What does it mean to have flat feet?
The human foot is a unique structure consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The feet are quite amazing to say the least.
No wonder, when we neglect them, they can cause pain and dysfunction. If you’ve been told that you have flat feet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be a source of pain after running.
Having flat feet simply means that the arches are flatter than normal, but that can present challenges when running, depending on the level of flatness and other factors like mobility, stability, and other biomechanical issues.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, prevalence of flat feet in the general population ranges from 5% to 70% and is more common in women, children, and adolescents.
Overall, most people are able to run with flat feet just fine. But because it is a common biomechanical problem, it is important to know why having flat feet can cause issues, so you can address them head on.
Let’s take a closer look at what it means to have flat feet, how doing flat feet can lead to injuries, and tips for better running that can help you navigate through your running career with flat feet.
What types of flat feet do runners have?
Flat feet are most often described in regard to foot type, or the appearance of the foot when looking at the footprint. Subsequently, there are a few different types of flat feet that are associated with different types of foot pain.
Flat Foot without Collapse
The flat foot without collapse is the most common type of flat foot. If you have this type of flat foot, your feet are flat but they are not collapsed. This means there is already some arch present and it is not collapsed. However, the arch is still forced to form by the ground.
Some runners will try to gain more support from running shoes with more arch support. However, this will only make your feet and ankles weaker as it creates an arch that you cannot support with your own leg muscles.
Flat Foot with Collapse
Many people who have suffered from ankle injuries or other injuries because they run in shoes that are too small for them, have a flat foot with collapse. If you have this type of flat foot, you will have very little arch and your foot will collapse comfortably flat on the ground.
The collapse occurs because your ligaments are short or overused.
How do I know if I have flat feet?
Flat feet are a condition where the arches in the foot are significantly reduced or even missing entirely. The foot is much flatter than normal.
The arch is made up of the medial longitudinal arch (the inside of the foot), and the lateral longitudinal arch (the outside of the foot). Flat feet have a large arch collapse, with structural features such as the medial longitudinal arch collapsing and perhaps being absent altogether.
The most common cause of flat feet is pronation in the ankles. Pronation is a normal part of walking and standing. It is the motion of the foot rolling inward at the ankle. When this motion does not stop, it can cause the foot to twist outwards. Over a prolonged period of time, this can lead to several problems, including flat feet.
You can check if you have flat feet by standing with a straight arm and pointing your big toes downwards. If your foot is flat when you do this, you probably have flat feet. Alternatively, you can also try the Test in the illustration above. See if your heel gently comes off the ground.
If it does, your feet is probably flat and not arched.
Why does it hurt when I go running?
This is a really common problem for people with flat feet, and it’s understandable that you’d be frustrated because it does hurt.
I understand how annoying running can be for those guys with flat feet and not just because I myself have been in the same boat.
In this review, you will learn how to deal with running pain in flat feet without surgery and without changing your biomechanical structure.
Everything that I am going to share with you is based on whatever I have personally learned throughout the years and also on my experience with my product, the Push-Pull Pro.
Why does being flat-footed lead to foot pain?
The most common physical complaint associated with flat feet is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is the thick connective tissue on the bottom of the foot that spans the entire length of the plantar aspect of the foot from the base of the toes to the insertion of the Achilles tendon.
When you have flat feet, the arch of the foot flattens, which means that the plantar fascia is lengthened. When this happens you are more likely to develop a number of common running injuries.
Depending on the flatness of the foot, the heels get higher, the foot becomes more posterior and the plantar fascia is abnormally stressed.
This happens more often if you have hypermobile joints or weak gluteus muscles.
The plantar fascia is attached to the heel via the Achilles tendon, so the higher the heel, the greater the stress on the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon.
Another common problem associated with flat feet is an abnormal loading pattern while you’re walking and running. When you have flat feet your arches collapse and you have to overwork your foot ligaments and muscles to compensate. This leads to fatigue and overuse injuries.
The common result is an overuse injury or plantar fasciitis. This is a condition where the plantar fascia is inflamed and causes pain under the foot or at the heel.
Is there a way to treat pain from flat feet?
If you’ve tried everything else and you still suffer from discomfort or pain because of flat feet, it’s time to visit a podiatrist.
Like other foot abnormalities, the solution is not to deal with the condition, but to correct it.
One way to fix flat feet is to have corrective surgery.
However, surgery should be the last option because it can be expensive and can lead to other problems in the future.
A less invasive option is a custom orthotic. This is like a specially designed shoe insert that will restore the natural alignment in your foot. Wearing footwear with built-in orthotics is a great way for you to go about your daily life with fewer negative effects.
Orthotics are available in various degrees of firmness and can be designed to fit into any type of shoe. In most cases, you can wear regular street shoes with orthotics as an added layer of cushion.
The key is to find a podiatrist who can create a custom orthotic that matches your foot perfectly.
Can running with flat feet lead to injury?
If you have flat feet, you should be more worried about imbalances rather than flat feet themselves.
It is important to have proper balance. If you are a heel striker, for example, you over-supinate your feet every time your heel strikes the ground, creating an imbalance on the body.
If you stand barefoot and you notice that one leg is different in length from the other, it is an indication that your body is not well-balanced.
Your body is perfectly balanced if you can stand on your tiptoes and if both your feet are pointing straight forward.
