Insoles for Flat Feet – Support the Arch, Relieve the Pain
Insoles for Flat Feet – Support the Arch, Relieve the Pain
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 they evenly distribute body weight over the entire foot. They also help you to push off your foot during your stride. Without your arches, it would be difficult to balance when standing or moving.
Supporting your arches is crucial to preventing foot pain and injuries. No matter the arch height, insoles and proper footwear are necessary. For people with flat feet – or when the entire bottom of the foot touches the ground when standing – it can be tricky finding the perfect amount of arch support. But flat feet can cause foot pain and abnormal strides. Supporting the arch is crucial in preventing pain.
What are the best insoles for flat feet? This page will provide the ins and outs of flat feet, and how to find the best insole for your arch, no matter the height.
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. But 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 Related to 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
Strengthen and Stretch – Relieve Pain in Flat Feet
If you have foot pain and flat feet, there are two steps you should follow.
1. Strengthen and stretch the footA 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 actually 11 small intrinsic muscles located entirely in the foot. These stabilize our 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.
- Scientists recommend an exercise called "foot doming." You 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.
2. Stretch the calves and ankle
Tight calves and achilles tendon pulls 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 Support – 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.
Some people think: "My arches are so low. I should only provide the minimal amount of support or it will cause them to become sore." Others say: “I have flat feet, so wouldn’t I want more supportive insole to make up for low arches?" The answers to both these questions is a frustrating yes. The key to finding the right arch support for people with flat feet lies with the individual. Every person has specific needs.
However, the best insole for flat feet will have strong arch support no matter the height. Soft, cushioned inserts might seem like the best insoles for flat feet. But what your feet really need is structural support. Soft, cushioned insoles will provide temporary relief. But they won't support the arches.
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. Typically, the best insoles for flat feet will have a low but supportive arch. However, you should try different heights to determine which one will adequately support your feet.
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.