Approximately 25 percent of the U.S. has flat feet, but this on its own does not typically make it impossible for them to be runners. In fact, this previously misunderstood foot condition is no longer an automatic disqualification from serving in the military, and most people with flat feet are able to do everything that individuals with a standard arch can do. By following a few important foot health tips, people with flat feet can even comfortably finish a marathon.
1. How Can You Tell if You Have Flat Feet?
Most people have an arch in their foot that can easily be seen from the side. In contrast, someone who has been born with flat feet will have little to no discernible arch. This is caused by a collapsed medial longitudinal arch, which can lead to a variety of physical complications if precautions are not taken. It is common for parents to notice the missing arch in a child’s footprint, but it will be necessary for a doctor to examine your feet in order to get a conclusive diagnosis.
2. What Are the Two Categories of Flat Feet?
There are two different types of flat feet: Rigid Flat Feet and Flexible Flat Feet. A rigid flat foot is the least common type, and it is caused by the bone structure of the feet instead of the arch tendons. One of the confusing things about determining whether or not you have this condition is that flexible flat feet can look normal from the side until you actually place weight on the foot. If you have flexible flat feet, your arches will flatten when you stand, walk or run.
3. Why do People with Flat Feet Need to Take Special Precautions?
As previously mentioned, flat feet can lead to several physical issues if you fail to take some basic precautions. For example, running without the proper shoes or insoles can easily lead to pain in your ankles, heels, lower back and knees. Flat feet are also associated with bunions and shin splints. Anyone who runs regularly without the necessary foot support runs the risk of developing tendinitis in the knees.
4. Will Every Person with Flat Feet Experience Physical Problems?
Although issues such as feet and knee pain are common with flat feet, it is estimated that 20 percent of the people who do not have a proper arch can still participate in a long list of everyday activities without ever developing any associated symptoms. It is likely that these individuals have a small arch that has not completely collapsed. The odds are high that most people in this category are never even diagnosed with flat feet because they do not develop any complaints that need to be looked at by a physician.
5. Are Shoe Insoles Good Enough?
Shoe insoles are one of the most common treatment methods for flat feet. Depending on the severity of your issue, a podiatrist may prescribe a pair that is made specifically for your feet. However, most people are able to purchase insoles that are designed for anyone with fallen arches. This is an affordable method for reducing the symptoms associated with flat feet, but you will still need to be careful about what type of shoes you buy because you need overall foot and ankle support.
6. Is it Safe to Run with Flat Feet?
The vast majority of people with flat feet can run without developing any serious complications. The trick is to be aware of your condition so that you can use insoles and shoes that will provide support for your ankles and feet. Additionally, the severity of your condition will have an impact on how likely you are to end up suffering from an injury. In other words, if you have rigid flat feet, you will need to be even more aware and vigilant to prevent future issues as a result of running. Overall, it is safe for most people to run with flat feet as long as they have taken precautions.
7. How Can I Select the Best Shoes for Running with Flat Feet?
There are three main things to look for when buying shoes for flat feet: A stiff heel, sturdy construction that is difficult to twist and shoes that bend near the toes but not the middle. Stability shoes offer some much-needed support and will help you avoid over-pronation. There are hundreds of options to choose from, and everyone’s exact needs are different. With this in mind, it is best to receive assistance from a shoe expert. Runners with flat feet often recommend the ASICS Gel-Lyte33 2, New Balance M1080v3 or the Mizuno Wave Inspire 11, so it is a good idea to try on theses shoes to determine if they are a good fit. Keep in mind that it may still be necessary to put insoles into whichever shoes you buy.
8. Can You Rebuild Your Arches?
Many people are born with flat arches, but it is also possible to develop them later in life. Either way, you may be able to at least somewhat rebuild your arches by utilizing toe curl exercises. One easy technique that you can try involves sitting in a chair in a room with a smooth floor. Place a towel on the floor in front of you, and sit with your back straight and your knees at a 90-degree angle from your feet. Next, leave your heel flat and use your toes to grab the towel and pull it toward you. Doing this in repetitions of 10 at least once per day may rebuild your arches.
9. The Importance of Supporting Your Ankles
Your main focus when looking for shoes will probably be your arches, or lack thereof, but this is not the only area that you need to pay close attention to. Your ankles are especially susceptible to injuries due to your flat feet, so you should always ensure that they are well-supported by your shoes and socks. Again, a sturdy shoe that does not have a lot of bend near the middle is important, and a stiffer exterior near your ankles will be beneficial.
10. Stick to Running Courses on Flat Land
Even if you acquire the very best shoes and insoles, you will still need to pay close attention to the terrain when you go running. Anyone with flat feet is much more likely to suffer from over-pronation on uneven ground. This means that it is actually safer to run on flattop concrete than to choose softer ground that is not level such as trails or a golf course. Of course, if a dirt trail is relatively flat, then the added level of shock absorbency may make it the ideal running spot.
If you do continue to experience pain in your feet, you may benefit from regular foot massages. Be sure to visit your podiatrist as well and ask for a pair of prescription running shoes. By following this combination of tips, you should be able to run without dealing with any excessive pain or flat foot-related physical issues.
Featured photo credit: Elvert Barnes via flic.kr