Let me start with the good news: if you have flat feet you can still be a very successful runner. You can manage to run injury free for a long time if you put the right attention to your training, your warning signs and your footwear.
It’s really not that much different than being any other kind of runner – you need to do things gradually, listen to your body and put your feet in the right kind of shoe.
Why you should listen to me: my feet are as flat as they can be and always have. The bone of my right ankle rests on top of my peroneal tendon and it flares up in flames (pain) if I am not wearing the right shoes (for me) or if I am overdoing my training – which is the most common cause of injuries for most people, flat feet or not.
Top 10 Running Shoes for Flat Feet
Here’s a quick table with the 10 shoes we recommend. Continue reading for an overview of the anatomy of flat feet, what are the potential issues with running and what shoe companies have done to address these issues – followed by a more in-depth look at these 10 shoes and why we are recommending them
Flat Foot: What is it
The arch of the foot is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and strengthened by ligaments and tendons. It allows the foot to support the weight of the body in the erect posture with the least weight.
The height of the arch determines pronation and foot type.The arch height of the foot can easily be checked using the wet feet test.
People with a Low arch do not have a distinct curve along the inside of the foot. The imprint taken in a wet test may show nearly the entire foot. People with low arches are more likely to overpronate which can result in injuries. Insufficiently expressed arches are called low or fallen arches. The term flat feet applies to the arch which is sitting on the ground completely.
Runners with flat feet need to put extra care in choosing the best running shoe
Your foot arch is your natural shock absorption system. Nature designed it so that when you put your body weight over your feet the shock is absorbed by this mechanism in order to alleviate the impact (and subsequent injuries) that would otherwise hit your feet, ankles, knees and hips.
A flat foot is the most visible sign of overpronation, meaning that your arch collapses during the impact on the ground. As a consequence, your ankle twists inward and your knees overcompensates.
Flat feet are a particular concern for runners, as during the running gait the arch is supposed to support on average 3 times their body weight.
Shoes Technologies Aimed at Runners with Flat Feet
Over the last 20 years or so, all the major running footwear producers developed specific technologies aimed at helping runners with flat feet run in comfort and safety.
The key words you have to remember are: stability, support and motion control.
Support is what a flat foot runner needs. When looking at shoe reviews or technical specifications, any indication of “added support” means you are headed in the right direction. Stability is an industry standard term that categorizes running shoes aimed at helping overpronation: every brand has their own collection of Stability Running Shoes. Motion Control are Stability Shoes for the most severe overpronators: they include the solutions of stability shoes and focus in enhancing them.
The main technology found in Stability shoes is a medial post of dual density foam. Footwear producers inject a harder compound of foam right below the medial side of the arch and sometimes extended all the way to the heel. It is easily recognizable as a darker (almost always gray) piece of foam on the inside of the midsole (view picture).
Do I necessarily need a stability/motion control shoe?
In the past 5 years, the conventional model of “neutral > stability > motion control” has been put into question by a series of scientific tests and currents such as barefoot running and minimalism.
No, you don’t necessarily need a stability or motion control shoe if you have flat feet. Some flat footed runners thrive in neutral shoes, but my experience is that this is the minority. I would advise runners to start in a stability shoe and only later experiment with a neutral shoe. Remember, flat feet is only one of your unique characteristics. What works for you might not work for someone else and vice-versa.
Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet by Type
I am 6’2″ 180 lbs runner with flat feet. I have been running – mostly injury free – for more than 10 years and I have tried most of the shoes in the market. My advice won’t work for everybody, but I have done my homework already, therefore I am quite comfortable recommending these shoes.
Traditional Stability Running Shoes
These are the shoes I recommend the most. Traditional stability running shoes with low arch, good amount of cushioning and a proven track record of working well for flat footed runners.
New Balance 1260v6
$150 - A franchise style for NB, the 1260 is the heavy duty stability shoe in the lineup and it has been for quite a few years. Combining N2 cushioning, ACTEVA lite foam material, a T-Beam for torsional stability and an 8mm drop - the NB1260v6 is one of the big names in high-mileage stability.
Cushioned Support Stability Running Shoes
If you are completely new to running, maybe are a little overweight and want a pair of shoes that both deliver good support and cushions your stride with soft, plush protection – these are the shoes for you.
Fast stability running shoes
Up to a few years ago, stability and motion control were categories associated with heavy, clunky shoes. Luckily it is no longer the case and there are many options for lightweight, fast running shoes that offer a great degree of arch control.
You can use these for daily training, but most likely for faster runs or even race day. Here are some of our favorites:
$120 - The DS Trainer incorporates stability technologies from other Asics shoes (ie. Trusstic system and DuoMax medial posting) but somehow manages to be extremely lightweight. A very solid choice if you have been running in stability shoes for a while, you find them comfortable but would now like to try something lighter and faster.
$110 - Completely new for 2016, the Catalyst is one of my favorite shoes to run in. Similarly to most Mizuno running shoes, the cushioning is more responsive (bounces quickly) than plush. But the stability is superb and the heel-to-toe transition very smooth, encouraging a fast pace.
Motion Control running shoes
If you are a heavier-set runner, if you over-pronate very badly and are looking for the most amount of support a running shoe can give you – these two are motion control running shoes designed with the flat footed runner in mind.
Brooks Beast 14
$150 - The Beast is Brooks' most stable and supportive shoe. Quite heavy at almost 14 ounces it's indicated for larger runners. It has a very flat foot-bed therefore recommended for those flat footed runners who seriously over-pronate. If you tried everything and nothing works - try the Beast.
$150 - The Redeemer is slightly lighter than the Beast but still quite have at 13 ounces. Similarly to the Beast it has an insane amount of stability and a very comfortable upper. We like how soft and cushioned it is on top of its top-notch stability.
Neutral running shoes
As we mentioned earlier – not all flat footed runners need stability or motion control shoes. Still you’ll need a shoe that has a flat arch otherwise you will start feeling pain quite soon.
Here are our two favorite ones.
Saucony Echelon 5
$150 - Last in our overview is the Saucony Echelon. A pure, soft neutral shoe with a flat foot-bed to accommodate the flattest of feet, but with no support features to get in the way of your natural running motion.
Some Tips for Flat Feet Runners
Now that you selected the right shoe, you are not done! Take care of your feet and listen to your body.
- Run Barefoot. If you have the chance, add barefeet runs on a softer surface (on a beach for example) to your running schedule. Running barefoot stimulates and strengthens your foot’s natural muscles, improving your natural shock absorption capabilities.
- Try doing some of your running in a flexible shoe such as the Nike FREE. If running barefoot is not a viable option for you, the Nike Free technology is your second best option to train your foot’s muscles.
- Pick up a ping-pong ball with your toes. A simple exercise anybody can do at any time, even while watching tv. Recommended by many podiatrists, this exercise will give you incredible results in the long run.
Exercises for runners with flat feet
While it is not possible – at least not after a certain age – to get rid of flat feet, there are many exercises that can help you with your condition. Strengthening the involved muscles, improving flexibility and balance can all be achieved through some simple exercises.