Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

topic posted Thu, February 28, 2008 - 10:10 AM by  Kaytee
I think these might all be related. I have flat feet, the flatest of them all. Knowing this I have tried to self-correct by forcing an arch in my foot when I stand and walk, thus I walk heavy on my heels, primarily on the outside of my foot causing huge callouses to form just under my pinkie toe at the joint. These callouses ache after extended periods of dancing, as do my heels. When standing on one foot, I have incredibly poor balance because my ankle is constantly wavering between wanting to be flat and wanting to be arched (shaky foundation), plus my feet, in general, are small for my height (5'5", size 6.5). Lastly, my right shin aches, almost constantly, and I can not put any pressure against the shin (like poking it). If I do poke it, I feel sparp intense pressure that fades away when I stop poking it. After even just one workshop I can be limping because of the shin and the heels. What's going on? Is this something I can self-correct, or is it time to seek out professional medical help?

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  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Thu, February 28, 2008 - 10:45 AM
    There is a body of the non-medical profession that treats some things similar to this. I heard the word once before and am trying to remember it – rolfing? (Not to be confused with rolling on the floor laughing) It's on par with chiropractic – which means your medical doctor will do everything in his power to steer you away from this, but you can probably find 50 people who swear by it.

    I think it's called ROLFING (caps used to show what I think is the spelling of what I think is the word). Like, if you're bowlegged, you'd use rolfing to un-bow your legs. That kind of thing.

    I've never had it done. There's no one in the area where I live. I know next to nothing about it. I only know it exists because one of the dance trainers on Ballroom Bootcamp (FitTV) sent his trainee to one because she was bowlegged. He said he swears by it. It's not a one-treatment thing. It's a course of treatment. And I don't know if they can help your issues, but it's all I've got to suggest.
  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Thu, February 28, 2008 - 11:28 AM
    Kaytee, I know nothing about flat feet, so can't help you there. I'm a bit concerned that you're trying to self-correct - if you're not under the care of a podiatrist or other knowledgeable health care professional, you might do yourself more harm than good! I think it would be better if you see a podiatrist and invite that person to suggest an orthotic that is appropriate to your specific condition.

    For your balance, I suggest yoga. Start with triangle pose and the warrior poses. When you reach the point of being able to be in full triangle pose with your neck twisted to let your eyes look up with your hand while feeling completely stable, then you can move on to working with tree pose and dancer pose.

    Regarding your shins, it sounds as though you might have shin splints. I had them once, and they were horrid. Do you perhaps do a lot of walking, standing, or dancing on a concrete surface, such as a carpet laid over concrete, or linoleum over concrete? If so, that's what could be causing them. If not, what is your style of walking or dancing like? Do you plod heavily, or do you try to float on air? If your entire bodily energy pushes down, down, down with each step, you're more likely to have shin splints. But if you keep your bodily energy raised and imagine each foot lightly touching the floor just long enough to hold your weight until you can float up into the air between steps, you'll find that it's easier on your shins. When I was doing Scottish Highland dance, which involves a lot of leaping up and down in place, I learned to visualize myself as barely touching the floor when I landed between hops - I thought of myself as a lightly bouncing basketball, rather than as a huge boulder going thud. My shin splints went away, and I've never had them since. I now make it a lifestyle thing in my daily life to step delicately, as if walking across a surface of eggs without breaking them.
    • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

      Thu, February 28, 2008 - 11:51 AM
      Thanks for all the info, Shira!

      Should I mention that I have had this shin pain for 14 years? I am 26 now, and 14 years again I was told it was just growing pains and would go away when I got older. I graduated high school, still with the shin pain but started college and working part time I had no time to spend thinking about my health. Then grad school, so more ignoring. Now I am working full time, and I actually have time to think about my health and try and take care of all those things I ignored in college and grad school. I have had periods of heavy activity and periods of resting, but nary a difference in the shin. I have just googled shin splints, which can apparently be caused by flat feet. ..........looks like a visit to the doctor for some foot things and some yoga might be just what i need.

