Correcting Posture Q&A

About the Author: Eric Cressey

This week, we take a little break from the “Random Tips” series to return to a Q&A.  Enjoy.

Subscriber-only Q&A

Q: In your “Neanderthal No More” series, you seem to imply that flat feet can be reversed. Is this true? I seem to have somehow either acquired flat feet since high school (or the process at least started in high school). I am now 20 years old. I’m not sure how I acquired my flat feet, but I think it may be from a lot of vertical jump training and plyometrics that I did in high school, when I played basketball. In retrospect, I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly did not have a sufficient strength base for plyos, as I was about 5’11” and a mere 132 lbs. at my playing weight.  I now have patellofemoral problems, including patellar malalignment, overly tight IT bands, and chondramalacia in the right knee as a result of the improper patellar tracking.

I started wearing orthotics in the summer of 2006, but don’t feel that they’re an optimal solution.  Is there a way to reverse flat feet?

EC: Yes, I think so.  For some reason, as an industry, we’ve accepted that we can improve thoracic spine rounding, eliminate forward head posture, and correct anterior pelvic tilt (all postural distortions) with exercise modalities.  Nobody has even ventured to say that we need braces for the back and neck to correct these problems; MOVEMENT has done the trick just fine.

Nonetheless, for some reason, we don’t view the feet as equally dynamic and mutable portions of our body.  They’re just those things we stuff in our shoes on a daily basis.  We’ve eliminated movement by stuffing in orthotics, wearing high heels, buying Nike Shox, and taping ankles in our athletes.  My feeling is that if a foot can go flat, it can go “un-flat.”

It never surprises me when I see flat feet in basketball players.  They tape ankles and wear ten-pound high-top sneakers with lateral rigidity and a big heel lift.  Most of them are insanely quad-dominant, which just plays into the anterior weight-bearing nature of their movement.

Don’t get me wrong: there are instances when orthotics are worthwhile.  Some people have structural foot deformities that can really be helped with these implements.  I just haven’t found these instances to be as prevalent as the podiatrists who make a living fitting people for orthotics.

My recommendation would be to make a serious effort to train more barefooted (we do a lot of our mobility drills on the turf).  Additionally, work on various ankle mobilizations that improve dorsiflexion range-of-motion.  You can find some good options (for free) from Bill Hartman HERE.  I also like to use lateral tilts and a few toe pull variations from the Z-Health discipline for pronators; I’ve found them to be very good at improving dorsiflexion ROM in cases where the issue is more of a joint “jam” than an Achilles flexibility issue.

And, as Bill mentioned, it never hurts to improve the soft tissue quality of the lower leg.

Lastly, I encourage athletes to look at their footwear.  Those with “acquired” flat feet generally respond quite well to minimalist shoes like the New Balance Minimus.  Give yourself some lateral mobility and reduce your heel lift and you’ll see some pretty remarkable improvements in a matter of 4-6 weeks.  I’ve actually seen a few athletes lose one-half a shoe size just from these protocols, as they’ve gotten their arches back.

And, of course, if your knees are bugging you, you also need to spend some time working on mobilizing the hips and reducing strength deficits in this area.  For a great read on this front, I highly recommend Mike Robertson’s Bulletproof Knees manual, which does an excellent job of summarizing the origin of knee problems in user-friendly language.

Cressey Performance Shaker Bottles Now Available

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NSCA Northeast Region State Clinic: Last Reminder

Only a few more weeks until I speak at the NSCA clinic in Smithfield, RI on October 6, 2007.  For more information on the event, email

Also on the seminar front, I just want to extend a big thank you to everyone who made it out for my presentation at last weekend’s M-O Expo in Woburn, MA; it was great to meet everyone.

That does it for this edition.  We’ll be back soon with some new content – and most likely an announcement on some big seminar plans at Cressey Performance!

All the Best,