Flat feet look very strange to me. I know this guy who has them and claims that he once had arches but then one day they just disappeared. Just like that!
I was floored by this.
What freaked me out the most was that he said he had no idea what happened or why, which got me wondering if anybody's arches could just disappear at any moment. Scary.
I have the opposite problem. My arches are so high they cause cramps up the sides of my legs. Call me an asshole, say vanity will be my downfall and all that, but arches make prettier feet. Beyond that, can flat feet cause more serious problems?
What the experts say
"Biomechanical alignment works like babies playing with blocks to make a tower. If the blocks are well aligned, the tower can go to the sky, but if one is out at the bottom, the tower will collapse. The body doesn't collapse, but it compensates, adapts and shifts, causing troubles anywhere between the feet, head and jaw. People can develop knee or hip problems, bursitis, tendonitis, buttock pain, back pain, headaches. A thorough assessment to find the particular characteristics of your feet is essential. Fallen arches can be corrected with orthotics and proper exercise. Movement can take place more efficiently if the foot is trained to act efficiently. Exercises should emphasis using your toes."
LINE TROSTER, physiotherapist, One to One Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Clinic, Toronto
"Everyone's arch falls a little bit. Over time the muscles become less toned, less strong, and there's a natural decrease in the arch. That'll be influenced by weight gain, activity, stress and trauma. People whose feet roll inward lose shock absorption, and the foot is no longer a stable mechanism to toe off on. The person has to externally rotate the foot and walk off on the side of the great toe. This can cause bunions, numbness, calluses. Fallen arches changes the position of the pelvis, increasing the curvature of the spine and increasing the rotation of the upper body. Traditionally, people suffered less than we do now that we've surrounded ourselves with concrete. Good solid, structural support [in footwear] can offset a lot of the instability."
MARK BRADLEY, podiatrist, Mississauga Podiatry Associates
"While most people with flat feet don't have a problem, they can experience arch or knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendonitits, plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. See a health care professional if you have foot pain or if no arch appears when you stand on your toes . Devices such as foot orthotics are used to alter foot function. The actual height of the arches is not as important as how they function during walking and running. One of the causes of falling arches is over-pronation, a leaning inward of the ankle bones toward the centre line. To know whether you over-pronate when walking, look at a pair of your well-worn shoes. If you have flat feet, there will be more wear on the inside of the sole in the heel area. There is some controversy as to whether foot exercises help support fallen arches."
KAREN JONGEDIJK, chiropractor, Oma Chiropractic, Toronto
"We look into the relationship and functioning between the foot, knee, back and hip. If you improve mobility in one part, it will improve in others. If you can improve what's happening in the hip and back, you may not even have to address the fallen arch directly. I've had people who've been able to stand with the arch lifted after one lesson. Here's a little movement series that stimulates the buttock muscles that connect with the legs and their ability to pull up the arches: Lie on your stomach, slowly lift your lower legs so your feet face the ceiling and gently flex and point your feet. Make circles with your feet. Get up slowly and see what your standing is like now."
JUDY KATZ, guild-certified Feldenkrais practitioner, Toronto