One of the things you can do to support your foot health in addition to wearing arch support inserts is foot arch strengthening exercises. The benefit of arch strengthening can’t be understated, and many of the exercises you can do are simple while they’re effective. Here are some of my personal favorites.
To strengthen the muscles of the medial arch and train the foot to align itself, practice raising your insteps. Raising the instep promotes balance and foot strength, two things that are critical in ballet (where I first learned this exercise) but have a positive impact no matter who you are or what you do all day.
Stand with your feet close together and parallel, or alternatively go into “first position” with your heels touching and your toes pointed away from each other, making a V shape. Think about spreading your toes and pressing your heels the balls of your feet into the ground, while drawing the tip of your arch toward the ceiling. You want to create space under the inner arch of your foot. You may feel your calves and your glutes working to maintain this stance. Hold it for 20 seconds or so and release; do this 3-5 times throughout the day.
Balance exercises are tremendous foot strengtheners. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one foot off the ground and pose however you’d like – extend it in front of you, go into “tree pose,” or simply rest your foot against your standing leg. You want to be able to remain still and balanced for up to 30 seconds on each leg. To make it more challenging, add leg lifts, knee bends, rising up to your toes on your standing foot, or using stability equipment of some sort (like a balance beam or a BOSU trainer).
Simply standing on your toes as much as you can throughout the day will strengthen the muscles in and around your foot. Walk around, bend your knees, and generally “rise up” whenever you think about it (and can get away with it).
There are quite a few effective calf stretches. Stretching out your calves will counter-balance a lot of these strengthening exercises and keep your legs from becoming too tight or imbalanced.
My favorite calf stretch involves standing on a step with my heels dangling off the back, and dipping down as far as I comfortably can. I just do this slowly for 3-5 reps, until my calves have that nice, stretched feeling. Some plantar fasciitis stretches are also great calf stretches.