How to Pick Shoes for Flat Feet

By: Crystal Bondurant Salisbury, LPTA

I always hear people comment about having “flat” feet, use it synonymously with “bad” feet. Your flat feet aren’t any better or worse than your friend with those lovely, high arches. It all comes down to how to dress your feet, and it’s important to dress for success.

When it comes to flatter feet or feet that fall flat while walking, it helps to give a little support. Studies found that the further a person would run the more force came through the plantar or bottom surface of the medial or middle foot. Studies further showed that it was even more important the more a person would overpronate or “fall in” to provide support from a motion control shoe.

Does that mean that you need a motion control shoe if you’ve been told you have flat feet, or you think your feet are falling flat while walking or running? No, not necessarily, but there are a few things to keep in mind while shopping to address each one of the three parts of your foot; Forefoot, Midfoot, and Rearfoot

Foot Facts:

Forefoot: It is important to keep in mind your forefoot, or the ball of your foot including your toes needs enough room to spread out as you push off while walking. A foot can spread up to 5 mm when striking the ground, so your shoe must accommodate this spread comfortably from the arch up to the toes. Restricting your foot’s ability to comfortably spread can create circulation problems, impinge tendons and nerves, and bend joints in odd directions.

Midfoot: Generally, when talking about this part of the foot we want to keep in mind a goal of supporting the midfoot or the region of the foot where your arch is. With most issues stemming from this region the arch responds well to controlling the excessive motion of the arch dropping to the floor while walking. You want to pick a shoe that slows or reduces this drop, so pick a shoe that comfortably rests into your arch. The arch of a shoe should not be so high as to be painful or push you onto the outside of your foot (pronate).

An arch should allow you to rest comfortably in standing and respond well to you while walking. It could be uncomfortable to have support for the first 2-3 days but should get progressively more comfortable as you get moving in your new shoes.

Rearfoot: The heel of your shoe controls your rearfoot. A traditional shoe, running or walking, has a heel-toe drop of 12 mm, but a minimalist tennis shoe could have as low as 4 mm. The elevation is intended to relieve stress on the Achilles tendon and calf musculature and was intended to make it easier to progress through a normal walking pattern. Also, the cushion in the heel of the shoe also helps with shock absorption with walking and running.

Picking the Shoe:

When picking shoes, we have a lot to consider, from these three parts of your foot to the materials and the brands you’re thinking about purchasing. Motion-control shoes are a popular type of shoe used to address flat feet while running and walking. They are a little heavier than average shoes and improve a person’s ability to heel strike while walking, promoting a more normalized gait. Trail shoes can also be a good option for that may be a little more versatile, offering stability but also allowing more mobility in the ankle and foot laterally.

Keep Track of Mileage:

It is also good to keep in mind the life of a shoe ranges between three hundred and five hundred miles, and they tend to start breaking down around a year. So, just remember, your shoes should be comfortable and accommodating to your foot allowing a snug but not a too-tight fit and supporting your arch while you run, walk, or play.