I’ve had collapsed arches (pronated feet) for my entire life.  At various stages I’ve been given exercises to help correct the problem which have not really helped.  I’ve also tried working on them myself with varying degrees of success.  The approach that I’ve been taking more recently seems to be really effecting some changes, so I thought that I’d document my process here in the hope that it can help others who suffer from this condition, and those who are interested in working with the flat footed.

I had completely collapsed arches when I was a kid.  Once when I was about 12, the father of one of my best mate’s (who was a physiotherapist) saw me walking with bare feet.  He was so amazed by how flat my feet were that videoed me walking. (I should get that video!)

Around this time I was given orthotic inserts for my shoes and the standard physiotherapy exercises at the time – putting a towel under my feet & pulling it towards me with my toes (strengthening the toe flexors which support the medial arch), and standing on a balance board (to activate and strengthen the muscles which laterally support the ankle).  I was not particularly motivated to do these exercises.  From memory
I think I did them for a week or two fairly regularly, and then tapered off after this.  So I guess it’s not really any surprise that no real progress was made with my feet.

The first real improvement happened spontaneously.  In 1999, while studying massage therapy in Auckland, I got into the habit of going to tai-chi classes weekly and practicing regularly.  One week during one of my tai-chi classes I felt what seemed like warmth flowing into my foot.  I became more aware of my right leg and my foot, and the structure of the foot spontaneously corrected.  Since this time my right arch has been fairly stable.  Although it remains slightly less upright than ideal, it is a long way from
where it started.

According to Chinese medical theory, chi is associated with
both awareness and healthy functioning.  Feelings of warmth
are commonly associated with movement of chi.

My left foot has never really corrected.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years working on with limited results.

Interestingly enough I recently noticed that I have less awareness of the left side of my body than in my right.  If I concentrate on how my body feels, I can more easily feel the sensations associated with my right shoulder (or insert other body part here), and I am also more aware of the positioning of body structures relative to others (e.g. my shoulder-blade with relation to my chest/neck).

I’m also aware that I have what feels to me like an energy block in the area of my left hip.  This area feels thick & sluggish to me, and below this point I have less sensory awareness of my leg.  I feel less connected to my leg than to other parts of my body if that makes any sense.  Interestingly I have noticed that sometimes following particular kinds of bodywork which focus on this area, my kinesthetic sense of my left leg has been markedly improved when I’ve gotten up from the table.

I said before that my left foot has never really corrected.  This is not exactly true.  Over the last two years I have been working with a series of somatic exercises which I’ve developed from my understanding of anatomy, kinesiology, and tai-chi as well as my own kinesthetic sense of my body.  I have noticed particularly in the last couple of months some real changes which I hope will continue.

I will talk more about these in future blog posts.