Flat feet, known by the medical name pes planus, is a condition in which the arches collapse. Your arches, composed of tendons and ligaments, are meant to distribute weight and force evenly to your feet and legs.
Flexible flat foot, where the foot still has some arch, is generally painless. Painful flat foot, a condition that suggests bone abnormality or injury, is often quite painful. There are a number of exercises that can improve the strength of your feet and reduce pain over time.
Be sure to consult your doctor before performing any of these exercises.
There are a number of simple sitting exercises that can help flat feet. For active foot rolling, draw an imaginary O with your big toe -- clockwise for the right foot, counter-clockwise for the left. Picking up an object with your toes is another way to strengthen your arch.
Other exercises include toe clawing, in which you use your toes to grip the ground and pull your feet forward a few inches at a time, and foot closing, in which you close your foot in the way you would make a fist. Foot shortening consists of gripping the ground with your toes as you try to invert your feet.
Standing exercises include heel raises in which you lift up on the balls of your feet. You can also stand on the outer edges of your feet and stretch your toes. Standing on a towel and clenching your toes will also act to strengthen your arches.
Another exercise consists of standing on one foot as you focus on increasing and decreasing your arch. Exercises that stretch the Achilles tendon (also known as the heel cord) may help flat feet.
Two simple exercises consist of walking along a straight line, as well as walking on the outer edges of your feet. Focus on correct walking posture during everyday life; your heel should hit the ground first, followed by the outer edge your foot and, finally, the ball of your foot. Make a mental note to point your feet forward and avoid touching the inner border of your feet while walking.