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How to be a Successful Runner Even with Flat Feet

How to be a Successful Runner Even with Flat Feet

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Elvert Barnes via flic.kr

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Published on August 16, 2019

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

When you choose the right exercises, and make strength training a priority, it will have a great payoff to improve your running. Studies have shown incorporating a strength training program to your running routine improves running economy.[1]

Here are 15 strength training exercises specifically for runners.

1. Planks

The plank is a very important core exercise that will help give you more control and balance while running. Having a strong core will also keep you more stable and in control if you have to navigate uneven surfaces.

The plank is a simple exercise and involved balancing on your forearms and the tips of your toes, so that your back is “straight as a plank”. You want to focus on keeping your abs tight and imagine sucking your belly button up into your spine to have them properly engaged.

Aim for 30 to 45 seconds for a few rounds. Ultimately, you want to hold them as long as you can with proper form – so every time you perform a plank you want to go a little longer than previous ones.

2. Side Planks

The same concept is applied but you are now engaging your core in a different manner and engaging your oblique muscles too. This time, you are going to lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.

You will lean on your right forearm and lift your hips off the ground keeping your head lined up with your torso and ankles. Keep your other hand on your hip to help ,and control balance, and focus on not moving or swaying. Keep your abs tight to engage them and hold for 30-45 seconds, or longer if you can.

3. Clamshells

For this exercise, you are going to need a simple resistance band. Start with the band wrapped around both legs just below the knee. Your starting position will be on the ground lying on your side with your top hip and shoulder pointing towards the ceiling. Your hips will be on the ground, keep your back straight and your feet together, and lift up with your top knee as far as you can with the resistance.

Pause for a second at the top and lower back down under control. You can do 10 reps on this side before switching over and doing another 10 reps and aim for 2 to 3 sets.

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Clamshells are going to help strengthen your abductor muscles giving you stronger hips and more stability while running.

4. Single-Leg Bridge

You will start lying on your back with your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart with knees bent. You will straighten out one leg so it’s out in front of you in the air and lift your body up by pushing with the leg on the ground.

You want to flex your abs and glutes while pushing upward and try to keep your hips level throughout the motion before returning to the ground. You can also hold your body in the upright position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the ground to get more engagement before switching over to the other leg.

The single-leg bridge will help strengthen your glutes which are crucial for running power and stride strength.

5. Standing Calf Raises

This is a simple exercise but one that is very important for strengthening the calves. The stronger they are, the less fatigue you will experience during running. You will need to find an elevated step or platform for this exercise.

Stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge. Find something stable to hold on to for balance and start by lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Then, stand upwards like you are trying to see over a fence. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

6. Arch Lifting

You will start out standing with your feet directly under your hips, and this is best done without shoes. You will rotate the arch of your foot upward while keeping your toes and heels in contact with the ground.

Don’t let your toes tighten and you want to hold for a few seconds at the top before returning to the ground. You can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions and this is going to help strengthen the arches of your feet.

The stronger your arches are the better it is to keep your running stride strong and prevent less fatigue in the feet.

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7. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

Strong hips are paramount for running and the hip flexors can easily become strained and overused. This exercise will help to strengthen them and provide more power and stability while running. You will start kneeling with one foot forward and the other knee bent underneath the hip.

Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before switching over to the other leg.

8. Alternating Lunges

These are going to develop power and strength in your quads and glutes to help give you a more powerful stride. You will start standing with your hands on your hips looking straight out in front of you.

Step forward with your right leg and lower down just before your opposite knee touches the ground. Then, push through your heel to return to the standing position before performing the lunge with your left leg. Alternate between the right and left leg so that each one has done 10 reps and you can perform 3 sets of this.

9. Jump Squats

These can be done just with your bodyweight and help to develop explosive power in the lower body. The jump squat is handy for when you have to run hills and need more power for harder stretches of your run.

The best way is to start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will drive through the heels of your feet and explode upwards. As your bodyweight brings you back to the ground, control your weight as you go back into the squat position to fully engage the muscles.

Make sure not to let your knees move inwards and keep your abs tight, your head up, and your chest out. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

10. Skater Hops

This will help to build leg and core strength, along with improving balance. You will start standing upright but then bending the knees slight like you’re about to sit down. You will then drive off your right foot, jumping a few feet out to the left.

You will land on your left foot while your right foot swings behind your left leg. Then, drive off the left foot using the momentum of your right foot swinging back to land back on it. You will keep doing these side hops for ten times each leg and the motion should look like a speed skater shifting side to side.

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11. Bulgarian Split Squat

This will be similar to the lunges but, will really ramp up the resistance for the quads and is a great strength training exercise for runners. You are going to need an elevated surface or bench to stand in front of. The starting position will be standing upright with your head up and hands on your hips.

Start with your right foot behind you supported by the bench. You will start by lowering your hips to drops your left leg down to around a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your right knee hits the ground.

Next, push up through the heel until you are back at the starting position and perform ten reps, under control, before you switch over to the right leg. Perform 3 sets of this.

To make this even tougher, you can hold dumbbells in your hands hanging at your sides.

12. Arabesque

These will help in activating and controlling your hips. You will start off by standing on one leg, hands on your hips, and making sure your hips are level and balanced. You can then put your arms out to the side to give you more balance.

Start by tipping your torso forward as your non-weight-bearing leg extends out behind you. You can slightly bend your knee to help with control and you want to have your back and extended leg as level as possible. You should end up basically parallel to the floor with your shoulder, hip, and ankle should be in a straight line.

When you’ve gone as far forward as you can, return to the starting position and perform 8 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

Perform 2 to 3 sets. These are all about quality over quantity so if you can only do 4 or 5, that’s fine.

13. Hip Bridge

This is another great exercise to target the glutes which are the source of your running power. Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and then lift your hips up towards the ceiling.

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Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down under control. Perform this 12 times and then, you can do 3 sets. If these get easier, you can hold a weight across your stomach for more resistance.

14. Push-Ups

A classic exercise, and for good reason. As much as you want to focus your strength training on the lower body, you can’t neglect your upper body. Your arms are helping drive and propel you while running and a strong upper body helps with your overall balance and stability.

You can start laying facedown on the ground with your palms facing downwards and elbows tucked into your sides. Focus on pushing through the heel of your palms upward, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Lower back down under control and stop just before your chest touches the ground.

Focus on keeping the elbows tucked into your side and avoid having them flail outwards. You can perform 10 reps for 3 sets of these.

15. Squat to Overhead Press

This is a full-body motion that works a majority of muscles, builds power, explosiveness, and coordination. You will need two dumbbells and you will start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, with the dumbbells, held up by your shoulders – palms facing forward.

Send your hips back and lower down into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead and return them to the starting position. Go for 10 reps and three sets.

The Bottom Line

As much as you’d like to, you can’t be running all the time. It can lead to overuse, injuries and burnout. The perfect way to offset this is with strength training, making sure you perform your training with proper form and technique, avoiding mistakes which can lead to injury.

There are many other strength exercises such as the deadlift, which works the back and leg muscles which are vital for running economy improvement and injury prevention.[2] These exercises will make you a more efficient and resilient runner allowing you to improve your distances and times.

Even if you’ve been against strength training for runners, you can see now how it’s necessary in order to improve your overall running ability and performance.

Featured photo credit: Stage 7 Photography via unsplash.com

Reference

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