One of the things that leads to injury for many runners is overpronation, which is when the arch falls in causing the ankle to roll in as well and sending strain up to the knee and hip. Unfortunately, running with flat feet makes this issue all the more possible.
As always, I’m also a big proponent of learning to do exercises that will help your body become stronger and not rely on the shoe to do things for you.
If you don’t then over time you’ll create new areas of weakness and only mask issues for a little while.
Flat feet are one exception because it’s usually a structural issue and not say weak hips.
So, in this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about flat feet, including the two main types of flat feet, the strength exercises that could help and other tips to keep you running.
One major area is the best running shoes for flat feet. I have defined my top 7 in that article. Today let’s focus on building up that foot strength!
What are Flat Feet?
Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, are characterized by no arches in the feet. This means that the entire sole of the feet touches the ground.
Studies indicate that approximately 27% of the population has flat feet, so if you’re one of them know that you’re not alone.
Runners with flat feet tend to overpronate, which is when the arch of the foot rolls inward after landing. This sends strain up the knee and hip and can lead to injury.
For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to the type of shoes that are most suitable for flat feet. Later in the article, I will also share exercises that will help you if you have flat feet.
Types of Flat Feet
There are two main types of flat feet: flexible flat feet and rigid flat feet.
Flexible flat feet is when the arch is visible when there is no weight on the foot, i.e., while you’re sitting, on your toes, or lying down. Once you put any weight on your feet, the arch disappears.
Rigid flat feet is when regardless of whether you put weight on your feet or not, the arch is not visible and the feet remain flat in all positions.
Identifying which type of feet you have is essential. But remember, this is only one characteristic of you and other things might also influence your choice of shoes, such as gait cycle, range of motion, and other characteristics about your feet.
How Do You Know If You Have Flat Feet?
When standing without shoes, you’ll notice that your arch is touching or very nearly touching the floor.
This could simply be how your feet have always been, could be caused by an injury, or in some cases, fallen arches are a sign of muscle weakness. Just because you don’t have pain, doesn’t mean you can ignore it.
There are three particular ways to check and determine if you have flat feet.
1. Standard Observation Method
The simplest method is to make a general standard observation of your feet. While standing, check and see if your inner foot flattens or arches.
A simple test to help you figure this out is to try and push your big toe back as far as possible while observing your inner foot.
If an arch appears, then your foot is normal and flexible. However, if an arch does not exist when you’re flexing your big toe, you most likely have flat feet.
This is definitely not the only way to figure it out, and in many cases also not the best one. If you’re still in doubt about whether you have flat feet or not, consider the next method.
2. Wet Foot Test
This is an incredibly easy, yet effective method of checking what type of foot you have. It’s considered to be a more accurate indicator than the standard observation method above.
Start by wetting your feet and then step onto a surface where you can see your footprint clearly. An easy way to do this would be to step onto a cardboard box so that the contrast between the wet and dry surfaces is obvious.
If a full footprint does not appear, then your foot is normal and flexible. If, however, your full footprint appears, it means you’re most likely flat-footed.
3. Professional Measurements
This is, by far, the most accurate method to determine whether or not you’re flat-footed. A podiatrist, or a professional shop specializing in running shoes, can accurately and quickly help you determine what type of feet you have.
They can check and let you know if you have flat feet, and also specify whether they are flexible or rigid. If you’re visiting a professional running shoe store, they can also assist you in finding the right pair for you.
Go through the list again, bookmark this page and open it on your phone as you try each shoe to see which one is the best one for you.
Like I said above, the best shoe for you won’t just depend on whether or not you’re flat-footed, but other factors as well such as your range of motion and gait cycle.
It’s best to try different shoes to see which one incorporates all your individual needs.
Can you run with flat feet?
Absolutely! But you 100% need to pay more attention shoes and insoles than a lot of runners.
Running with flat feet can lead to a lot of issues with lower legs:
- Knee pain
- Ankle pain
- Foot pain
- Hip pain
- Lower Back Pain while running
- Shin splints
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles tendon pain
Basically a boatload of injuries because that inward pressure on the foot is changing the line of your leg with every single step that you take.
You can probably see from all of the information above why the right type of running shoe is so important for arch support. Whether you end up in a stability shoes or motion-control shoes, it’s going to help pronation.
But running shoes are NOT the only solution!
They can help to correct, but if you don’t do the additional work to create strength in your muscles, tendons and ligaments the inflammation is going to return.
8 Quick Tips for Running With Flat Feet
People with flat feet are unfortunately more prone to injuries as we note above.
If you can see a Physical Therapist, you’ll get some incredible information about how YOUR foot works and understanding your mechanics.
That allows you to know if you have rigid flat feet and need more stretching or to get custom orthotics because you’ve already started noticing pain.
There are a few primary things that can help:
- Choosing the right running shoes, that fit the type of flat feet you have and also account for the running surfaces and weather conditions you want to run in
- Re-measuring your feet often, as feet may change over time especially when you have flat feet as the arch might lower down
- Completing exercises to strengthen your feet CONSISTENTLY (see below for ideas)
- Replacing your shoes before they wear out and not provide you with the same level of stability as well
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the feet (our shock absorbers)
- Vary the surfaces you run on, giving your feet relief from pavement only running
- Additional strength of the ankles, hips, and glutesto provide more stability
- Stop running through pain – it’s not ok! Instead, commit to the work to fix it
Flat Feet Running Exercises
To prevent injury, our goal is additional strength in the arch, ankles and of course up the leg.
Arch and Foot Strength
Physical Therapist Stuart Wilson put together a great video for our Virtual Run Club to help with pre-hab that’s entirely focused on the feet!
Give this a watch and start adding these to your routine. I now consistently do the arch raises, to build my own feet.
Tennis Ball Foot Strength
While I usually go for a PT ball, you want the slight flex of the tennis ball.
You can also do these three movements daily, start sitting and move to standing to increase pressure.
- Place heel on ball and push down (up to 1 minute)
- Place toes on ball and curl it towards you (1o reps)
Toe Yoga for Runners
This was one of the first things that I had David start doing when his flat feet were giving him issues.
- Sitting or standing, try focusing on raising each toe one at a time independent from other toes
- Biggest one to make work is the big toe
- You can also put a towel on the ground and grab it with your toes, scrunch and release
Stair Calf Raises
Great to add in before or after runs, 10-20 reps per leg.
Standing with heel off the back of a stair, you’ll lower the heel down and then raise up on to your toes.
- This is a single leg exercise
- You want to go slow for full range of motion
After finishing the movement, go in to a long hold calf stretch. Up to 1 minute of pushing the leg straight back with leg in front bent (think a yoga pose).
Core Focused Strength
From here you need to ensure you have hip, glute and ab strength (aka your core)!
Hopefully this gives you so new information to make running with flat feet no big deal! You can 100% get away from pain and enjoy the miles.
Looking for more running shoe information?
- Best Wide Toe Box Running Shoes
- How to decide if you should use insoles?
- How to know when to replace running shoes?
- Why you need to rotate running shoes
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish