If arched insoles don’t feel quite right, your shoes fall apart easily or if you’re having foot pain in general, it may be that your flat feet are to blame.
Where most people have long, pronounced arches midway though the inside of the foot, your arches may be only subtly curved or even completely flat, like this:
Having flat feet, also known as fallen arches, isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless it starts to cause pain. However, one common occurrence is that flat feet overpronate and roll slightly inside at the midfoot when walking.
How to Care for Flat Feet
If your flat feet are causing pain or if you would like to avoid future aches, keep the following in mind:
This may be true, but it depends on the kind of flat feet you have: flexible or rigid. Flexible flat feet are only flat when weight is applied, such as when you are standing. On the other hand, if your feet are always flat, than they’re rigid. A physician can make this determination for you as well.
In any case, the best insoles (orthotics) for your flat feet will have strong structural support. You don’t necessarily need a high amount of cushioning, but you should still look for an insole that supports your footfall where the arch should be. The arch should be less pronounced for rigid flat feet than for flexible, but it should still be present.
Many physicians will recommend an orthotic that seeks to change the alignment of your foot. These are typically custom made and control the hindfoot, midfoot and forefoot. We advise that you seek professional help for the best type of orthotics/insoles.
Focus on the Calves
If your calf muscles are tight and/or weak, they could exacerbate problems with your flat feet and cause the foot to further roll inwards. The Achilles tendon is integral to the structure and function of the foot and ankle. Here are some exercises you can do to strengthen and stretch your calves:
- Heel Raises. Simply put your feet together and stand on your tiptoes while supporting your upper body by holding the wall. Do this for about five minutes or for about two sets of 20 raises.
- Towel Stretch. For this stretch, fold a towel until you can pull it like a strap. Sit down, place the towel under the arches or balls of your feet and pull toward your body.
- Standing Stretch. Lengthening the calf muscle with this stretch can help reduce foot pain. With your hands against the wall, slant your foot and gently apply pressure until you feel a stretching in the calves. Repeat this twice for each leg for a roughly 15 second stretch.
Understand Your Feet
Most people have feet like an inverted suspension bridge: a long curve progresses up to a central point, which distributes the weight throughout the structure from a central anchor point. The ends of that arch are connected by a tension band, or tie-rod.
Similarly, the arched foot is designed so that each step allows the many ligaments and tendons of the foot to distribute the weight to all the bones in an even step. The arched structure of the foot allows for more efficient distribution of weight forces during stance and walking. Naturally, without the arch, that distribution is off and the feet more easily become sore and inflamed.
Knowing that, you should understand why an arch is pretty important for your feet, and why insoles and footwear with arch support can still help your flat step. It’s essential that weight be allowed to distribute through an arch, even an artificial one. (However, sometimes an arch support may be too high and actually change the vectors of force to your detriment. But that’s another story).
Flat Feet: Down But Certainly Not Out
Flat or arched, your feet are your friends. But it’s also true that flat feet might need a little more maintenance than their curvy counterparts.
Keep your feet stretched, your calves strong, and understand what’s going on that might cause your feet to hurt. The right doctor-approved orthotic footwear and insoles could go a long way in keeping your feet healthy and pain free.