Flat Foot: What is it
The arch of the foot is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and strengthened by ligaments and tendons. This 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.
What causes flat feet and what can you do about it?
- Weak arches
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Dysfunction, rupturing, or damage to the posterior tibial tendon
- Nervous system or muscular diseases
Collapsed arches causes flat feet and happens because of muscle weakness. This can be helped, but your feet might need arch support until they get stronger.
If you have flat feet due to muscle weakness, there are some simple stretches and exercises you can do at home to help strengthen the muscles in your feet.
- Tennis Ball Rolls
Put a tennis ball under one foot, sit straight up, and roll the ball under the arch of your foot for two to three minutes. Repeat on the opposite foot.
- Heel Raises
Stand and lift your heels as high as you can using a chair or wall for balance. Hold the position for five seconds then lower heels back down to the floor.
Do two to three sets of 15-20 raises.
- Tower Curls
Sit with a towel under one foot and scrunch the towel up with your toes. Make sure to keep the mall of your foot on the floor.
Do two to three sets of 15-20 towel curls.
- Toe Yoga
Lift your big toe up while pressing the others down and hold for five seconds. Then life your four toes up while holding your big toe down and hold for five seconds. Repeat on other foot.
Those with anatomically flat feet have more stress on knees which lead to knee problems. The reason for this is flat feet can cause misalignment of the lower body causing the shin and thigh bones to twist inwards.
While there is no cure for being born with flat feet, stretching and exercising regularly can help prevent injuries.
Put in 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.
Some common injuries from overpronation include:
- Low back pain
- Shin Splints
- Knee pain
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Hip pain
Look for shoes that have a straight “last”, which determines the shape of the shoe. A straight last are designed to be motion control shoes and will provide you with stability.
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.
Tips for running with flat feet
Purchasing the right shoes is the best way to go.
Next to wearing the right shoes, you need to remember to replace them before they wear out and the midsole breaks down. Once the midsole wears out, you will not receive the same about of stability and you could end up overpronating. In turn, this can cause injuries and pain. A good idea is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles.
If you still experience pain after wearing the right shoes, consider custom orthotics. See a local podiatrist who will assess your feet and set you up with custom inserts if needed. Custom orthotics are specifically designed to the specifications of your feet and provide you with stability.
Running on pavement regularly can make your feet hurt. If that is the case for you, consider switching up terrain. Try running on something softer like grass or well-groomed trains. Tracks are also a good idea because the surface is forgiving and you can usually find one locally.
Stretching is important as it keeps you flexible and strong. Make sure to warm up and cool down before you run to help keep injuries away. Furthermore, stretching and exercising on a regular basis can help decrease pain due to flat feet.
Are you still in pain? Do your feet hurt for days after your runs? If this is the case, see your doctor. In addition, rest days are important as they help your body heal.
Running Shoes Buying Guides
If you found this guide useful, have a look at our other ones!
Other Shoes Best Running Shoes for the Gym Best Shoes for HIIT Best Shoes for weightlifting Best Shoes for CrossFit