An estimated 20% to 30% of people have “fallen arches” or “flat feet.” Are you an avid runner who has been diagnosed with this condition? Here’s everything you need to know about living and running with flat feet.
What Are Flat Feet?
Flat feet occur when the arch of the foot flattens or collapses, causing the entire sole of the foot to touch the floor. To test if you have flat feet, step into a puddle barefoot. Then, leave a footprint on the nearby pavement. A flat foot will leave a much broader print than a “normal” foot.
There are two types of flat feet—rigid and flexible. Rigid flat feet result from abnormal bone structure. However, most people have flexible flat feet, which are caused by stretched arch tendons. The arches of flexible flat feet only collapse in weight-bearing situations. The arch may appear normal when the foot is raised, but it flattens out when standing on it.
What Causes Flat Feet?
Rigid flat feet are usually inherited. A combination of genes and lifestyle choices may cause flexible flat feet to develop. Certain activities stretch and weaken the arch tendon, including wearing high heels and suffering a foot or ankle injury. Other risk factors include diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and diseases of the muscular or nervous systems.
How Do Flat Feet Affect Runners?
Having fallen arches may be problematic if you’re a runner. The lack of natural arch support can strain your ligaments and muscles, causing pain when walking or running. The risk of damaging your ankle joint or Achilles tendon is also greater.
Other issues may arise, not from the flat feet themselves, but from the overpronation that often accompanies fallen arches. Pronation, or the inward roll of the foot and lowering of the arch, is a natural part of walking. However, overpronation is when the foot rolls inward too much, extending the ankle joint and rotating the leg bones. This places additional stress on every joint in the lower body, increasing the risk of shin splints, back problems, and tendonitis of the knee.
Not all flat-footed runners overpronate, but the chances of overpronation are much higher if you have flat feet.
Exercises for Flat Feet
If your flat feet cause pain or other difficulties that impede your active lifestyle, exercises are a great treatment option. Here’s what to try:
- Calf stretches: Press your hands against the wall and extend one leg out behind you. Press your heel into the floor until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg. Repeat 10 times total.
- Calf raises: Stand on a stair with your heels hanging off the edge. Lift your heels as high as possible and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, return to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.
- Tennis ball rolls: Sit in a chair and place a tennis ball under the arch of one foot. Roll the ball around between your foot and the floor for two to three minutes. Then, switch to the other foot.
- Arch lifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and roll your weight to the outer edges of your feet. Curl your toes slightly and lift your arches as high as possible. Repeat 15 times.
- Toe raises: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, press your big toes into the floor and lift your four small toes into the air. Then, press your four small toes into the floor and lift your big toes. Do each way 5 to 10 times, holding each lift for 5 to 10 seconds.
Treatment Products for Flat Feet
Choosing supportive shoes with a firm insole is critical for anyone hoping to enjoy running with flat feet. For mild to moderate overpronation, look for running shoes advertised to provide “stability.” If you have severe overpronation or a heavy stride, you need “motion control.”
You may also pursue custom orthotic insoles from a podiatrist. These sit inside ordinary running shoes, conforming to the shape of your feet and raising your arches to the proper height. Effective orthotics stabilize the heel, prevent overpronation, and increase shock absorption for a more comfortable running experience.
Finally, don’t forget to assess your socks. Feetures offers relief and recovery socks for men and women. These provide support and compression under your arches for maximum comfort, even when you’re barefoot. Often worn for plantar fasciitis relief, our socks lift, stretch, and stabilize the arch to provide easy, convenient comfort for flat-footed runners. The thin cushion offers a light, cool feel, and multiple sock height options allow for a customized fit.
To learn more about our recovery and relief socks for flat feet, or to place your order, please contact Feetures today.