Feet first

Feet of unrecognizable woman sitting on window sill with smart phone and cup of coffee
Wasfia JalaliApril 24, 2017 17:11 IST
Updated: April 24, 2017 17:11 IST

Even though your child may be born with flat feet, there are muscle-strengthening exercises that can help mitigate the impact

Flat feet are more common than most of us would imagine: a paper published in the Indian Journal of Basic and Applied Medical Research put the number at 11.25% in a study of 18-25-year-old physiotherapy students. Also known as pes planus or the condition of fallen arches, a number of people may experience pain or suffer overuse injuries.

“Children with flat feet are usually slower when they run, as compared to their counterparts, and their natural jumping mechanism might not be as efficient. Eventually, people with flat feet run a high risk of early joint degeneration or early onset of arthritis. This might happen even in the 30s,” explains Dr Maninder Shah Singh, Head, Foot & Ankle Unit, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.

The development of the arch usually starts at 7 or 8 years of age. Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out whether your child really does have flat feet. “A simple test to find out whether your child has rigid or flexible flat feet is to make her stand on her toes. If an arch develops, the child has flexible flat feet, and is most likely to be problem-free (since it may disappear over time). However, a small sub-set will have rigid flat feet. These children may be prone to frequent ankle sprains, aches and tiredness in the feet. Such children must be closely examined for any underlying condition such as tarsal coalition (a bone connection problem) or neurological or muscular disorders,” says Dr Ashish Ranade, Consultant, Pediatric Orthopedics, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.

Here are some exercises that may help to strengthen the muscles that support the foot.

Calf stretch

Method: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly lift your body up on to your toes, and hold for a few seconds. Now slowly lower yourself back to start and repeat the exercise 3-5 times daily.

Caution: Hold the position only as long as it’s comfortable. “Do not stretch your feet too hard, especially when you are beginning to exercise,” cautions Dr Singh.

Gastrocnemius strengthening

Method: Stand on the edge of a step, with the balls of your feet resting on the edge. Now, lower both your heels towards the lower step, so as to feel a slight stretch in your gastrocnemius, the muscle at the back of the lower part of your leg. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds; repeat thrice, daily.

Caution: Always use a support — a railing or a wall — so you don’t lose balance.

Heel chord strengthening

Method: Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall for support. Stand on your toes, and balance yourself. Now, turn your feet slightly towards the left (while still on your toes) and come back to position. Repeat towards the right side.

u on: Begin by performing this stretch once or twice on both sides, and only gradually increase the duration and number of times you perform the exercise.

Toe curls

Method: Sit on a chair with a towel under your foot. Stretch your toes, followed by a curling movement to pull the towel towards you. All this time, your heel must be firmly placed on the ground. Repeat 3-5 times for both feet. Once you have mastered this, start placing low weights (200 gm to begin with) on the towels to further boost the strength of your toes.

ution: Don’t load the towel with too much weight; make it a gradual process.