The arches of our feet help us move efficiently throughout the day. By allowing the middle part of the foot to spread and close, they add springiness and flexibility to our gait. Whether when walking, jumping, or running, the arches absorb the physical shock of landing and improve your balance when standing or moving.
Supporting your arches is crucial to preventing foot pain and injuries. For people with flat feet – when the entire bottom of the foot touches the ground when standing – it can be tricky finding the perfect amount of arch support. Supporting the arch however, is crucial in preventing pain.
Flat feet (pes planus) occurs when the entire bottom of your foot (the sole) touches the ground when you’re standing.
Flat feet often occur when your arches don’t develop properly during childhood. As babies, we all have flat feet. During the course of normal childhood development, our arches form.
Sometimes our foot's muscles, bones, and ligaments don't develop adequately, and they don't acquire a stable arch. This is often due to genetics, as flat feet run in families.
Environmental factors can also lead to flat feet. Acquired flat foot (or fallen arches) is when you develop flat feet later in life. Some causes include:
Whether you have flat feet naturally or fallen arches because of an injury or other condition, both can cause many of the same injuries and problems. Flat feet can lead to:
A weak "foot core" (intrinsic muscles of the foot) can lead to instability and injury. While we often focus on the big extrinsic muscles that support the ankle and foot (these generate most of the foot's motion), there are 11 small intrinsic muscles located entirely in the foot. These stabilize your foot during strike and push-off. They absorb load and store energy mid-stance. Most importantly, these muscles support the arch of the foot. Strengthening these muscles will allow them to better support the arch.
Tight calves and achilles tendons pull up on the ankle, forcing the foot to pronate, or roll inwards. This, in turn, causes the arch to collapse. Stretching the calves and heel cords are important to prevent fallen arches.
Stretching and strengthening the arch and calves will help relieve the pain associated with flat feet. But finding supportive insoles for flat feet will provide the long-term arch support your feet really need.
People with flat feet are often confused about how much arch support is optimum. Is it best to to use a low arch insole to match the contours of your foot, or a higher arch insole to create the arch that is not there? The key is to identify which type of flat feet you have - rigid flat feet or flexible flat feet.
The best insole for flat feet will have strong arch support no matter the height. Soft, cushioned insoles might seem like the best insoles for flat feet. But what your feet really need is structural support.
The best insoles for flat feet will fully support your arch and stabilize your heel to concentrate the fatty pad underneath your heel bone. This will both prevent overpronation and provide firm support.
Remember, people with flat feet should not wear shoes without support (or that don't let you add insoles). High heels, flip-flops, and sandals can aggravate pain associated with flat feet. Supporting the arch with a structurally sound insole will do wonders for supporting the foot and relieving pain.
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