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When I started this blog over two years ago I was fairly optimistic that the future would contain a better balance of my work with my passions, and that I would begin again to really move forward with my somatic explorations.

Kind of ironic that I’ve been working 7 days for most of the last two months.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to explore for years are my flat feet.  Towards the end of last year, I started to experience what I believe are osteo-arthritic changes resulting from the structural collapse.  This spurred me to commit some time into working on this problem, and I developed a fairly effective exercise protocol as a result.  Which I worked with for a relatively short time, and am now neglecting in favour of my work.  :-S

Anyway, recently someone emailed me asing about progress, and that spurred me to at least write up some of the exercises I’ve been using & have found to be fairly effective.  Hopefully they’re of use to someone else beyond me.

Foundational exercise 1 – Figure-8

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing straight ahead
  • Close your eyes & concentrate on your feet & their contact on the ground
  • Basic exercise (repeat)
    • Transfer weight into one heel
    • Roll weight around the outside of your foot towards the pad of the little toe, then onwards to the pad of the big toe
    • Transfer weight into the other heel
    • Roll weight around the outside of your foot towards the pad of the little toe, then onwards to the pad of the big toe
  • This exercise is a simplified version of walking.  As you’re doing it notice if it’s easy for you, or if there are elements that you struggle with.  Is one foot more flexible than the other?
  • Repetition of this exercise seems to loosen the joints, muscles & fascia of the feet & seems to begin to re-establish a more natural neurological control (i.e. the foot begins to adopt an arch)

Before you move onto the further exercises you should notice whether you tend to stand with your toes engaged & weight a little forward on your feet.  If you do, then the following exercises are probably not for you.

Foundational exercise 2

While standing in a stationary position, pay attention to your feet & transfer your weight forward so that the toes are engaged.  After a period of doing this exercise (20-30s), the muscles of the foot tend to become engaged in the support of the arch.  The rest of the body might also adapt to this new position.  Holding the position for a period of time leads to strengthening of the muscles which have been disengaged (inhibited) & are now weakened.

The foundational exercises should be done regularly for a period of time until the figure-8 feels reasonably natural, and the feeling of the arch being engaged is starting to feel “right”.  The advanced exercises can then be adopted in addition to the foundational exercises.

Advanced exercise 1

  • Concentrate on the figure-8 while walking, with a particular emphasis on pushing off with your big toe.
  • Can be done once the figure-8 feels relatively natural.

Advanced exercise 2

Following on from the first two foundational exercises, this is an exercise which strengthens the muscles which support the arch during walking.  It essentially involves first engaging the arch (in the position which feels right), then transferring weight into the heels, and forward into the toes (lifting the heels off the ground), then repeating.  It is critical for the success of this exercise that the arch is engaged.  What we’re doing here is repatterning movement as well as developing muscular strength & engagement.  We don’t want to develop incorrect movement patterns.  Repeat until the muscles start to become fatigued.

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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.