Are you worried that having flat feet means you can’t run well? Perhaps you’re one of the people who get pain when they run?
Running with flat feet can cause problems and affect performance. It’s not all bad news though. There’s actually quite a lot you can do to make it easier to run with flat feet.
I’ve done lots of research into how to run with flat feet, and I’m excited to share it with you in this post.
Anatomy of Flat Feet
Flat feet can develop when the medial longitudinal arch flattens out. To try to keep stable, the foot can roll inwards (pronate).
The Posterior tibial tendon (PTT) can be a factor in flat feet as an adult. The PTT stops the foot arches from collapsing, but if it gets damaged, fallen arches can develop. This is also called Adult Acquired Flatfoot Deformity (AAFD).
Types of Flat Feet
A flexible flat foot is the most common type. Here, the arch disappears on standing but is there otherwise.
Flat feet can also be rigid, with no arch at all. The arch is never present, whether you’re standing or not.
How Does Flat Feet Affect Running?
We need a bit of pronation when we run to absorb shock when we move.
The trouble is, flat feet can lead to overpronation. This study suggests that this affects performance over short sprints and long distances.
But are flat feet the only issue?
One expert argues that flat feet aren't to blame, especially if they develop out of the blue. Instead, it’s deemed more likely that the problem lies elsewhere.
One study agrees with this and suggests other factors may affect running performance.
According to research from Aarhus University, pronation isn’t the main culprit. They found that new runners who overpronate don’t pick up more injuries because of this. And this was the case even when wearing neutral shoes without a lot of support.
Tips for Runners With Flat Feet
Weak ankles are sometimes linked to flat feet. Calf raises are a stretch that can strengthen the ankles. Leaning against a wall, keep the back leg straight at the knee and lean forwards. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscles.
This video has some exercises to strengthen feet and ankles:
While seated, cross one leg over the opposite thigh. Wrap a band around the crossed foot. Use your hands to bring the foot up. Bring the foot back down again slowly against the pull of the band.
Using a stretch band can also help with flat feet. The key is to create tension in the band by pointing and flexing your feet.
Toe raises: Sit down for this exercise - on a floor or bed. Bend your knees with your feet flat to the floor. With both hands, get hold of your toes and pull them towards you. Your heels should stay on the floor throughout. Hold this pose for around 10 seconds, rest and repeat up to 10 times.
Towel grab: This exercise involves a towel laid on the floor. With one foot, try to grab it between your toes. You can try to smooth out the towel afterward too with the same foot. Repeat up to 5 times with each foot.
Rolling Arches and Heel on a Tennis Ball
You’ll need something to roll under the arch such as a can or tennis ball. Sitting on a chair, put one foot on the thigh of the other leg. While your foot is still up, use your hand to roll the object up and down the arch.
Heel on a tennis ball: Put a tennis ball under one foot, with the other flat to the floor. Use your foot to roll the ball under the arch.
Proper Running Techniques
The biggest problem can be where your foot lands as you run. Some experts suggest that running barefoot sometimes can strengthen foot muscles and arches. It may help with foot strike too. According to Podiatry Today, a forefoot or midfoot strike helps to absorb shock.
Where you run can be an important factor too if you have flat feet. Runner’s World advises against running on uneven surfaces. This can exaggerate pronation.
Arch Support Insoles
Arch insoles can support flat feet and create an arch. It's best if these are neither too firm nor too flexible.
This study looked at whether insoles affect balance when standing. It found that the Superfeet insoles could support the medial longitudinal arch. BMZ insoles offered more stability for the lateral area of the feet.
One study compared the effects of taping and foot orthoses for people with low arches. Taping worked better to support the midfoot and medial longitudinal arch.
Wear Correct Running Shoes
Because flat feet don't absorb shock too well, other parts of the body are often forced to do this instead. This can cause injuries affecting the ankles, legs, knees, hips, and back.
This is where the right type of footwear can come into its own.
Runners with flat feet can sometimes wear neutral running shoes without big problems. For many people, wearing supportive running shoes is still a good move for flat feet.
Runner’s World recommends choosing motion control and stability shoes. Arch support is key too.
Avoid Flip Flops
When it comes to supporting flat feet, flip flops are a bad choice. The biggest problem is the total lack of arch support. If you want to wear open shoes, sandals with built-in support are a better option.
As you can see, knowing how to run with flat feet isn’t as daunting as it might seem!
Many people with flat feet have no problems running but if you do, remember these tips:
● Try exercises designed to treat flat feet
● Wear good footwear that supports flat feet
● Make sure that you are following proper running techniques that don’t hurt flat feet
● Using taping and arch insoles can support flat feet
Got any questions I’ve not covered here? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you.