Am I flat footed?
I am often asked “Am I flat footed?” My answer is, in most cases, “It is not how flat nor how high your arches are, but rather how much are your feet flattening during activity?” The motion of flattening is what is most important. Everyone is suppose to flatten or pronate but it is typically when we excessively flatten/pronate that we get into trouble.
Shoes for Flat Feet
The newest marketing trend is to advertise a shoe for a particular problem. Although certain features in a shoe may indeed help such problems, it is impossible for one shoe to help everyone with the same problem. That is, there are many types and reasons for flat feet. No one shoe can suffice for all. However, there are some features in shoes that generally assist those with flat feet.
For example, some shoes have motion control and some not. One brand of running shoe we carry is Brooks because they offer neutral, moderate, and maximum support.
Understanding different shoes affect your feet in different ways, allows you to look for certain features within the shoe itself.
Those with feet that are excessively flattening, should look for a shoe that has some type of motion control. How much motion control will depend on your specific condition.
Typically, look for a shoe that has a steel shank and rigid heel counter. If unsure whether or not the shoe has a steel or stiff shank, try bending the shoe. If able to bend the shoe in half, it does not have a stiff shank. The shoe should ONLY bend where the ball of the foot bends.
A rigid heel counter (the material around the heel) is helpful as it will assist in preventing the heel from everting too much, which is common in extremely flattened feet.
Also, look for support in the arches as well as a rounded sole in the front. This allows for easier push-off without jamming the ball of the foot.
Lastly, a shoe with a little heel is beneficial. This will position the foot into a more supinated position. Zero drop shoes should be avoided as most flat feet have a tight achilles tendon. Zero drop will put even more tension on the tendon.
Why are flat feet painful?
If any part of the foot during motion is not pronating or supinating as it should be, along with being completely symmetrical in timing, trajectory and speed of motion, then a problem will likely occur somewhere along the kinetic chain (the foot to the back). We are essentially walking robots. Machines that move require all the above.
Some feet look like “flat feet” and some like “high arches”. The appearance is very subjective. Of course, when you see it flattening or flattened with stance, you’ll know it. Again, usually, what is most important is the action of the body during the activity.
So should “flat feet” be biomechanically treated with appropriate shoes and foot orthotics? In most cases, yes. However, be careful of over the counter inserts as some only provide cushion and will not stop the foot from over flattening.