, insoles are easy and temporary fix. But we all know that when it comes to our body, those stuff are never good on a long term.