7 Things You Should Know About Running With Flat Feet
Flat feet is a condition in which the arch of the foot has not developed normally. Because the arch is lowered or flattened out, the entire foot touches the floor when standing.
Also called pes planus, flat feet can be found in about 30 percent of people, according to Dr. Victor Prisk, an orthopedist at West Penn Hospital. Flat feet may be inherited or caused by an injury or condition such as stroke or rheumatoid arthritis.
Flat feet rarely cause any symptoms or problems, but when they do, it may be due to excessive standing or walking, sudden weight gain, minor injury, changes in work environment, or poorly fitted shoes.
People with flat feet tend to overpronate. Overpronation occurs when the foot lands on the outside of the heel then rolls inward excessively during walking and/or running. As a result, the inner edge and not the ball of the foot absorbs the body’s weight.
Can people with flat feet still run?
You sure can! Despite what you may have heard, flat-footed runners actually have the same risk of injury as runners with normal or high arches. Moreover, there are plenty of successful runners with flat feet.
With the right tools and techniques, individuals with flat feet can enjoy running and even be successful at it.
Here are what you need to know about running with flat feet.
1. Flat-footed runners are not more prone to injury.
There’s a misconception that flat feet cause injuries during physical activity. In the past, the United States Armed Forces gave individuals with flat feet 4-F classification, deeming them unfit for military service.
However, this belief has long been refuted in a 1993 study, which found that 20 percent of the participants with the flattest feet had the lowest risk of injury, versus the normal arch and high arch groups.
In other words, all runners are at risk for injury, whether you have low, normal, or high arches.
2. But there are some injuries associated with overpronation.
Some running injuries are more common among overpronators. These include shin splints, heel spurs, bunions, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, calluses, and Achilles tendinitis.
To prevent overpronation injuries, do some stretching and increase activity slowly. Respect your body’s limitations and build tissue tolerance gradually.
3. It’s important to wear the right shoes.
Most, if not all, running shoe companies cater to runners with flat feet. If you have low arches and overpronate, you will need extra support, stability, and structured cushioning.
Look for shoes that have straight or semi-curved lasts, multi-density midsoles, motion control, medial post support, and external control features that minimize pronation.
Stability running shoes effectively distribute the impact of running to limit pronation. You may also want to use over-the-counter arch supports or orthotics.
4. Taking it slow is important, too.
If you’re new to running or haven’t pounded the pavement in a while, don’t run too far too fast, even if you feel like doing more. Increase your speed and distance gradually to prevent pain and injury.
You may feel great while you’re running, but keep in mind that you won’t feel the soreness until the next morning. Give your body time to adjust to running.
5. Explore softer surfaces.
If your arches are aching from running, run on relatively softer surfaces to minimize the impact of the ground. Asphalt is softer than concrete, so where possible, run on the road instead of the sidewalk.
Grass, dirt, and a treadmill are other options. In addition, avoid uneven surfaces, which can aggravate your pronation and cause pain and injury.
6. Flat feet usually do not have any symptoms.
Most people with flat feet do not experience any symptoms at all. Usually, they have otherwise normal feet without any issues and their walking and running have already adapted to compensate.
In cases where there are symptoms, a person may experience foot pain, foot stiffness, and uneven wearing of shoes. If only one foot is flat, the person may feel a sense of imbalance.
7. Treating flat feet doesn’t have to be complicated.
If your flat feet cause pain, you may be able to relieve it by doing stretching exercises. Stretch your calf muscles by pressing a wall with both hands and bending one knee until you feel a gentle stretch on the back of your leg. Hold for 10 counts and repeat on the other side. Do this 2 to 4 times per day.
For a foot strengthening exercise, sit down and place a towel on the floor in front of you. Use your toes to scrunch the towel toward you. Repeat with the other foot. To make it more challenging, place a weighted object on the other end of the towel. If you’re interested in joining a fitness center, check out Onelife Fitness, a gym in Frederick, MD.