Running is an activity that does far more than help you lose weight or stay in good shape for many individuals. It is a way to free oneself from the stress and pressure of everyday life. A person can lace up a good pair of running shoes, walk out their door, and leave their stress behind for a while.
Whether they are running a mile or a marathon, runners understand that the activity can place a good amount of pressure on their bodies with every step they take. That is why many runners will invest in high-quality running shoes that support the arches and work to prevent shin splints, heel pain, ankle pain, sore leg muscles, and issues with the entire foot.
For runners with a low or collapsed arch that results in flat feet, the physical activity they love can result in far more pain and foot conditions than expected. But having flat feet does not mean that those individuals cannot participate in running track or on their treadmill. A flat-footed person needs to take more precautions than someone with non-fallen arches.
First, let us discuss what it means to have a flat foot in the first place. Flat feet refer to a condition where the arches in your foot are low or collapsed. The arches are the part of the foot that we rely on to act as shock absorbers with every step. As we run or walk, the arches absorb shock so that the rest of the foot and ankle do not feel that shock and pain.
When you have flat feet, the arches sit very low or completely touch the ground, and there is no room for shock absorption. If you see a curve in your step, you have a normal or high arch. Those who know no curve have flat feet. You can determine if you have flat feet by dipping your foot in water and then placing the wet foot on a towel or cement.
It would help if you did not ignore pain due to having a low arch because it will not go away on its own. In fact, with time and age, the arch may decrease even more. A podiatrist, physical therapist, or another health professional can also confirm the existence of flat feet and help you figure out how to prevent serious injury when engaging in physical activity.
There are two types of flat feet: flexible and rigid flat feet. If you have an adjustable arch, you will not visibly notice the flatness until you put weight on it, such as standing or walking. Those with the rigid form will consistently see the flattened arch no matter what they do.
Overpronation is the primary issue with flat foot runners’ gait patterns and running strides. When you overpronate, your feet roll too far inward, and the level of shock absorption will be reduced. This leads to pain and discomfort in other parts of your body, such as the knees, hips, and lower limbs which would normally be protected by the arch of your left and right foot as they hit the ground.
Overpronation can also lead to plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and tendonitis. In general, flat feet affect how our bodies can move and result in serious misalignment throughout the body over long periods.
One way to counteract the negative effects of flat feet while running is to invest in special running shoes. Certain shoes can help correct the over-pronation issue and better align your body. Your shoes will provide stability, motion control, cushioning, and arch support throughout your entire run.
You may also want to look into custom orthotics for your shoes. Custom orthotic inserts can provide corrective support and the same motion control that you lose due to the flat feet.
As we noted above, the primary disadvantage of having flat feet is the inability to absorb shock with every movement. From your big toe to your heel bone, you will eventually feel the shocks from your running when you have flattened feet. Normal rolling is sometimes not possible – though some individuals with flat feet are unaware of their condition, and it does not negatively affect their running ability.
Some ways to prevent injury with flat feet while running are consistent with preventing injuries for those with normal arches. Before your run, be sure to warm up with stretches and low-impact motions that get your body ready for the high-impact activity of running.
Dirt trails are excellent options, as are asphalt if you are limited to your neighborhood. You will also want to find softer terrains for your running paths since they do not give as much shock as harder ground materials like concrete. And keep your pace gradual so that you do not overwork your body, especially your feet.
If you have pain in the foot, ankle, Achilles tendon, arch, or heel, you may want to consider physical therapy to help with the stretching and specific work on your low arches. Avoid shoes that do not provide proper arch support, such as flip flops and high heels, since they will likely worsen your condition.
If you are a runner who has flat feet and wants to discuss your condition with an experienced podiatrist, contact Rogers Foot & Ankle Institute in Eagle Mountain, UT. Our team is here to make sure that you can participate in the activity you love without the pain, making it a miserable experience. Call us today at 801-756-4200 to schedule your appointment.