Pes planus, otherwise known as flatfoot, is a common condition experienced by many individuals that is often associated with plantar fasciitis and development of knee and hip pain. Foot orthotics are commonly prescribed as a first line intervention for individuals with pes planus, but the research shows that short foot exercises should be included as a primary treatment strategy for pes planus.
Protopapas et al published a randomized controlled trial in August 2020 that sought to determine the effect of a 12-week custom orthotic intervention on intrinsic foot muscle size and activity. The authors measured a significant decrease in muscle size of the flexor digitorum brevis, abductor digiti minimi, and abductor hallucis without noting a change in muscle activity. They suggest that a course of short foot exercises should be included with any custom orthotic intervention to reduce the risk of disuse atrophy of the intrinsic foot musculature.
Another study published in September 2019 by Okamura et al showed that an 8 week course of short foot exercises performed 3 times per week was able to effectively correct static foot alignment in individuals with pes planus and significantly improve foot kinematics during walking tasks. Unver et al published similar findings in October 2019 showing that a 6 week course of short foot exercises performed daily had a significant impact on pain, disability, and foot pronation.
Try this exercise progression to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your feet: