Once the arch falls, or if the arch is never allowed to fully develop, all hope is not lost. There are several ways to rebuild it. Instead of adding arch support inserts or specialized support shoes, allow the arch to rebuild through strength training and flexibility. Exercise and Massage are two key steps to rebuilding a fallen or weak arch. As a matter of fact, running and training barefoot has more recently become popular. So much so that companies, like Nike, are creating athletic shoes that mimic barefeet while still protecting the soles of the feet form the elements, like concrete and debris. The New York Times recently covered ‘barefoot runner’ Christopher McDougall, and author of the bestselling book “Born to Run.” Here’s the video! Here’s the book!
Some other helpful steps include:
- Removing shoes and go barefoot whenever possible
- Eliminating high heels and poorly fitted shoes
- Loosening covers over feet while sleeping and try not to sleep on stomach (if you are a stomach sleeper, scoot down so that your feet gently hang off the edge of the bed in order to keep them in a relaxed, somewhat flexed position.)
Yoga is one of the gentlest and most effective exercises for arch strengthening and re-conditioning. It is a powerful form of exercise for many body types and conditions. There are several forms of yoga, so no matter what your fitness level, you can find a yoga practice that suits you. Yoga is ideal for strengthening the feet because you practice barefoot and use the muscles in your toes and feet for almost every pose. Proper body alignment and posture are stressed in yoga, which makes this form of exercise most helpful for fallen or weak arches.
In order to incorporate arch strengthening into standing poses: “carefully press the big toe mounds and inner heels down into the floor, and powerfully recoil the arches up into the inner ankles. This may be difficult initially, but will eventually build the strength that you need in your arches.”  In addition, ten minutes of the yoga pose Virasana is recommended once a day because it will stretch to extensors and strengthen the flexors of the foot, allowing the arch to slowly but surely return. According to yoga instructors, bedtime is considered best time for this exercise.
Virasana is a seated pose where knees are kept together and feet are spread to each side resting near the hip:
- Kneel on the floor. Keep the knees together and spread the feet about 18 inches apart.
- Rest the buttocks on the floor, but not the body on the feet. The feet are kept by the side of the thighs, the inner side of each calf touching the outer side of its respective thigh. Keep the toes pointing back and touching the floor. Keep the wrists on the knees, palms facing up, and join the tips of the thumbs and forefingers. Keep the other fingers extended. Stretch the back erect.
- Stay in this position as long as you can, with deep breathing. Then rest the palms on the knees for a while. Then rest the palms on the knees for a while.
- Now interlock the fingers and stretch the arm straight over the head, palms up. Stay in this position for a minute with deep breathing.
- Exhale, release the finger lock, place the palms on the soles, bend forward and rest the chin on the knees. Stay in this position for a minute with normal breathing.
Inhale, raise the trunk up, bring the feet forward and relax.
- If you find it difficult to perform the pose as described above, try placing the feet one above the other and rest the buttocks on them. Gradually move the toes further apart, separate the feet and bring them to rest outside the thighs. Then, in time the buttocks will rest properly on the floor and the body will not rest on the feet. 
Receiving regular massage to encourage proper blood flow to the feet and help allow the body to heal. Massage that focuses on the muscles of the feet (extensor digitorum brevis, flexor digitorum brevis, abductor hallucis, and abductor digiti minimi)and lower legs (gastrocnemius, soleus, peronial muscles, extensors like the tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longis, and flexors like the flexor digitorum longis) is key.
Massage is a great way to increase healthy blood flow to muscles and surrounding tissues in order to encourage healing and strengthening, thus encouraging the arch to rebuild. The human body is naturally self healing. When the problem or condition or habit that is causing the arches to weaken and fall is eliminated and blood flow is increased in the affected area, the body will naturally want to work to rebuild the arch. Massage also helps reduce tension in the muscles, which will further encourage and allow space for the healing process.
“While massaging the arches deeply and using trigger point therapy on them is helpful, the entire foot, ankle, and lower leg must be massaged to promote healing. The foot should be brought through all its ranges of motion and massaged thoroughly. “
Part 3 of 3