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Running with Flat Feet? What You Should Know to Stay Injury Free

by | Sep 7, 2016

There are a lot of great ways to get in shape these days, and one convenient way is running. You can run around your neighborhood, in a park, on a treadmill, or on an indoor track. Running also has a number of different benefits, including mood improvement and decreased blood pressure.

But when you have flat feet, running can sometimes be difficult. You might feel aches and pains throughout your body, and some of these painful conditions can even make running harder to endure.

But why do flat feet cause issues, and how can you remedy these problems? In this blog, we’ll address what flat feet are, how they trouble runners, and what you can do to remedy related issues.

What Are Flat Feet?

The term “flat-footed” essentially refers to the condition of a person’s arch. Arches help absorb the shock of your footfalls, and with running, the heavier footfalls put more strain on the body. Proper arches can adequately absorb this shock as you run.

But with flat feet, the arches are collapsed, sitting low or completely flat against the ground. A foot doctor can determine if you have flat feet, but you can also check your arches yourself at home with the wet test. First, dip the sole of one of your feet in water, then step on a piece of paper towel. Put all your weight on that foot, then remove it from the paper towel.

If you have flat feet, the inward line of your foot won’t curve in very much because your arches collapse with each step. Out of the general population, about 20 to 30 percent have flat feet, so it’s not entirely uncommon, and there are plenty of successful runners with flat feet.

There are also two different types of flat-footedness. Some people have flat feet because of their bone structure, and this type of flat foot is called a rigid flat foot. Rigid flat feet look flat at all times, even when they’re lifted off the floor.

The more common form of flat foot is called a flexible flat foot, which is when the foot appears to have an arch off the floor, but once the foot is flat against the floor, the arches collapse, giving the foot that flat appearance.

Why Are Flat Feet a Problem for Runners?

Flat feet often cause overpronation, which is when the ankle bends inward as the foot hits the ground. Not every flat-footed person suffers from overpronation, but it can cause foot, hip, knee, back, and ankle pain, especially after running.

Overpronation prevents the feet from absorbing the shock of each footfall, and this lack of shock absorption is what causes pain and stress to the body. If you overpronate with flat feet, you might experience shin splints, lower back pain, or knee tendonitis, especially if you run too much too fast.

So, honestly, the cause of these issues is overpronation, not flat-footedness. But flat footed individuals are more likely to overpronate than everyone else.

How Can You Prevent Injuries While Running With Flat Feet?

The best way to prevent running injuries from flat-footed overpronation is to get the right shoes. You need a pair that offers adequate arch support, and you don’t want shoes with too much cushioning. The best shoes for overpronation are stability and motion control running shoes.

To keep your foot from overpronating, stability and motion control running shoes have firm midsoles to prevent your arch from collapsing too much. In addition to good supportive shoes, custom molded orthotics can also help as they decrease the range of motion in flat footed individuals while decreasing risk of injuries.

And once you have the right shoes on your feet, you’ll also have to take a few precautions during your run. If you’re just starting to run or haven’t gone running in a long time, you may want to take it slow. Don’t run too far too fast. Steadily lengthen your runs and gradually increase your speed, even if you feel great at the time and want to run more. This steady increase in distance and speed can help prevent injury and pain.

You often won’t feel the aches and pains from your run until the following morning, after the stress of the run has time to settle in. However, your body will be able to adapt to running over time, allowing you more freedom as you run.

Also, run on somewhat softer surfaces to minimize the shock of each footfall. For instance, if you often run around your neighborhood, run on the road instead of the sidewalk. Asphalt is softer than concrete, so running on it reduces the risk of injury and shin splints. And if you can, stay away from uneven surfaces. They can worsen your overpronation, resulting in injury and pain.

You should also visit a podiatrist for advice and shoe recommendations and discuss custom molded orthotics. At Advanced Foot & Ankle Centers of Illinois, we take foot care seriously, and we take pride in offering our customers the best and most relevant advice and treatment. If you suffer from flat feet or have even more questions about running with flat feet, contact us today!

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