If you have flat feet you’ve likely been told by someone that you need special shoes for when you go running or do any type of vigorous exercise. Before you start shopping around for shoes labeled “for flat feet” there’s a few things you need to consider.
Our first question before making a recommendation is “What’s the cause of your flat feet?” Sometimes flat feet can come from your parents. If your lack of arches is just hereditary, chances are you’ve went around for most of your childhood and adult life without experiencing any significant pain in your feet, however that may change as you age.
If you are not having discomfort yet, you will probably be fine investing in a pair of minimalist shoes. If you have always had flat feet, but your feet feel uncomfortable during and/or after running or walking you may be an overpronater. This just means your feet roll inward too much as you walk. You can video tape yourself walking barefoot and play it back to see if your gait is normal or if your feet do overpronate. If the footage reveals you are indeed an overpronater, you may want to look into getting a pair of stability running shoes.
Minimalist running shoes will give you protection from small, sharp objects on the ground while you exercise. These type of shoes are about providing the effects of running barefoot while still giving feet a nominal amount of protection from the elements. Don’t expect to see any high cushioned heels, rigid arch supports, or stiff soles in this kind of shoe. These shoes can cause the body to build the muscles in the leg and foot and this could strengthen the arch as a result. Athletes who frequently jog in minimalist shoes often see improved flexibility in the Achilles tendon and in the soles of their feet.
It’s important to note that stability running shoes can be worn to correct a couple different foot movement problems as people walk. For example, some stability shoes are designed specifically for overpronaters and some are for exclusively underpronaters, so when you see a pair you like with the term “stability” you need to check that they are made for the foot issue that relates to you. Running shoes that have a midsole plate for preventing overpronation are sometimes referred to as “motion control” shoes, so that should tip you off while shopping. These shoes work to hold the foot in place so that it can’t overpronate while you engage in physical activity.
If your flat feet come at a result of injury or age, most likely you are constantly being reminded of your condition whenever you walk for any length of time. The pain may not all be in your feet, either. People with fallen arches often feel pain in their ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Since your skeletal and joint systems are dependent on your feet for balance, having damaged feet can throw almost everything upward out of alignment and cause issues. If this sounds like you, you may need to steer clear of minimalist running shoes. They probably won’t give you the support you need and could even make you feel more miserable than when you wear your normal tennis shoes.
In this case, you may be best off visiting a podiatrist for a recommendation. There’s a very good chance he can prescribe you some custom orthics if your condition is moderate to severe. You’ll need a running shoe that has enough space inside for an orthotic or has insoles that can be removed to make room for the orthotic. Often the orthotics that the doctor prescribes will work to keep your arch supported as you run. You will likely have to do a little shopping to find a pair that will hold the orthic in place as you walk, but again the podiatrist can give you some direction to use while trying new pairs.
If you are experiencing pain after exercising in your normal running shoes, don’t delay your hunt for a solution. Active bodies tend to stay healthy, but getting enough physical activity can be hard if you are consistently uncomfortable. Finding the right running shoes for your flat feet can make a significant difference in your lifestyle. We wish you luck in your search for your perfect pair!