      I've never really thought about how I walk, sometimes ploddily, sometimes floatily. I trip a lot. (kinda clumsy) I'll give it some notice and see what I come up with.
      • Unsu...

        Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

        Thu, February 28, 2008 - 12:43 PM
        Yeah, you need to see a doc (I feel like I have been saying this a lot lately). Flat feet cause a compound effect on the rest of the alignment in your body, as you can tell with your balance. In order to help correct this, you need to be strengthening your feet not just forcing yourself to walk with your arches lifted. If you can find Pilates teacher that has a foot corrector, I would HIGHLY recommend taking a few sessions to learn some different exercises that you can do to increase the lift of your arch and balance the foot alignment. 14 years of shin pain is not ok and not necessary. Plus, if you continue with this kind of misalignment you could create issues in your knees, hips, spine, etc, etc. It's all connected. Go to your doctor.
      • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

        Thu, February 28, 2008 - 9:12 PM
        Just remembered I should address Penny's suggestion of rolfing. I've had it done, and it was an excellent decision. It has done me a world of good.

        But it's not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about your issues. Rolfing seeks to remedy alignment problems throughout the body by deep poking and prodding at the level of the fascia. I've had many years of back problems caused by a combination of a car accident and scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and rolfing has made a huge difference for me.

        With your flat feet, I think it's best to get medical evaluation and perhaps an orthotic (if they suggest it) first, and then see what changes result throughout your body. If you follow whatever treatment is recommended and still have trouble, then it might make sense to consider alternative therapies such as rolfing. But it's not where I'd suggest starting.

        Wow, 14 years of shin pain? How miserable for you! If it's really shin splints that you have, it must be really agonizing! Tell me, do your shins hurt with every step you take, as each foot lands on the floor?

        Your doctor should be spanked for telling you at age 12 that you had growing pains that would just go away on their own. I had a similar story around that age. In my case, it was a pain deep in my left hip, and I too was told at age 13 that it was just growing pains and would go away on its own. It didn't. Ten years later, I went to see an orthopedist, who diagnosed it as bursitis. I received a prescription that helped a lot, along with helpful advice on how to care for it to minimize the likelihood of pain flare-ups. Today, I still have occasional pain there, but believe it or not the biggest thing that improved it for me was a combination of living in California and belly dancing! (Why California? Because one thing I discovered about my pain was that it was sensitive to rapid changes in weather, particularly barometric pressure. In Iowa where I grew up, barometric pressure can change very rapidly within a single day. In California, weather systems move much more slowly. Now that I live in Iowa again, I once again have occasional pain there as storms come romping through, but thanks to belly dancing the pain is minimal enough that I can get by without taking drugs.)
  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Sat, March 1, 2008 - 11:42 AM
    I agree with Shira, rolfing is a great treatment for many alignment problems but not yours.

    I know EXACTLY what you refer to because I am flat-footed (although it has improved 1000% over the last 25 years) and have suffered shim-splints (the shin pain you are referring to), hip pain, knee pain, spinal subluxations and MAJOR foot problems as a result.

    What you need is to get to a foot clinic, chirpractor or other non-medical alternate practitioner to get custom ORTHOTICS. They are insoles that are made from a mold of your feet to provide your feet with support where you need it most.

    The self-correcting you are doing is causing more harm than good and you should stop it right now. Seriously. Get proper therapy for this or you will be having major, debilitating foot, knee and hip surgeries during your 40s, 50s and 60s.
    • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

      Sun, March 2, 2008 - 11:23 AM
      Yes i agree.. Podiatrists are a great help. And one i saw taught me how to use tape to strap my feet when i wasn't wearing shoes to get the support i needed. I was taking Karate at the time and wasn't allowed to wear shoes during class. The strapping made a huge difference.... Just in case you want to dance barefoot or can't get the support for the orthotics in shoes you want to dance in. i've worn orthotics since my early 20s and its made all the difference.
      • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

        Mon, March 3, 2008 - 3:28 PM
        Yes, Irena, I started wearing orthotics in my mid-late 20s and now I am able to dance barefoot or in dance slippers without pain. The orthotics have, over the years, caused a correction to my stance and gate that is semi-permanent. I still feel most comfortable when wearing the orthotics though.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Tue, March 4, 2008 - 9:58 AM
    Wow, I'm so sorry to hear about your pain. I have flat feet myself, but other than some occasional achiness after very long walks, I have had no pain or problems related to my flat feet. I don't know if it's because I was involved in ballet and gymnastics from a very early age, so my feet and ankles have always been very strong and I've always had good posture. And in belly dancing they can be an advantage, as I've found flat feet can even make floor work easier, I know people with high arches have a harder time leaning and doing backbends on the floor, since it puts a lot of pressure on the tops of their arches. So I believe with proper strength and alignment, flat feet should not interfere with dancing or other physical activities.

    I completely agree that you should seek medical help to correct any muscular or skeletal imbalances you may have. In addition to pilates, yoga may also be beneficial. I had a yoga instructor who was flat-footed and swore by a simple stretch where you're standing, and you lift your toes off the floor and try to spread them out as much as you can. She said it's a good general foot stretch/strengthening exercise, and swore it put a slight arch into her foot.

    But definitely get some medical help, you shouldn't have had to put up with that kind of pain for so many years!
    • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

      Wed, March 5, 2008 - 4:02 AM
      having flat feet means your ankles roll in and in turn pull on your achilles (at least for me they have!) I started wearing orthotics, as soon as I put them in I felt aligned. If I do a lot of workshops or stand for a long time I have to ice the tendons in my feet and achilles and give them a good rub as my physio showed me.

      As for your shins are you sure it is shin splints and not the muscle? Try a little test, when they ache does it hurt to pull your foot up toward your shin or stretched away?

      this is a good guide
    • Unsu...

      Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

      Wed, March 5, 2008 - 6:38 PM
      "'re standing, and you lift your toes off the floor and try to spread them out as much as you can. She said it's a good general foot stretch/strengthening exercise, and swore it put a slight arch into her foot."

      This is a great way to active the arch!!!! And a simple exercise to do to start strengthening your arches. I even have some students drill their technique in this position so to keep them aware of their feet.
  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Wed, March 5, 2008 - 9:47 AM
    I also have flat feet and since I was little and for as long as I can remember, I've always had to buy arch supports. It causes a lot of aches and pains in my shins and knees if I am standing for long.
    But recently I put the two and two together, so when I'm on my feet for a long period of time, i.e. dance class, yoga, cleaning my house, filing at work, I raise my big toes. It puts the weight back on the outside of the foot, straightens my posture and brings my center of gravity up. I also find that I engage my calf muscles instead of relying on my shins to support the weight.
  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Wed, March 5, 2008 - 6:58 PM
    I agree with not trying to self-correct. You need to seek professional help. A podiatrists is a good place to start but you might also consider an orthopedist. I too wore corrective shoes as a kid for curled under toes and poor arches. But it wasn't untill I was seen and treated by an orthopedist that it got better. My balance challenges come from knee and hip issues, not what is going on with my feet. All our bones are connected by muscles and tendons and just because the problems seems to be in one areas doesn't mean that is where the problem resides or is the only part of the inbalance
  • Re: Flat feet, poor balance, aching shins

    Wed, March 5, 2008 - 10:01 PM
    I really don't know whether this would be beneficial for flat feet, but my rolfer suggested this exercise to me:

    Place a crumpled up piece of paper on the floor. Now, use your toes to pick it up. Then let it drop again to the floor and pick it up again. Repeat a few times, then do it with the other foot.

    In my case, my foot problem was a bunion which caused a fallen transverse arch (ie, the arch that spans the horizontal area across the base of the toes). She suggested the above exercise to me as a way of strengthening that arch and trying to help it heal. I don't know whether it would be beneficial to someone with flat feet, but I guess it doesn't cost you anything to try!

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