How to Choose Right Running Shoes for Flat Feet?
If you don’t have an arch in one or both of your feet, you’re certainly not alone, as flat feet are something found in about 20 to 30 percent of the general population. Where flat feet can really affect you is in your running, as they put you more at risk for injuries than the typical runner. Don’t let your flat feet lead to pain in your ankles and knees. Finding the right shoes can make a dramatic difference for runners with flat feet. We will help you to find and choose the right running shoes for flat feet.
Our Picks for Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet in 2017*
* There’s a detailed review below, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
What Are Flat Feet?
Flat feet are also known as fallen arches or pes planus, and they are considered a postural deformity. Feet normally have a noticeable arch between the heel and the forefoot. This arch acts as a shock absorber, and it helps to reduce the amount of force that reaches the bones in the leg with every step.
You can have either a unilateral or bilateral case of flat feet, depending on whether you have no arch in one or both feet. While it’s often easy to tell that you have flat feet by looking at them, there is also a simple test you can perform, called the wet foot test. Get your feet wet, and then step onto a surface where you’ll be able to see your footprints. If your foot leaves a full footprint, then you have flat feet. A foot with an arch will only leave a print for your forefoot and heel.
Why is It Important to Choose the Right Shoes for Flat Feet?
Flat feet may not be too much of an issue in your day-to-day life, but running places significantly more stress on your lower body than walking around. Without arches in your feet, every stride will have a much greater impact on your legs, increasing your risk of injury.
In particular, runners with flat feet often end up overpronating, meaning they use their big toe and second toe too much to push off with each stride. Not only does this cause an uneven shock distribution, it makes it harder for the ankles to keep the body stabilized. This often results in an odd angle between the feet and the ankles. Over time, runners with flat feet may be more likely to develop shin splints, knee tendonitis, and even back pain.
How Are Shoes for Flat-Footed Runners Different?
Fortunately for flat-footed runners, running shoe technology has improved dramatically, and there are many options available to reduce their injury risk.
Running shoes designed to help those with flat feet have foam compounds that mimic the natural arch of a foot. The level of support varies, and there are options available for every level of flat feet. The lowest level of support will be a relatively flat arch. Running shoe manufacturers classify shoes with higher levels of support as stability running shoes and motion control running shoes.
For stability running shoes, manufacturers put a hard foam compound by the medial side of the arch. You’ll be able to see the foam when you look at the shoe to get an idea of how much support it provides. In some cases, the foam will go all the way from the midsole to the heel. Motion control shoes have the same type of design, but provide an even greater amount of support. Both types of shoes focus on preventing overpronation.
Choosing the Right Running Shoes
It’s important to keep in mind that flat feet can mean very different things for each individual. Certain people will have extremely flat feet that cause severe overpronation in each stride, whereas others will still have a slight arch and not near the same level of overpronation. To find the right running shoes, you need to choose a pair that matches your feet. You also need to make sure your shoes match your running goals. If you’re planning to run races, then you need shoes equipped for that.
The key factors in choosing a running shoe are the arch support, the cushioning throughout the shoe, and the weight.
Standard stability running shoes tend to be medium weight with a low to moderate arch and moderate cushioning. Traditionally, these types of shoes have been heavier than average due to the added foam, but manufacturers have found ways to make them lighter in recent years. These work well for as a general-purpose shoe that you use for your everyday training, as long as your flat feet aren’t causing severe overpronation. If they are, you’ll need shoes with a greater arch.
Runners who do have that type of severe overpronation will need motion control running shoes. When it comes to arch support, these shoes are the best of the best, providing maximum support through a large foam compound. These shoes typically also include quite a bit of cushioning to soften the impact of each stride. The foam and cushioning add weight to motion control shoes, and they are among the heaviest shoes on the market, often coming in at 13 or 14 ounces. While you won’t be able to run as fast in these shoes as you would in lighter shoes, they will provide the most stability. Their more stable and durable design also works well for heavier runners.
