RUNNING WITH FLAT FEET
You’ve probably heard about the different types of feet that individuals have and how that can impact your running. In this article, we’ll talk about one type in particular—flat feet—and give you all the information you need to know if you have flat feet.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE FLAT FEET?
“Flat feet” occurs when the medial longitudinal arch of an individual’s foot flattens. Not surprisingly, when viewed from the side, the foot looks flat. Unlike normal feet, there is very little or even no arch on a flat foot.
Medically known as “pes planus” and also referred to as “fallen” or “low” arches, flat feet tend to affect about 20-25 percent of the general population, and particularly impacts Asians, so you’re definitely not alone if you have flat feet!
Because the arch is flattened, individuals with flat feet are more susceptible to problems like bunions, heel pain, knee pain, ankle pain, and lower area back pain. This is especially true for runners with flat feet because the foot arch acts as a natural shock absorber.
With less arch support for those with flat feet, there is greater stress on the foot striking the ground and it can impact not only the feet but the legs as well, increasing your chance for injury.
Although flat feet can be genetic and occur at birth, many people get flat feet over time as they get older. Wearing improper shoes, just getting older, suffering injuries, being obese, having diabetes, having a baby, and using improper training form are some of the reasons people can experience flat feet.
WHAT TYPES OF FLAT FEET DO RUNNERS HAVE?
Runners (and the general population) can have one of two different types of flat feet: flexible flat feet or rigid flat feet. Typically, most people have flexible flat feet.
For those with flexible flat feet, you can see an arch, but that arch flattens when weight is placed on it. Flexible flat feet tend to be heredity and tend to be caused by lax ligaments in your foot.
By contrast, you cannot see a visible arch on those with rigid flat feet. And rigid flat feet can be due to lifestyle choices in addition to inheriting it. As we mentioned before, some of the things that can cause rigid flat feet include being sedentary and selecting poor footwear.
For rigid flat feet, the foot is flat because of bone structure, not because of the arch tendons.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE FLAT FEET?
You have a couple options to figure out if you have flat feet. The first is pretty simple. Have someone look at your foot from the side or look at your foot from the side in the mirror.
Individuals who have an arch in their feet can typically easily see them from the side. If you have flat feet, however, you will have a very slight or even nonexistent arch.
Another option—and typically the most common method for determining if you have flat feet—is the wet foot test.
You simply wet the sole of one of your feet in water, then step onto a heavy piece of water, paper grocery bag, or paper towel on a flat surface where your footprint will show. You need to make sure that you place the necessary weight on that foot in order to leave an imprint. Finally, step off and assess what type of foot you have.
If you see about half of your arch, then you probably have a normal arch. If you see just the heel and ball of your foot, you probably have a high arch. But if you can see almost your entire footprint, then you likely have flat feet.
Of course, you can always go to a podiatrist to confirm your findings at home and let him or her determine your arch height.
CAN RUNNING WITH FLAT FEET LEAD TO INJURY?
Yes, but no more than running with any other type of feet. A study by Lees and Klenerman found no conclusive evidence that correlated foot type and running injuries, particularly for those with flat feet.
Thus, runners who have flat feet can get injured, but the very fact of having flat feet isn’t going to lead to more injuries or getting injured more quickly.