How to strengthen the arches of your feet

barefoot beach

If you’ve got flat feet (aka collapsed arches or overpronation), you may have been told there’s not much you can do about it other than to find some supportive training shoes. Good news! You can train the arches of your feet to be stronger – just like any other muscle of the body.

Here are some exercises to help strengthen your feet.

Foot strengthening exercises

Before you get into this, don’t do all these in one go as a programme if you haven’t been working to strengthen your arches previously. Overworking your arches can cause plantar fasciitis – a painful condition where the tissue along the sole of the foot becomes inflamed – it tends to come right with supportive footwear, stretching of the feet and rest to recover, but we want to do our best to avoid it.

Add just one or two of these exercises into your training sessions a few times each week and see how you go, then aim to build over time if your feet feel fine.

Check with each exercise that your grounded foot/feet are evenly placed to start, with toes spread out and even weight across three points – the heel, ball of the foot and the toes.

  • Barefoot scrunches – Standing or sitting on a chair, have feet flat on the ground. Grip the ground as you scrunch your toes, visualise trying to pull that part of the floor back towards you – then release. Repeat 10 times, then do the other side.
  • Barefoot balancing – Stand on one foot for one minute. If you fall out of it or your arch begins to cramp, take a moment to stretch it and find your balance again. Keep your standing leg hip directly underneath your body (not relaxed out to the side) and a soft bend in your knee. Swap feet and repeat.
  • Barefoot calf raises – Standing with feet hip width apart, slowly rise up onto your toes ensuring your ankles stay in line with your big toes (not rolling in or out), slowly return to the ground. Repeat 10 times.
  • Single leg barefoot calf raises – A combination of the two previous exercises, stand on one foot, slowly rise up onto your toes then slowly lower down. Repeat 10 times, then do the other side.
  • Barefoot loop band arch strengtheners – Stand with a firm loop band around your ankles and step your feet as wide as you can so there’s decent tension on the band. Roll both feet slightly inwards, feeling the ankles move towards each other and arches come down towards the ground, then roll them back to normal aiming to feel a strong lift in the arches of the feet. Repeat 10 times.

Other activities to strengthen the feet

Anything that challenges your balance and stability will help – walking or running on sand or other uneven surfaces, skating, yoga, slacklining…

Just bear in mind that if your feet aren’t strong enough and you do these activities for sustained periods of time, that it can also lead to plantar fasciitis (there are many stories of days simply walking at the beach wearing jandals that result in it!). So check in with your body, keep hydrated so the fascia will be better able to stretch, and allow time to rest and recover.

Image / DepositPhotos.com

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