Flat Feet in Runners – All You Need to Know

Having Flat feet means you have no arch in your feet or your arch is very low. This can occur in one or both feet due to many reasons such as genetics, injuries to foot or ankle, related to medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, muscular disorders and even due to pregnancy, aging and obesity.

Although conditions like pregnancy and obesity are reversible causes of Flat feet, many causes are not. Therefore you have to learn to accept it. Just because you have Flat feet you don’t need to be disheartened. Flat feet can cause a variety of symptoms like pain and discomfort in your feet, pain in knees, hips and back. Your posture can change and you may feel that walking and running is difficult for you.

You can be a successful and an injury free runner even with your flat feet. You just need to know how to do it.

How do I know that I am a runner with Flat feet?

Running is a physical activity which requires a lot of exertion of your leg muscles and flexibility and movement of your feet. Are you a runner, who has experienced pain and discomfort in your feet, or even experience pain in your knees, hips and back? Have you ever wondered what causes it? Your symptoms might be related to Flat feet.

Stand on your tip toes or push your big toe as far as possible. Does it form an arch of your feet? Having no arch or a very low arch in your feet means you have got Flat feet.

The pain you experience from Flat feet are not directly due to the Flat feet themselves, but from over pronation of your feet. Over-pronation means your feet are rolling inwards far too much. Normal rolling in of the foot at the end of each step, when we walk and run is called pronation. This occurs to absorb the impact of the feet. When over –pronation occurs, it rolls past the point which is needed for shock absorption. The weight distribution will be affected causing stress on your leg muscles, knees and hips.

What are the possible issues and complications I will have to deal with when running with Flat feet?

  • Over- pronation of Flat feet leading to tension and pain is a common problem faced by many runners. The pain and discomfort can occur in not only your feet but also your knees, lower legs, hips and lower back. Sometimes you may notice swelling of your feet after running for long periods.
  • Runners are also susceptible to tendinitis (Inflammation of tendons) in ankles and knees. Constant wear and tear can lead to tendon injuries and rupture of ligaments. Runners with Flat feet are more prone for sports injuries than others.
  • Shin splints – Acute pain can occur in your shins while running. Shin splints are common when you run in hard surfaces for prolonged periods.
  • Due to frequent physical activity, runners are prone to get Bunions (a bony bump that form on the joint at the base of big toe) and calluses (rough, thickened areas of skin in your soles) due to frequent friction.

You can avoid most of these complications by understanding what you have, and taking measures to maintain your posture and alignment through exercise, using suitable orthotics and running shoes for flat feet.

running shoes for flat feet

Tips for runners with Flat feet (What should I know about running when I have Flat feet?)

Having Flat feet need not discourage you from running. First of all you should understand that your Flat feet can give rise to problems while running, unless you take necessary steps to overcome these issues.

  • Stay fit and maintain a healthy weight – Running causes repetitive stress on your body especially the musculo-skeletal system. With each step you take while running is a tension to your muscles and joints. If your body is not strong enough or if you are overweight, this stress will be more. Make sure you take a healthy, nutritional and a balanced diet. If you are overweight and obese, make sure that you lose weight by following a proper diet plan and regular exercise. As being overweight can give rise to more tension and worsen your Flat feet.
  • Follow a good training practice – If you do not train properly, this can result in overuse injuries mainly in your lower limbs due to your Flat feet. Apply fundamental training principles or get help from a health professional. Train consistently without practicing a stop/start approach. Learn to stretch and do proper warm ups before you run to prevent injuries.
  • If you suffer a running injury, rest well, stretch and gradually return to your running schedule. Do not blame yourself for your Flat feet. If your injury or pain persists, seek help from a health professional who is experienced in managing such injuries.
  • Remember it is not only you as a runner with Flat feet experience injury. Many runners will get injured at some point in their lives. However take as much precautions to prevent those injuries, related to Flat feet.
  • If you want to make changes to your current fitness program, make sure you discuss your health and wellness concerns with your physician before doing so.

What are the solutions available for my Flat feet as a runner?

There are thousands of runners across the world with Flat feet and are fine runners and deal with their issues well. In fact, some of the world’s best runners have flat feet. All you need to do is understand your feet well, take necessary precautions and learn how to do it. There are so many solutions to issues faced by runners with Flat feet.

  • Learn the correct technique of running – A physical therapist can advise you which part of your foot that lands first while running and keeping steps. Be aware of it and learn which type of running is the best for you whether it is fore- foot, mid – foot or heel –running. Maintain erect posture while running to prevent complications when running with your Flat feet.
    A good running specialist should be able to measure your stride and arch and teach you how to realign your feet while running.

  • Wear well – fitting shoes – You as a runner with Flat feet must choose a good pair of running shoes to provide adequate arch support. Feet and gait patterns come in all sizes and shapes and each pair of feet has unique needs when it comes to stability, support and of course comfort. Seek help from a professional who can give you right advice regarding which shoes are the best for your Flat feet.
  • Orthotics – Insoles can be placed inside of your running shoes. These will provide additional support and maintain proper alignment and stability of your feet. Get help from a physical therapist to choose the most suitable insoles for you. Orthotics can be custom made from precise impression of your feet.

    orthotics for flat feet

  • If there is inflammation of tendons, wearing an ankle brace may be helpful.
  • Practicing various exercise routines for Flat feet runners – There are certain exercises recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) to improve the flexibility and strength of your feet. Get advice from a podiatrist or a physical therapist for specific exercises which can manage symptoms of Flat feet and prevent worsening the condition.
    1. Stretching – Flat foot runners should stretch after every run. Make sure you stretch all groups of major muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, triceps etc. Concentrate also on stretching arches of both your feet.
      Heal cord stretch – this is a specific stretching exercise for Flat foot runners where you stretch the Achilles tendon and posterior calf muscles.
    2. Golf ball roll – placing a golf ball under your foot while being seated, roll it forward and back under the arch of foot. This stretches your plantar fascia ligament.

      golf ball roll for flat feet

  • You can use alternative running surfaces as running on hard surfaces like concrete or pavements may cause pain and discomfort for you. Change your running route to soft flat surfaces like a grass field or a running track. When the surface is even it is more comfortable.
    Running on a treadmill or surfaces like asphalt track can reduce the impact of resistance by 50% while you run

  • Do not ignore pain – If you experience pain while running get help from a health professional. You may have to take a short course of anti- inflammatory pain killers depending on the severity of your condition. Rest is important too. Running through pain will worsen it and the risk of serious injury will be more.
  • If your Flat feet cause you more complications than expected always seek help. For rigid Flat feet, there are surgeries which can correct the misalignment. Your doctor will do necessary investigations and offer you the best options to help you with your flat feet.

By seeking help where needed and taking necessary precautions and actions, you can still be a happy, healthy, successful and an injury free runner even with your Flat feet.


References:

https://www.runsociety.com/health-injuries/how-does-running-affect-me-if-i-have-flat-feet/
https://www.runsociety.com/health-injuries/6-tips-to-prevent-running-injuries/
https://wwws.fitnessrepublic.com/fitness/sports/running-tips-for-flat-footed-runners.html




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