Today we are going to look into which are the best running shoes for flat feet. We´ll also find out, if insoles are a proper tool to fix the problem or if they might even do more harm than good. Are stability shoes or motion control shoes the right option for flat footed runners?
We will also find out about the opportunities to cure flat feet and exercises you can do at home to get your “springs loaded” again. Keep on reading and you will soon find out what I mean by that.
It´s more than "just feet"
Mother nature has created another wonderful piece of art to keep us in motion: Our feet!
But our way of living today puts enormous stress on them.
Our feet are a miraculous interaction of muscles, 114 tendons, and 26 bones. As long as the equilibrium among the three of them is maintained and they are healthy, we experience no issues at all.
Three arches in our feet (two longitudinal and one transverse arch) work like a spring. They hold the weight of our body and absorb shocks when we are in motion.
High arches place more stress on the rearfoot and forefoot regions since they have less surface area for absorbing impact. Heel discomfort, metatarsalgia, or plantar fasciitis can occur as a result of this.
On the other end of the spectrum, these arches have lost their tension and we develop flat feet which are – as a result – often accompanied by overpronation.
A flat-footed individual who stands or walks with their feet in an over pronation stance, which causes the foot to evert, is likely to develop heel discomfort, arch pain, and – again – plantar fasciitis.
During runs, most flat footed runners with over pronation issues experience more ankle rolling, foot pain, and heel pain during and after their everyday training.
You can easily detect over pronation by looking at the soles of your shoes: an excessively worn-out rubber insole and a relatively intact rubber outsole are clear signs of over pronation.
Do you have flat feet? Do you find it difficult to run or do other sports because of this?
You’re not alone. Millions of people around the world suffer from flat feet. If you are one of them, you know how uncomfortable it can be to walk or run long distances.
This condition can make running and other activities difficult, but I have great news for you – there are ways to overcome this.
"Flat feet" doesn´t equal "flat feet"
But wait! In fact, there are two kinds of flat feet.
Some people are born with anatomically flat feet – also called rigid flat feet – and other people have flat feet because their arch system has lost tension.
Both have flat feet, but it makes a big difference when it comes to choosing the right running shoe.
Additionally, when we talk about a “flat foot” we still talk about different foot shapes.
In the next few paragraphs, we will concentrate on those people whose feet have lost tension in their arches.
What are flat feet and what causes them?
Flat feet (also called fallen arches) are a condition in which the arch of the foot collapses.
This can happen due to a number of reasons, such as an injury, obesity, or simply because it is a genetic condition. When the arch collapses, the whole sole of the foot comes into contact with the ground when you stand up.
The result is a pain in the feet, ankles, and legs. Flat feet can also lead to other problems such as bunions, calluses, and hammertoes.
What do flat feet look like?
If you have flat feet, you will notice that your footprint does not have a normal arch.
When you stand normally, there will be no space between the ground and your foot. In many cases, flat feet also cause the ankles to roll inward.
As we already learned before, this condition is known as overpronation.
Your daily issues with flat feet.
When you have fallen arches resulting in flat feet, every step puts stress on the ankles, knees, and hips. This can lead to pain in these areas.
So the problem multiplies and causes additional issues to occur in your body. It´s like a chain reaction.
Flat feet can also make it difficult to find shoes that fit properly and are comfortable to wear.
If you already are a runner, flat feet might cause problems with your running form and can lead to injuries such as shin splints.
Or you just started out on your quest to lose weight and chose running as your sport to achieve your goals – then flat feet could cause trouble in your knees and hips further down the road as you keep running.
This should not discourage you from starting with running, but you need to keep this knowledge in mind and be a little more careful when picking the right shoes.
Are there ways to treat flat feet?
There are a number of treatments available for flat feet.
If the condition is mild, you may not need any treatment at all.
However, if the condition is severe or causing pain, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
Sounds easy, but it is one way to help your feet get back to old strength. People who walk barefoot constantly have much fewer issues with their feet.
And this is simply a result of the fact that when you walk barefoot, you constantly train your muscles and tendons in your feet.
Exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the foot:
This should be your first measure to tackle flat feet. If you have weak muscles and ligaments, they will not provide enough support to the arch of your foot.
As a result, the arch will collapse over time.
There are a number of exercises you can do at home to strengthen these muscles and ligaments.
I created an extra section with a list of exercises below.
Wearing arch supports or insoles :
I´m a little careful about extra arch support or insoles and if you keep on reading you´ll soon know why.
But there is still a point to wearing shoes with extra arch support or insoles: Fashion nowadays doesn´t consider the health of your feet.
As a result, the shoes we wear every day might look good, but in no way do they support the arches in our feet.
Just like loaded springs, our arches lose tension over time, if they are not supported in some way.
Insoles are a great way to avoid this development and should be considered by people with no issues at all as well as people who already have problems with their feet.
One important thing to keep in mind when wearing insoles : don´t wear them 24/7! You should allow your feet to do their job and rebuild that tension in the arches.
By constantly wearing insoles that task is completely taken away from your feet, further adding to the initial problem!
At this point, I want to point out very clearly once again: we are talking about flat feet caused by lost tension in the arch system of the foot. People with anatomically flat feet could create a knee problem if they start to use arch support which might not be necessary for them!
Make sure you know which kind of flat feet you have, before starting to take corrective action. It might not be needed!
A good physiotherapist can help you to find the best exercises for your feet and he might even be able to give advice on which are the best running shoes for flat feet.
Furthermore, he will overlook your progress and he will help you to perform your exercises correctly.
Last but not least, a good physiotherapist will also be the one to keep you motivated and keep on doing your exercises every day.
This should only be your very last resort and only very severe cases should consider surgery! Plus, this decision needs to be backed up by extensive examination and consultation with your doctor.
