Runners have to pass through millions of hurdles in order to achieve their maximum speed and tenacity. However, did you know that the runners with flat feet have their own share of issues? As they have little to no arches, it becomes challenging for them to run with their best performance on line.
But that never stopped anybody. Saïd Aouita, the world-famous Arab sportsman, has flat feet. Even with that, he ended up winning the 1984 Summer Olympics. Yes, it might not be easy for everybody to run with flat feet. Nevertheless, we are here to give you a few tips and a detailed guide that could enable you to run with your flat feet with minimum pain.
What Causes Flat Feet?
Flat foot is a common phenomenon that is seen in 30% of the population. It is a medical condition that results in the entire sole of the foot touching the ground.
If you are unsure whether you have a flat foot or not, stand straight on the floor and observe your foot. If it touches the ground with a small gap in between the ball of your foot and heel, you most likely have a standard foot. But if there is no gap and your foot touches entirely, you have a flat foot.
Another great way to detect flat feet is by getting your foot wet. Stand on a piece of paper and look at the imprint. If the imprint is complete with no spaces in between, you have a flat foot.
Most infants are born with flat feet, but they start developing arches by the age of three. If they don’t, it results in them having flat feet. Besides that, injuries or aging could also cause flat feet.
Issues Faced by Runners with Flat Feet
Before we jump to the possible solutions and tips for runners with a flat foot, let us understand the issues at their root.
As runners are in constant contact with the floor with rigorous strides, they are bound to be affected by external shocks. Arches act as a natural shock absorber that can protect your foot from sustaining any injuries.
As they flex and roll while running, your muscles, bones, and joints are under less stress while running. This field gets limited for people with flat feet as they have little to no arches, to begin with.
With no shock absorber, external forces get transferred to bones and muscles, thereby causing immense pain.
Even though it is believed that flat feet are better than high arches in terms of shock absorbent, you will still feel pain and injuries.
Overpronation is the second-most common issue for people with flat feet. In layman’s terms, overpronation is a phenomenon that leads the foot to roll inward a lot instead of just a little bit. During overpronation, the outer edge of your heel is the first thing to touch the ground. It is led by the foot rolling inward onto the arch.
When a person with a flat foot overpronates, their ankle will look buckled up, and the foot will lean outward instead of straight ahead. This can cause a great deal of pain and stress on the legs and feet. In the long run, it may also cause swelling.
Another issue that is often faced by runners with flat feet is tendinitis. It is the inflammation of the tendons in the ankle and knees. Wear and tear of the ligaments, in the end, result in such a medical condition. It can also lead to other sports injuries.
Shin splints are the pain people feel in the shins while running. This is more common in people with flat feet. Lastly, bunions are also formed due to rigorous foot movements and physical activities.
All the medical conditions mentioned above are excruciating and can pose serious and severe issues for people with flat feet.
Practical Solutions for Running with Flat Feet
Running with a flat foot is not an easy task. It can be extremely challenging and painful. But we have combined the following solutions that could help you run without pain.
Nothing can be achieved while living an unhealthy lifestyle. A healthier diet and routine can go to a great length in reducing the stress on your body.
If you are overweight, there would be more amount of stress on your feet, leading to an intense amount of pain. This can be avoided by leading a healthier lifestyle, having a balanced diet, and working out on a regular basis.
Losing weight can be highly effective in treating/avoiding foot pain in people with flat feet. It can effectively reduce the stress and tension on the legs.
Get the Right Shoes
It is an unavoidable truth that wearing the wrong kind of shoes could cause a great deal of pain and discomfort, especially while running.
As feet and gait patterns differ from person to person, i.e., subjective, it is necessary to get the right pair of shoes to avoid any external factor to causes pain. Moreover, as a runner, you should take your shoe choices very seriously.
While buying a pair of shoes, you must go beyond the brand and physical appearance. You must check its cushioning, arch support, and stability provided.
But before spending your money, if you are comfortable in your current shoes even while running with your flat feet, it is best not to get specialized shoes. Only if you are having issues with it should you consider this option.
