As far as anatomy goes, the arch in our foot is not a body part. The arch is created when the muscles and bones in the foot are working well. It’s the same concept that happens when we arch an eyebrow. The work that goes into arching an eyebrow is similar to the work that must be done to arch the mid-section of the foot. The thing is, when we don’t keep those muscles in shape an arch cannot be formed. Wearing shoes with arch support or orthotics weakens those muscles, resulting in low arches or in some cases flat feet. Both of these conditions can cause pain “upstream”, especially in knees, hips and lower back.
In addition to improper footwear, sitting too much also has a negative effect on the arch of the foot. Try this little experiment:
- Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Bring your knees together. Watch what happens to the arch of your foot (if you have one). You should see it collapse.
- Come back to the starting position with your feet shoulder width apart and let your knees fall out to the sides a bit. You should see an arch form under both feet.
When we spend too much time in the sitting position, hip joints seize up and mobility is reduced. Thanks to gravity, our knees tend to fall in instead of staying neutral and that leads to the flattening of the arches. Old school thinking was to add support to the arches and that would make everything better. It does work short term but it causes other ailments in the long run. It would be like using crutches for a lifetime to prevent the deterioration of knee joints.
There are 3 things that can be done to get the arch back if you’ve lost it:
- Work on hip mobility by sitting on the floor (don’t lean on anything) instead of sitting in a chair as much as you can.
- Spend time barefoot or in natural footwear (flat, flexible, thin sole and wide toe box)
- Work on foot mobility by massaging your feet, spreading your toes and using a lacrosse ball to break up stiffness.
So, kick off your shoes, wiggle your toes and get to know your feet. They are your foundation. There’s no question about that.
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