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Weekly Progress Update 11

It’s been several years since the last progress update so this post has been a long time in the making. At the time I stopped writing weekly updates I had achieved the initial goal I set for increasing the height of my arches and was very happy with the results.

I continued working on arch strengthening exercises after that point to see how much more improvement I could get and also to better control how much my feet pronated, especially with activities like running or squatting.

Because my feet started out extremely flat, the most dramatic results definitely came during the first few months of starting this project. After that, the strength and general appearance of my arches still continued to show improvement, though, as I found new exercises to work on and fine-tuned some of the exercises I had already been doing.

Arch Shape

The difference in the shape of my foot when standing from when I started to now is like night and day. Since the last progress update, the changes are a little more subtle: the curve of the arch seems more uniform and there appears to be better muscle tone on the inside of the foot.

Foot Prints

Even though taking regular footprints was a messy and time-consuming process, I sort of miss the excitement that came along with doing it each week during the project, so I got out the washable paint to make some for this update.

I make these footprints by walking over a sheet of paper so they show where pressure is placed on the underside of my foot. I also used measurements from the footprints to calculate an arch index.

When I started, both feet had an arch index of greater than 1.0 which is typical for flat feet. Now, the arch index is around 0.8. This is even an improvement from the last time I posted a progress update when the index was 0.98 on both sides.

Exercise Routine

I tested out a lot of exercises going through this process of building up my arches. Knowing what I know now, what I consider the core exercises have essentially stayed the same. More details on these can be found on the sample exercise page, but basically, those exercises are:

  • the short foot exercise for intrinsic foot muscle strength,
  • calf stretching for ankle dorsiflexion flexibility,
  • exercises to stabilize the big toe against the ground (e.g. toe yoga), and
  • strengthening exercises for the calf muscles (e.g. heel raises).

What I’ve learned, however, is that there are many small details that make a big difference in terms of the effectiveness of those exercises.

For instance, I probably would have seen faster results if I knew the proper steps for progressing the short foot. I started right off the bat trying to do the exercise standing up. It took a while to realize I didn’t yet have the foot mobility or ankle flexibility to do the exercise properly and I needed to go back and work on easier variations before moving on to standing.

Another example is with the heel raises that, like the short foot exercise, took me a while to discover the proper form. A couple key elements for targeting the right muscles with heel raises are keeping the big toe stable against the ground and controlling the position of the heel. So doing separate exercises for toe abduction and heel inversion strength helped with developing the proper form needed for the raises.

Fixing Excessive Pronation

In terms of controlling pronation and preventing the arch from lowering when walking or running, the basic exercises certainly helped, especially after progressing to harder variations. But ultimately I needed to spend a lot of time adjusting the way that I walked and working on drills to change my gait mechanics.

I still wear minimalist or barefoot-style shoes the vast majority of the time and think that has made a huge difference. For the last couple of years, my favorite shoes have been the Lems Primal 2. I also still try to spend time barefoot whenever possible.

I don’t do foot exercises nearly as often as I used to but many of the exercises from the program I still do fairly regularly as I think they’re beneficial in general and not only for flat feet.

New Site Membership Feature

There’s been a lot happening with the site behind the scenes. Last year I added a membership option to provide readers access to more detailed exercise routines and tutorials for my program.

A lot of time last year was devoted to getting the membership portion of the site up and running smoothly. I’m excited by the feedback I’ve received so far and plan to continue developing that program, with a focus on expanding the video content over the next several months.

I also have a few blog posts planned for the near future–specifically regarding footwear, some research updates and information on flat feet-related conditions.

Ok, that’s it for now…see you again soon!

Important: This post is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical or physical therapy advice.

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James Speck
James is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience. He created this site to share his own journey toward better arches.

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