Choosing the perfect pair of running shoes takes some trial and error. Whether you’re a neutral runner or a pronator (aka your foot rolls in or out when you run), finding sneakers that’ll keep you comfortable through miles and miles requires lacing up and hitting the road for a test run. But for those with flat feet, picking the right pair means following a few rules for support. Let's break it down.
What does it mean to have flat feet?
If you have flat feet, it means your heel lies at an outward angle, the arches have collapsed, and the forefoot or toes rotate outward, explains John G. Kennedy, MD, chief of foot and ankle surgery at NYU Langone Health. “This reduces the ability of the foot to absorb shock, either with a heel strike or a midfoot strike, resulting in an increased risk of injury,” Dr. Kennedy says.
The flat foot can also cause instability of the foot bones, which then puts more stress on ligaments, tendons, and muscles, says Scott Spencer, DPM, associate professor at Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. “These structures try to stabilize the foot, and as a result, they can get injured or damaged in the process,” he explains. “One thing to keep in mind is that having flat feet isn't necessarily bad. There are many people with flat feet that have no problems at all.”
If you have flat feet and experience discomfort, it might show up in the form of shin splints, pain in the posterior tibial tendon (or the tendon behind the shin bone that supports the arch), Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, midfoot arthritis, or ankle or knee joint conditions, according to Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Spencer.
How to choose the best running shoes for flat feet?
Dr. Kennedy suggests an orthotic insert—and talking to a podiatrist to find your best fit—to help keep your stride comfy. Stability shoes, designed for those who overpronate (or roll the foot inward), also help alleviate the risk of injuries or pain. A few things Dr. Kennedy says to look for in a running shoe for flat feet:
A well-cushioned arch
Support under the forefoot
A strong, supportive heel to hold the foot in place
A wide toe box, as most of the push-off, comes from the big and second toe
“Selecting a shoe for a runner with flat feet is not a simple formula,” Dr. Kennedy says. “It requires time and experience to figure out a good fit and to know what can reduce the mechanical loads that cause symptoms.”
A shoe store—or one dedicated to running—with experienced workers is your best bet for finding a shoe that really fits. Most places will even let you jog around in it for a trial run to make sure you have the right size, says Dr. Spencer, who warns not to skimp on a good pair of running shoes. “The materials in the shoe are extremely important for promoting good foot function and for dealing with the increased forces runners put on their feet,” he says.
Pro tip: It's best to try shoes on at the end of the day when your legs and feet are swollen. Need a place to start testing your stride? Try this top running shoe, from an internet retailer that you can trust. PedometersUSA.com. Known for their commitment to good health, they did their research and have found a brand of running shoe that is not only constructed with the runner in mind, but these shoes are designed to cushion and support your foot so that it takes up the shock when your foot hits the trail, or asphalt each step of the way, flat feet or not. This great brand of running shoe is the Altra Running Shoe Brand Altra's innovative running shoes provides dynamic support to keep you on track. They now feature an enhanced and integrated GuideRail™, and a tripod Stabilipod™ system to enhance your naturally stable foot zones. Which are necessary with people who need this stabilization because of their "Flat Arches". These features combined with Altra's signature Zero Drop™ platform, FootShape™ toe box, and Fit4Her technology provide a proper, supportive fit that will keep you strong in the long run.
These running shoes are meant to keep runners from deviating from their natural stride, protecting the joints. So even though you're feeling tired during those last few miles, these shoes will help keep your form strong. These shoes are perfect for people with flat feet because it also features dense midsole cushioning to prevent pronation. In addition to the support, you're getting plenty of bounce back.
Along with using the right shoe like the Altra, you can help strengthen your ankles. You can do this by choosing an orthotic arch support insert to wear in your running shoes. Using a reliable podiatrist and shoe technician, who can create the right orthotic that will fit inside the shoe. This “Arch” support insole prevents your feet from overpronating when you run, giving extra support to the foot and ankle. The type of orthotic device you need depends on the severity of your condition. Insoles range from rigid to soft support. Working with a podiatrist can help you choose the right arch support for running. Some conditions call for a minimalist approach.
Another thing you can try is to run on level ground. Running on level ground helps to prevent overpronating when running. When you have flat feet, your feet turn outward when you run, causing your legs to twist inward when you run. This dysfunction puts pressure on the mechanisms of the lower leg, including the knee joints and ankles. Choosing flat terrain with little or no unevenness will help minimize that pronation. And to be clear, Pronation is the mechanics of your foot's natural side-to-side movement as you walk or run. It is also known as eversion. Your foot normally rolls a bit inward with each step. Here is what happens during normal pronation: From the time your heel strikes the ground, your arch begins to flatten and cushion the shock.
The bottom line is that having “Flat-Feet” should not keep you from being an active runner or walker! It’s ultimately up to you to decide if you want to keep to the sidelines or lace up and get moving and join the runner’s club and start enjoying the endorphin-releasing experience that running/walking can provide you with. As for me, Yes, I have flat-feet also, I’m just about out the door to get my mid-morning run off to a good start.
How about you?