Q+A: How can I strengthen fallen arches?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by David Holland

Q I’m an overweight beginner who can now run three to four miles every other day at a steady 10 minute/mile pace. But a few years ago I suffered fallen arches, which caused quite considerable pain. My GP recommended arch supports, which I stopped using when the pain diminished. Now, though, I suffer acute pain in my left heel after running. Obviously, I’ll start using my arch supports again, but I wondered if there is any alternative treatment or an exercise that can strengthen my feet. Also, should I change my shoes?

A The original brief for Homo sapiens did not envisage footwear or pavements, neither of which we have adapted particularly well to, and both of which place unnecessary strain on the feet. Some individuals are less able to cope with this strain, and the end result is often arch and heel pain. This may explain why you found arch supports helpful when you were first diagnosed with flat feet, and why you find an arch support helps your heel.

If you find your current running shoes comfortable, continue wearing them. Your painful heel needs medical attention, not different shoes, and you should start by having an x-ray taken to rule out a fracture of the heel-bone. If there is no fracture present (and it would be unusual if you had a fracture), you should seek the services of a good chartered physiotherapist who will treat the painful heel. Treatment should be carried out in conjunction with wearing your arch supports. If you still experience problems after treatment you may have to make use of a pair of prescription supports (orthoses), and you should see a podiatrist for this.

Provided that there’s no fracture present, there’s little likelihood of you doing much damage, even if you continue to train. Generally speaking, however, the longer these conditions continue, the longer they take to resolve, and of course this may well interfere with your training as you become fitter and increase your training.

David Holland, consulting podiatrist

Previous article
Q+A: How can I deal with Achilles scar tissue?
Next article
Which Injury Specialist: Podiatrists

fallen arches, strength, foot

Discuss this article

4months ago iwent over my rigth ankle

I had sprained tendons &liagments
and i have not ran yet since then i discover my right foot arch has fallen .
After walking ie miles later on is sore.

Last week i tried to run on the treadmill
for 20 minutes i notice my right foot feel flat and my left feels normal it feels like its not balance.So help i want to get back to running i really miss it

Posted: 14/01/2006 at 17:46


Im no expert, but there are many physio's etc on here that may offer sounder advice. But I think they will all say, get someone to look at it. Physio etc.

I twisted both my ankles twice on the first day of a 2 day event (KIMM) and it has taken me since October to feel 90% better, Im still not 100% and xc running is out until I build it back up slowly.

Keep your fitness up, rowing, bike but I really think an expert eye is the best way to go long term.

Good luck :-)
Posted: 14/01/2006 at 18:28

As a personal trainer, i try to look at the leg as a whole rather than just the foot itself. You may also need to strengthen you VMO (Vastus Medialis Obliques). This is a huge stabalizer of the knee. If your knee rolls in when you make contact with the ground then guess what... Your foot will roll in too (pronate).

I come across many runners in my job and first of all i look at their pelvic and hip function - Glute function- knee stability and quad strength the il have a look at what the feet are doing.

 I find doing a step up into a high knee raise on a bench works the stability throughout the entire lower leg includng the arch and strengthens in the process. Hamstring and glute strength is also vital in this exercise, but the key is the surface you step onto. A weights bench is cushioned therefore adds further instability which will make your foot and gastroc complex work alot harder. 

Posted: 19/01/2012 at 18:08

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.