Buying insoles for your flat feet can be confusing. Should you buy cushy foam inserts or firm and supportive insoles? And what about arch height? Should it be low to mimic your arch or high to create the arch you don't have? Here's everything you need to treat your flat feet right.
Foot arches help you move efficiently by allowing the middle part of your foot to flex like a bow. They add shock absorption and flexibility to your gait, and also improve your balance when you're standing or moving.
If you're flat footed, it may look like you don't have any arches, but they're there, and supporting them properly is crucial to preventing foot pain and injuries. Figuring out exactly how much support your flat feet require can be hard. You may wonder if you should look for a gel or foam insole that's as flat as your foot. Or if you should find an insole with a well-defined arch to to to "fix" your flat feet.
The short answer? Firm arch support promotes better biomechanics while standing, walking or running while the cushioning and shock absorption quality insoles provide help reduce the risk of developing problems in your ankles, knees, hips and back. Flat, floppy gel or foam insoles don't have the structure or support your feet need to keep your joints problem-free.
Now, let's explore the long answer.
Simply, flat feet (pes planus) occur when the entire bottom of your foot (the sole) touches the ground when you’re standing. Both genetic and environmental factors can lead to flat feet.
Most of the time, genetic factors will lead to people have flat feet their entire life. However, environmental factors can lead to flat feet later in life. This is called acquired flat foot, or fallen arches. If you develop fallen arches, it's a good idea to see a medical professional to determine the cause.
Common causes of flat feet include:
Not sure if you have flat feet? Use this quick, simple test to determine your arch height.
Unlike flat feet (which people are born with), fallen arches develop in adulthood, often as the result of:
Symptoms associated with fallen arches including feet tiring easily, foot pain, back pain, and swollen ankles. Fallen arches can also exacerbate existing knee and hip pain. And because fallen arches make your toes work harder while you're walking, they can lead to corns and blisters.
While many of these flat foot problems and injuries can be addressed easily with the right insoles, avoiding them altogether is the goal.
Flat feet can cause:
Start by taking some time to do the following exercises:
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.
Here are two quick foot core exercises:
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.
Here are two simple exercises to try:
Stretching and strengthening the arch and calves will help relieve the pain associated with flat feet in the short-term. But, for long-term relief, you'll need to support your arches with insoles for flat feet.
Because fallen arches are something that are developed, rather than something you're born with, like flat feet, there are some ways to treat them in both the short and long term.
To temporarily relieve foot pain caused by fallen arches:
If fallen arches are a long-term problem, there are other treatments you can consider:
Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
The cushy inserts you often see at the drugstore may feel nice for a few days, but ultimately you'll find yourself in the same place you started, trying to find relief for your flat feet. That's because your feet actually need firm, structured support to be healthy and have energy.
Finding the best insoles for flat feet starts with identifying the type of flat feet you have - rigid flat feet or flexible flat feet. It is important to make the distinction between rigid flat feet and flexible flat feet because the best flat foot insole arch height for each arch is different.
People with low arches often wonder if they should be wearing high or extra high insoles to "fix" their flat feet and create a higher arch. Flat feet can't be transformed into feet with high arches, nor do they need to be. Start with a low or medium arch (based on whether you have a rigid flat foot or flexible flat foot). A high or extra high arch may be uncomfortable and give you the feeling of a golf ball in your shoe.
The best insoles for flat feet will have:
Remember, if you have flat feet, wearing the the right footwear will make a huge difference. Shoes that don't offer support or let you add arch support insoles will leave your flat feet feeling tired and sore at the end of the day. High heels, flip-flops, and sandals can aggravate pain associated with flat feet.
The best thing you can do for flat feet is to determine the kind you have (rigid or flexible) and add flat feet insoles with the appropriate arch height to your footwear. Supporting your low arches with the best insoles for flat feet will do wonders for relieving pain.
Questions? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're here to help.
Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.
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