Other stability running shoe options include cushioned and lightweight stability shoes. While every running shoe provides some degree of cushioning, stability shoes with extra cushioning make each stride easier on your feet. This makes them good if you’re new to running or if you just want more comfortable runs. Lightweight stability shoes still have arch support to help runners with flat feet, but with a lightweight design that allows you to run faster. While you can use these as your everyday running shoes, they’re better for high-speed runs and races.
Running with Flat Feet
The right running shoes help out quite a bit for those with flat feet, but there are also a few other ways to improve your runs and reduce your risk of injuries.
Running barefoot is a great way to exercise the muscles in your feet, which will naturally improve their ability to absorb impacts. Now, it’s very important that you pick the right surface for your barefoot running, because trying it out on concrete is going to be a painful experience. The beach is one of the best places to run barefoot because of the sand, but any softer surface with a bit of give will work. Another option is a flexible shoe that mimics barefoot running while providing your feet with protection.
Balancing on one foot at a time for as long as you can is another way to exercise the muscles in your feet, along with those in your legs and hips. When you stand on one foot, all the muscles in that leg work to stabilize your body, which helps it stabilize your body more while you’re running.
Flat feet don’t need to negatively affect your running. When you choose the right pair of running shoes and occasionally adjust your training to develop those foot muscles, you’ll be able to minimize your injury risk and perform at your best for each run.
Our Recommendations for the Top Running Shoes for Flat Feet
Brooks Beast 14
Brooks Beast 14 is the perfect shoe for people with flat arches and/or severe overpronation, as the shoes provide maximum support and stability. Thanks to unique Brooks technology (BioMoGo DNA and a Diagonal Rollbar), the shoe provides an extremely comfortable ride for those with the worst cases of pronation—so comfortable that you’ll forget you have flat feet! Please note that the shoe has a narrow fit, so if you have wide feet, you’ll need to select a slightly larger size.
- Provides maximum support and stability
- Contains extra cushioning
- Very durable
- Suitable fit and size for flat feet and heavy runners
- Slightly more expensive
- Quite heavy
New Balance 1260 v6
The New Balance 1260 series is considered to be one of the best motion control shoes on the market. The sixth iteration of New Balance 1260 is a shoe with solid stability (it became well-known for that several years ago). In fact, this latest model is praised by many runners as one of the most comfortable running shoes they have ever owned. It is also loved for its stability mechanisms; runners felt that their feet were well-supported throughout the running session.
- Stability for runners with overpronation
- Very comfortable
- New type of cushioning for a smoother ride
- Quite heavy
Asics Gel-Kayano 23
The Asics Gel-Kayano 23 is a great shoe for runners who are looking for support and stability (it’s always been famous for this). The Asics technology used in this shoe makes it durable, very well cushioned and stable. However, some runners note that while the shoe feels great for slow runs, it feels quite heavy when you push yourself to the limit. Although it is on the expensive side, the Kayano 23 will be loved by runners who are looking for great cushioning and stability.
- Great durability
- Excellent support and stability
- Feels quite heavy
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17
If you are flat-footed, then the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 provides the perfect balance of support and responsive, long-lasting cushioning. The Adrenaline GTS 17 comes with incremental improvements, and this is good thing—they’re not trying to re-invent the wheel and not spoiling an already great shoe. Adrenaline GTS 17 delivers above-all-the-peers stability, which is quite impressive and prevents discomfort and injury. Please note that the shoe size can be a bit smaller than the previous generation, so you might need to wear a slightly larger size.
- Impressive stability
- Great support and cushioning
- Wide variety of widths
- The toe box can be a bit narrow
- Shoe size can be a bit smaller than the previous generation
Saucony Guide 9
Saucony Guide 9 is back with an updated version of this already good running shoe. Great cushioning and stability provide an incredibly smooth ride. Those characteristics make it a very comfortable shoe for runners who require more support, not only for those with flat feet, but also for those who overpronate. The downside could be a higher shoe price, however.
- Great cushioning and stability provides an incredibly smooth ride
- Roomy toe box
- Feels light
- High price