How to Do Arch Lifts in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Foot arch

Level: Beginner

Learning how to lift your foot arch is one of the most effective foot exercises you can do. Maintaining the structural integrity of the arches of the feet can help to stave off progressive foot problems. Your foot has three arches and they must each be sound, strong, and flexible to work optimally. The most familiar arch is the medial longitudinal arch that shows up along the inside of your foot from the heel to the ball of the foot. The lateral longitudinal arch runs lengthwise along the outside of the foot. The transverse arch runs side to side across the mid-foot. You may have more or less natural curve to your arches and still be in the normal range, which is quite wide. Using the arch lift exercise you can get a sense of all three arches working and you will strengthen your foot. This exercise is not a typical part of a Pilates session, but you may do it at home throughout the day.


Keeping your feet strong and flexible can reduce pain and biomechanical problems. To stand, walk, and run, your feet provide the basis of healthy movement beginning at the ground and working up the length of your skeleton. When something goes wrong with the feet, the whole body pays the price. Hip pain, back spasms, and other problems can stem from foot problems. Some foot health experts believe that foot exercises can maintain good arch health.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You can do this exercise standing or sitting.

  1. Align your foot and leg. If you choose to stand, do it with your legs and feet in parallel position. If you are seated, have your shins straight up and down so that the angle of your ankle is similar to how it would be if you were standing upright.
  2. Keep your toes relaxed, don't scrunch them up, and initiate a bit of a sliding motion pulling the ball of your foot and heel toward each other. Imagine that a dome is inflating under the middle of your foot or that a magnetic force is pulling the ball of your foot and your heel towards each other. The toes and heel remain on the floor the entire time but the arches may hollow up off the floor.​
  3. Release the arch. Lift and relax the foot back to its starting position.
  4. Repeat three to five times. You can do this foot exercise throughout the day. It is an easy one to sneak in just about anywhere, anytime.​

Common Mistakes

To do this move right, avoid these errors.

Scrunching the Toes

Keep the toes as long as possible, don't lift them up off the ground or curl them under.

Too Much Movement

This is not a big move. Your foot may not even appear to move. What you are looking for is a subtle change of the foot shape. You should be able to see that medial arch lift if you look to the inside of your foot. As you do the arch lifting, think in terms of the three arches of the foot. That will help you get the all-the-way-around feeling rather than just a long arc front to back.

Modifications and Variations

This strengthening move is ideal as a first step to healthy feet. To complete an entire healthy foot program, move on to stretching and flexing the foot with the towel curls exercise.

Safety and Precautions

This exercise should be safe for most people. If you experience any pain, end the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stearne SM, McDonald KA, Alderson JA, North I, Oxnard CE, Rubenson J. The Foot's Arch and the Energetics of Human LocomotionSci Rep. 2016;6:19403. doi:10.1038/srep19403

  2. National Institutes of Health (US); Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. Information about the Musculoskeletal and Skin Systems. In: NIH Curriculum Supplement Series [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health (US); 2007.

  3. Kim EK, Kim JS. The effects of short foot exercises and arch support insoles on improvement in the medial longitudinal arch and dynamic balance of flexible flatfoot patientsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(11):3136-3139. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3136

  4. Moon DC, Kim K, Lee SK. Immediate Effect of Short-foot Exercise on Dynamic Balance of Subjects with Excessively Pronated FeetJ Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(1):117-119. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.117

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.