Interestingly, a person with flat feet and who over-pronates can be balanced if they are misaligned in the opposite direction. Likewise, a person with high arches may have proper alignment but can become imbalanced if they over-pronate.
So if you have flat feet, it is possible that your body is in the correct alignment, but that you might need to strengthen the muscles of your feet, ankles, knees and hips to compensate for the imbalance.
Make sure that you get a balance evaluation from an expert before running. As mentioned, some peoples’ feet are misaligned due to the misalignment of other body parts such as the hips.
Do I over-pronate if I have flat feet?
Before we get to the actual answer, let’s first talk a little bit about the human foot and toes. Most people have their tip-toes longer than the rest of their toes.
We do this because it helps us balance better. When we shift our weight on to our tip-toes, the longer toe helps us balance and stay stable.
Also, if our body weight is distributed on to our toes, running on flat feet would put a great strain and injury on our toes.
Many people have thought that having a longer tip-toes than the rest of their toes would cause over-pronation. But the foot exerts pressure and balance excessive on the inner side of the foot and not the outer.
Over-pronation is when a person puts pressure on the outer side of their foot when weight bearing … or when they rotate too much about their ankle.
This increases the risk of getting foot, knee and back injuries.
If you do have flat feet, it does increase your risk of injury. But it’s not because the foot is rotating too much but because of the pressure sensitive points on the foot.
Having flat feet doesn’t cause you to over-pronate.
If you over-pronate, you are most likely to have injuries.
Are there shoes designed for flat feet?
Running is one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable physical activities, but if you don’t have properly functioning foot joints, chances are you’re not enjoying it to its fullest.
One of the most common foot problems is the condition known as pronation. Pronation is characterized by the rolling inwards of your foot when you make contact with the ground during activity.
The reason pronation is a problem is that it can lead to a number of complications, including:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Chronic Fatigue
- Shin Splints
If you’ve ever experienced any of these, you might think the solution is to wear stiff, overly-supportive shoes to try to correct this gait issue. Unfortunately, this only leads to more problems.
The first issue is that wearing shoes that are too tight can actually increase pronation. This is because you’ll never be able to relax your feet in the shoes. Your muscles will always be flexed, and this causes them to shorten, which then leads to an imbalance between the muscles that control pronation and the muscles that control supination. Remember, your feet naturally pronate in order to absorb shock.
Running Shoe Construction for Support/Stability Shoes
It is true that the best running shoes will never be as good as the support from having normal arches, but they can help compensate some of your body’s weaknesses.
For those with flat feet, the support provided by the shoes’ midsole (which lies under the foot) and outsole (the top) can still be a factor in the overall fit and the amount of shock that is absorbed.
A flat running shoe will typically have a denser midsole and/or a protruding heel. This allows it to absorb the shock of impact a bit better. The result— for those with particularly flat feet – is that they can be more comfortable to run in than those without the support.
Flat-footed athletes also should carefully examine the shoe’s width and fit at the opening.
Overview on Shoe Categories for Flat Feet
Most people who have flat feet tend to automatically assume that they can’t wear any type of athletic shoes.
They usually think of puffy running shoes instead of supportive shoes as something only for high arched feet and therefore they resort to wearing only flip flops or slippers.
But that is not true, flat feet doesn’t mean you can’t wear structure shoes, you only need a different style of shoe.
Shoe Categories for Flat Feet
Shoes with Removable Insoles
If you want to buy a pair of tennis shoes, start with them. A lot of running shoes are very stiff and structured, and they are not built for anyone with flat feet.
Yes, the most effective running shoes are very stiff, they provide great support for high arched feet.
And shoes with removable insoles are not the most supportive and they won’t prevent you from having more foot problems in the future.
But they are a good solution for people with flat feet who want to wear structure shoes. You can get more benefits from the structures in the shoes while still providing the control and support for your foot that you have always been searching for.
Will inserts help my flat feet?
Flat feet are also called fallen arches, and they are a common foot problem. Approximately 80% of the population has flat feet to some degree.
So if you have flat feet, you are in very good company.
The main symptom of flat feet is a lack of cushioning or support in the forefoot area when walking or running. As a result, the big toes, balls of your feet and outer edges are more likely to suffer injuries.
On the bright side, you can decrease the discomfort that flat feet cause. The first step towards reducing your risk of injury and improving your flat foot foot comfort is to find the best flat feet shoe inserts and arch supports. This can increase the shoe’s flexibility, comfort and shock absorption. It can also improve many of your foot’s biomechanics and lessen impact on the joints.
Running is a great form of exercise. However, it comes with a number of risks that you may not be aware of if you have been able to avoid injury so far.
If you are at risk of developing injury, then there might be a number of things holding you back.
The good news is that most of the time, these things can be worked on to improve your running.
At the same time, if there is a particular injury or pain that has been troubling you, then there might be a few, more pressing things to take care of before you can get back to running.
If this is the case, then you should seek the advice of a medical professional. It is better to know where you stand before jumping back into running, rather than making things worse by running when they could have been managed.
This article summarizes the most common running problems, as well as how to overcome the condition.
In the end, prevention is always better than dealing with the consequences, and the outlook for continued running is very positive if you manage your running right.
Even if you are not a lifelong runner, I hope these tips will facilitate running for a long time to come.
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