You see there are a number of treatments available that can help. If you have flat feet, be sure to talk to your doctor about the best treatment options.
As promised above, here is a list of exercises you can do at home:
- Raise your heels as high as you can while standing.
- To keep your balance, you may utilize a chair or a wall to assist.
- Hold the up position for 5 seconds and then return to the floor.
- Do 2–3 sets of 15–20 repetitions.
- Finally, hold the upper position and pulse up and down for 30 seconds.
Stair arch raises
- Take a right foot stance on the steps. One step higher than your right foot is your left foot.
- When lowering your right foot, make sure your heel hangs lower than the step.
- Raise your right heel as high as you can with care, concentrating on building up your arch.
- As your knee and calf turn slightly to the side, causing your arch to rise, rotate your arch inward.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–15 repetitions on both sides.
- Sit in a chair with a towel or a cloth under your feet.
- To wring out the towel, curl your toes and scrunch up the cloth. Keep your heels firmly on the floor.
- Press your toes into your foot.
- Hold for a few seconds and release.
- Keep the ball of your foot pressed into the floor or towel. Maintain a vigilant awareness of your foot’s arch development.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–15 repetitions.
Tennis ball rolls
- Sit on a chair with a tennis ball beneath one of your feet.
- Maintain a straight back as you roll the ball beneath your foot, concentrating on the arch.
- Do this for 2–3 minutes.
- Change foot.
- Stand with your palms on a wall, chair, or railing at shoulder or eye level.
- Keep one foot in front of you and the other behind you.
- Press both heels firmly into the floor.
- Bend your front leg and push yourself against the wall or support, feeling a stretch in your back leg and Achilles tendon. Keep your back straight all the time!
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Do each side 4 times.
- While standing, press your right big toe into the floor and raise your other four toes.
- Raise your big toe up by pushing your four toes into the floor and lifting up your great toe.
- Do each way 5–10 times, holding each lift for 5 seconds.
- Then change to the other foot.
Do these exercises daily. This will need self-discipline and you won´t see quick results.
But with the big end goal in mind – improving your overall comfort – you can baby-step yourself toward this goal.
Running with flat feet
Is running even adviseable whit flat feet? I get this question a lot. And the answer is: it depends.
If you have mild flat feet and no pain, you can probably continue running without any issues, but you already need to have a close look at which shoes you are going to use.
Maybe insoles in your existing shoes already do the trick for you.
But still, the most important part is to find the right shoe!
If you have severely flat feet or the condition is causing pain, you may need to take a break from running – if you already started – or switch to another activity before coming back to running.
Stress overload in your knees and hip joints with the resulting pain you feel is an urgent warning sign from your body. Something is not going as planned.
If you didn´t take a possible issue with your feet into account until now, you should start to do so. Find out, if the pain you feel is a direct result of a malposition in your feet.
How to find the best running shoe for flat feet
The common approach so far was to simply tell flat-footed people that they would need extra arch support and buy shoes that provide that extra support and stability.
But the running shoe world has evolved and the truth is a little more complex.
Simply buying a stability running shoe or a shoe with super soft cushioning will not solve your problems.
Usually running shoes for flat feet are often advertised with extra stability features, extra cushioning, or extra shock absorption.
You will also be told that running with flat and wide feet only works with cushioned shoes or that you will need “high drop shoes” with an extra high heel area.
Supportive running shoes are not bad per se and more arch support can be very beneficial for a lot of runners – not limited to flat footed runners.
Especially when you are running long distances which puts a lot of stress on any runner’s feet, a cushioned shoe (or even a highly cushioned shoe) or a supportive running shoe for a stable ride during long runs is essential.
The fact is that feet work best when put on an even surface and simply buying the “best supportive running shoes” that the industry advertises to flat footed runners falls short of your real needs.
Most popular running shoes have an hour-glass-shaped form where the focus lies on the heel and toe areas. This leaves less surface in the mid section of the sole. But it is just that area that is very important for flat footed runners.
So to find the best shoes for you if you are a flat footed runner, get your feet analyzed at a good shoe store or in a clinic. With that information go and try out different pairs of shoes.
Let your gut feeling tell you which shoes feel best – this is very often a great indicator!
When buying a new pair of running shoes, take different shoes for a test run. If you feel comfortable at first, but the shoes just don´t work for you during your test run, simply try another pair!
Don´t get tricked by the industry to believe that the most expensive shoe will automatically be the best choice for you.
Running with flat feet is definitely possible. All you have to do is to be more careful in the choice of your shoe and observe some additional aspects.
If we want to mold the process of finding the right shoe for your needs into a sort of a checklist, here is my try at it :
- Find out which kind of flat footed person you are: do you have anatomically flat feet? Or did your feet lose their tension in the arch system, finally resulting in flat feet?
- If you have anatomically flat feet, don´t overdo it with arch support, as you might create new problems, for example knee issues.
- If you have flat feet caused by lost tension, start doing home exercises to train your feet and regain that tension. Also, walk barefoot from time to time. It´s healthy for your feet!
- Have your movement pattern analyzed and – together with a running expert – find out what is going to be the best running shoe for your feet.
You see, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what is the best running shoe for flat feet.
It depends on the individual runner’s needs.
However, there are some general tips that can help runners with flat feet find the best shoes for them.
They should get their feet analyzed by a professional, be aware of their own individual needs, and try different shoes to see what works best for them.
With a little bit of knowledge and effort, runners with flat feet can find the perfect shoes for them and enjoy running just like everyone else.
What are your experiences in finding the best running shoes for flat feet? Share them in the comments below!
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Also check out our article about the 11 best Crossfit shoes of 2022 here.
Thanks for reading!