Different types of shoes are designed specifically for people with flat feet. If you are unaware or have no prior knowledge, simply ask the shoe store’s sales executive. They will guide you properly.
As shoes are not meant to last forever, you must replace them once they wear out. It is futile to wear them once they are torn. It will only cause more pain and discomfort.
Even if you get the most qualitative running shoes, the midsole is meant to be worn out over time. As it absorbs the majority of the external shock while also being responsible for stability and motion control, you must keep a diligent eye on that. If it starts to look worn out, it is time to get a new pair.
As a thumb rule, you must replace your running shoes after 450-550 miles. This can vary according to your usage, surface, and body weight.
Besides getting specialized shoes, some people prefer getting orthotics for their low arches. Basically, orthotics are special inserts that are placed over the regular insoles for more stability and comfort.
This is a safe and preferable option, especially for people with flat feet, as they get the required cushioning and stability.
It is crucial that you train sufficiently and appropriately to avoid any future injuries. Stretching can be a great warm-up before running.
Your calves, ankles, and arches must be stretched to make them strong and flexible for rigorous foot movements during running. You must also stretch your plantar fascia and arch for better results.
Get Proper Rest
You will not gain anything by training 24/7. Taking some time out to rest and relax is equally essential for any athlete.
If you have sore feet after running continuously, you must put your feet in warm water. You can also add some salt to ease the pain.
Take Professional Help
If the pain gets unbearable, it is advisable to seek professional medical help to get rid of the pain. Before you run your way into a serious leg injury, it is best to get it checked by a podiatrist.
Exercises for Rebuilding the Arches
Exercising is essential in rebuilding your arches. The following exercises can help you in easing out the pain and discomfort.
Note: Before you start these exercises, you must stretch for five-ten minutes. You can prepare yourself by warming up and repeating it three-four times a week.
Start by standing on your feet. Ensure that they are aligned with your hips.
While keeping your toes on the floor, try rolling your weight outward of your feet.
Simultaneously, lift your arches and hold for a few seconds.
Return to the original position and repeat.
Do three sets of fifteen reps.
Arch Strength Building
Sit comfortably with your left foot over your right thigh.
Wrap your left foot with a towel and try stepping on the other end of the towel with your right foot.
Ensure that the towel feels pulled.
Bring your left foot up with your hands till your body feels a pull.
Return to the original position.
Continue doing two sets of ten reps with each foot.
Sit on a chair while laying the towel on the floor.
Place your feet on the towel while aligning the knees at 90-degree.
Try to grasp the towel by curling your toes and pulling it towards you.
Continue doing it ten times.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
Stand with your toes against the wall.
Hold up your knee towards the wall and retain the position till you feel a stretch under your foot.
Stay in the position for ten seconds.
Repeat by switching the foot.
Do two sets of ten reps.
Standing Squat Jumps
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Go down to a squat position and use your heels to jump as high as possible.
While landing, retain your squat position.
Continue doing two sets of ten reps.
Place your hands on the wall.
Try to lift your heels as high as you can and hold the position for ten seconds.
Resume your original position and repeat two sets of twenty reps.
You can also raise your heel continuously while holding the position for thirty seconds once you are comfortable with it.
Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level.
Put one leg ahead and another one extended behind.
Press your heels down to the floor for proper balance.
Bend your front leg while maintaining your posture.
Once you feel a stretch in your quads, hold the position for thirty seconds.
Return to your original position and repeat the process with a different leg.
Do five sets with each leg.
Rolling a Tennis Ball
Sit on a chair and roll a tennis ball under your foot’s arch.
Continue doing it for two three minutes.
Repeat the process with the other foot.
Place a can horizontally on the floor and put your foot on it.
Ensure that the arch is directly above the can.
Roll the can to and fro while adding some downward pressure.
Repeat the process with the other foot.
The bottom line
Even though most people with flat feet spend their lives without excruciating pain, it is a subjective topic that needs to be dealt with. We understand that running with flat feet can be a painful experience, but you can relieve some pain by following the aforementioned solutions.
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.