How to overcome fallen arches and run injury free.

Fallen Arches

Fallen arches are a common running injury, but it’s very hard to regain strength in this area (Illustration: Peter Greenwood)

Fallen arches, also know as having flat feet, or pes planus, refers to the collapsing of the foot’s arch so that it is no longer curved properly or adequately supportive.

The condition can cause foot pain, fatigue and affect gait, which can create strain on the knees, ankles legs and hips.

Fallen arches can occur naturally from birth, or can be attributed to the rolling in of the foot and ankle while running (overpronation).

Fallen arches can also be the result of other conditions such as overuse, stretching or tearing of the posterior tibial tendon (which attaches to a bone in the foot and runs up the calf of the lower leg at a tension which pulls up the arch) which reduces its ability to maintain tension in the tendon.

Whether or not the condition is caused by overpronation, this is the likely outcome for runners, whose arches are no longer strong enough to take the constant strain of bearing the body’s weight on impact, causing joint, postural and muscular problems.

Fallen arches – symptoms

  • Being unable to slip fingers underneath arches
  • Inwards rolling of foot and ankle when running
  • Knee problems due to lack of support from feet

HOW TO HELP AVOID FALLEN ARCHES

  1. Orthotic inserts, either prescribed or bought over the counter, can help keep the arches fixed into position, but always wear them as although they support, they don’t strengthen, which is why some experts reccomend avoiding them.
  2. Gait analysis at a run specialist can help to diagnose overpronation and flat feet. Most brands produce shoes that will give support and help to limit the negative effects of a poor gait on the rest of the body.
  3. Barefoot exercises, such as standing on a towel and making fists with the toes, can help to strengthen the arches. Start easy and build up the reps to avoid cramping.
  4. Short barefoot running sessions can help take pressure off the arches by using the natural elasticity of the foot’s tendons to take impact and build strength to help prevent flat feet. These should be done on grass for only a few minutes at a time.