Tuesday, 23 April 2013


One evening while Ryan was training, I discussed with coach Alex concerning Ryan’s footwork. He asked me if Ryan was flat footed. Honestly I had no idea. I assumed he had an arch like any other kids. When coach Alex requested him to remove his shoes and socks, I was startled to learn that he had a flat foot on his right foot (his strong foot being a right hander). Suddenly all the mystery surrounding his slothful footwork began to uncover itself or is it mere coincidence?

I was of course intrigue by this new discovery. How did I miss this in his two years of badminton? Does flat footed athlete really is disadvantaged in competitive sports like badminton? Is this the end of his journey? That night at home, I was frantically crawling all over the floor to study all the foot arches of my family members. None of us had flat feet except Ryan. Interestingly his left foot has a tiny arch. I wasted no time by immersing myself in research like a possessed man. Here are some wiki excerpts :

Flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches) is a formal reference to a medical condition in which the arch of the foot collapses, with the entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In some individuals, an estimated 20 to 30% of the general population, the arch simply never develops in one foot or both feet.
The appearance of flat feet is normal and common in infants, partly due to "baby fat" which masks the developing arch and partly because the arch has not yet fully developed. The human arch develops in infancy and early childhood as part of normal muscle, tendon, ligament and bone growth. Flat arches in children usually become proper arches for most by the age of four to six years.
If a child appears flatfooted while standing in a full weight bearing position, but an arch appears when the person dorsiflexes (stands on heel or pulls the toes back with the rest of the foot flat on the floor), this condition is called flexible flatfoot. This is not a true collapsed arch, as the medial longitudinal arch is still present and the Windlass mechanism still operates. Most flexible flat feet are asymptomatic, and do not cause pain or unstableness due to overprognation. In these cases, there is usually no cause for concern, and the condition may be considered a normal human variant, although the term 'flat foot' is still applicable as it is a somewhat generic term. 

Ryan's right foot - FLAT

Little arch appears when dorsiflexed
From the pictures of Ryan’s feet, he seems to fall in the category of flexible flatfoot. His foot doesn’t seem over prognate (roll inwards) and neither does he experience from any foot pain or strain, which is not all doom and gloom after all. There is a lengthy debate in badminton central forum concerning this topic here :

Although I have yet to read any conclusive empirical evidence on the disadvantages for flat footed athletes, there seemed to be a general perception that flat footed athletes lack ability to bounce in high impact sports like badminton. Yet there is this article which completely goes the opposite of this general believe :

Dr. Allan M. Levy in 1993
Team Physician for the New York Giants and formerly, the New
Nets and New York Islanders.
Flat feet:
Bones, muscles, and tendons under the foot create an arch in most people.
Some people, however, are born with "fallen arches," or flat feet. Contrary
to popular belief, flat feet are not a problem for athletes. In fact, flat feet
usually are more flexible, have greater range of motion, and are better able
to absorb the shock of running and jumping.

It is the athletes with high arches who are more injury-prone. An unusually
high-arched foot is more rigid and has less range of motion during quick,
agile movements. Also, a foot that's precariously balanced on the heel and
ball has poor shock-absorbing ability.

Many children start off with flat feet, but the vast majority develop normal
arches as they grow. Until recently, flat-footed children were frequently
treated with orthotics and perhaps surgery to create a higher arch. But
few studies have shown that wearing a particular shoe or arch support
can make a significant difference in the development of an arch. Most
doctors now feel that flat-footed people should not limit their activities
and do not need special treatment. Seek medical care only if your feet

No over progation

Profile of Ryan's soles
If it is any consolation, I read that badminton legend Han Jian is also flat footed but it did not stop him from becoming a world champion. It may be a small degree of mind games here but I do not want this to be an acceptance for Ryan to move slowly or inefficiently on court. Coach Alex certainly did not put any damper on his condition. On the contrary, he urged Ryan to continue to train hard.

I began to compile some simple foot exercises for Ryan to work on every night before he goes to bed. It seems these series of movements will in some way awake some dormant tendons and ligaments in his foot. It has yet to yield any results but I am determine to keep him at it. We shall see.

Going through some foot exercise on the stairs


  1. Hi gunner,

    I have flat feet myself and am finding that Spenco Total Support Max insoles are the best non prescription orthotics for helping with this for badminton and for daily wear. Pay attention to whether he develops a bunion... if he does, then definitely he needs to wear it all the time.

    And also no walking barefoot at home on hard floors... that's bad for flat feet. He should wear a pair of slippers/sandals with arch support, like Birkenstocks.


  2. Thanks visor. There are other trade brands available in Malaysia but I'm not sure if its as effective/functional. I suppose I might have to dip my head in and just try them out.


  3. www.alignmyfeet.com

  4. This looks promising...


  5. Update 11th July 2013 :

    Ryan has been into his foot exercises almost every night ( 5 to 10 mins) for the past three months now. Sometime persuasions can turn to coercion. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that these simple foot exercises are yielding promising results in his badminton game. Although he still lacks explosiveness, but he is able to reach his net shots quicker.

    The added bonus is Aaron has quietly benefitted from these exercises as well. I can see it in his game. I plan to improvise this with some knee and thigh strengthening exercises to keep it a wholesome workout and we will see how it turns out in three months time..

    There are abundant examples of these exercises for flat footers in the internet. An interesting one which is creative and fun here…


  6. Update 20th Dec 2013

    Visited Dr Kong in Tropicana PJ bought school shoes with arch support for both the boys. Its pricey but we hope it helps.

    Ryan began to do split steps in his game since Oct and his mobility on court is better now.