How Does Running Affect Me If I Have Flat Feet?

Running is an activity that requires considerable movement of your feet and exertions of your leg muscles. If you have flat feet, you might be having some pain and wondering what causes it and why it looks different from most other people.

What is Flat Feet?

“Flat feet” is actually a condition where the medial longitudinal arch of a person’s foot flattens or collapses. The outcome of that is a foot that looks flat when viewed from the side. As compared to a normal foot, a very low or no arch exists on a flat foot. This flattening of the arch leads to a host of problems including heel pain, bunions, ankle pain, knee pain and lower back pain.

Types of Flat Feet?

There are 2 categories of Flat feet: Flexible Flat Feet and Rigid Flat Feet.

A person has Flexible Flat Feet when an arch can be seen on the foot when it is raised off the ground (non weight-bearing). The arch only flattens when weight is placed on it.

A Rigid Flat Foot is one where the foot is flat as a result of the bone structures and not the arch tendons. Majority of people with Flat Foot have a Flexible Flat Foot.

Why Do I Get Pain From Running?

The various issues that typically arise from flat feet are not due to the feet themselves, but from over-pronation. Pronation is a normal rolling in of the foot at the end of every step we take in a run to absorb impact on the feet. Over-pronation is the case when the feet roll inwards too much, past the point necessary for shock absorption.

At this point, the ankle joints are extended, causing the lower leg bones, and subsequently the upper leg bones to rotate inwards. This places stress and can cause pain on the ankles, lower leg muscles, knee joints, and hips. Runners who over-pronate may be more susceptible to shin splints, back problems and tendonitis in the knee.

Since pain is a result of over-pronation, and not directly from flat feet, some flat-footed runners do not experience any problems even though they have flat feet, simply because they do not over-pronate. But the chances of over-pronating for a person with flat feet are much higher.

How Do I Treat My Flat Feet?

Having flat feet is a medical condition that is largely derived from one’s genes, but yet is not commonly treated in a medical way. In fact, podiatrists (certified foot specialists) in Singapore are not recognised as doctors and thus cannot prescribe medications.

The most common remedy at the moment is the use of orthotics (braces) or insoles. They can either be customised to a person’s foot or pre-fabricated to provide support for the foot.

Are There Shoes For People With Flat Feet?

When someone with Flat Foot is looking for a pair of running shoes, it is important look for shoes that reduce over-pronation. The shoes that are designed for this purpose are commonly known as stability and motion control running shoes.

The basic design principle of most stability and motion control shoes is that they have a firm midsole that prevents excessive pronation. Different brands employ different technology to do so but they share this common principle.

Stability shoes are designed for mild to moderate over-pronators. Motion control shoes are designed for severe pronators and runners with a heavier stride.

3 Things to Note When Choosing Your Running Shoes

These are some other pointers to look out for when selecting your pair of running shoes. You should make sure that:

  1. Outer sole of the shoe bends only at the toe area and not the middle where the arch is. This makes sure the arch is supported.
  2. The heel counter (back part of the shoe) is rigid and cannot really be bent forward. This provides support to the heel bone.
  3. The toe-box is of the correct width to accommodate typically wider flat feet. Some designs come in varying toe-box width.

Below are some models that have been highly rated by runners with Flat Foot. My personal favourite is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 because it got rid of my backaches completely.

Stability Shoes

  1. Asics Gel Kayano 19
  2. Asics GT - 2000
  3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13
  4. Brooks Trance 12
  5. Mizuno Wave Inspire 9
  6. Nike Zoom Structure 16
  7. Nike LunarEclipse 3

Motion Control Shoes

  1. Asics Gel Evolution 6
  2. Asics Gel Foundation 11
  3. Brooks Beast (men) / Ariel (women)
  4. Brooks Addiction 10
  5. Saucony ProGrid Stabil CS2

If you have a brand preference or an existing shoe that you like, you can find a useful brand-to-brand comparison of running shoes here. It gives you a rough idea which models are comparable across the different brands.

What About Insoles? Do They Work?

To provide good support for flat feet, one needs adequate support both from outside the shoe and within the shoe. The insole that comes with running shoes typically provides no support at all, and is usually just a thin piece of foam material.

A good pair of insoles will help to provide firm support for the heel, arch and sometimes even the metatarsal bones. This ensures that the gait is aligned and does not cause undue stress on other parts of the lower body.