How to Find the Best Insoles For Flat Feet

by Cassia Roth March 08, 2019

Insoles for Flat Feet

The Arches of Your Feet Support Your Movement

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.

What Are Flat Feet? What Causes Them?

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:

  • Traumatic injury such as dislocating bones in the feet or tearing a tendon, particularly the posterior tibial tendon, which supports the arch
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammation of the joints)
  • Obesity, which puts extra pressure on foot tendons
  • Pregnancy – both weight gain and hormonal changes can cause the arches to flatten
  • Diabetes, which affects the nerves in the feet and can lead to weak tendons
  • High blood pressure – decreased blood supply to the tendons in the foot can alter their ability to support the arch
  • The natural aging process as tendons tend to stretch and tire more with age

Injuries Caused By Flat Feet

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:

  • Tired feet
  • Foot pain – pain can occur over the length of the foot or in isolated areas
    • Pain typically occurs inside the ankle, on the outer edge of the foot, in the heel (plantar fasciitis) or in the arch itself
  • Swelling along the inside of your ankle; this can make footwear uncomfortable
  • An altered placement of the foot on the ground
    • This causes pain in the calf, knee, thigh, hip, and lower back
  • Overpronation, or the excessive rolling inward of the foot

Relieve Pain in Flat Feet - Strengthen and Stretch 

Strengthen and stretch the foot

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.

  • Foot Doming - Start with your foot in a neutral position, flat on the floor. Then, shorten the foot by contracting the "foot core" muscles to arch the sole of the foot. Make sure to keep the toes flat on the ground. Start sitting down. As you progress, try standing, on one foot, then hopping.
  • Heel raises - Stand in the middle of the room and press all of your toes firmly into the floor. Lift both your heels up so all your weight is on your toes. Hold for two seconds and repeat. Try two sets of 15 repetitions.

    Strengthen and stretch the calves and ankle

    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.

    • Achilles tendon stretch – Stand on a step. Relax your calf muscles, and slowly let your heels down over the edge of the step for 10 to 15 seconds. You should feel the stretch along the Achilles tendon.
    • Calf muscle stretch – Stand with one foot about a foot in front of the other. Point the toes of the back foot towards the heel of the front and lean towards a wall. Keep your back leg straight and bend your front one, keeping both heels firmly planted on the floor. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

    Long-Term Therapy – Insoles for Flat Feet

    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.

    • Rigid flat feet are flat when you stand on them and flat when your feet are unweighted. If you put your foot over the opposite knee and your foot still looks flat, you have rigid flat feet.
    • Flexible flat feet are flat when you stand on them, but show an arch when they are unweighted. If you put your foot over the opposite knee and your arch appears, you have 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.


    Cassia Roth
    Cassia Roth

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