By Noel Paine
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” - Leonardo da Vinci
Although the human foot is something to marvel at and something we often take for granted for getting us around, it is not always perfect. Some of us are born or develop what are called flat feet.
What do we Mean by Flat Feet?
The Physio-pedia.com website describes, “Pes planus/ pes planovalgus (or flat foot) is the loss of the medial longitudinal arch of the foot, heel valgus deformity, and medial talar prominence. This is often observed with the medial arch of the foot coming closer (than typically expected) to the ground or making contact with the ground.”
In a Prevention.com online article, a Podiatrist describes
Flat feet can also cause instability of the foot bones, which then puts more stress on ligaments, tendons, and muscles, explains Scott Spencer, D.P.M., associate professor at Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. “These structures try to stabilize the foot, and as a result, they can get injured or damaged in the process,” he says. “One thing to keep in mind is that having flat feet isn’t necessarily bad. There are many people with flat feet that have no problems at all.”
You can have naturally flat feet and then a foot that looks like it has an arch, but it collapses when you put weight on it. This collapse, this rolling or falling of the arch is called overpronation. Pronation is normal flexing of the arch (which is like the shock absorber in your foot), but your foot can overdo it.
I have strong feet now but had weak feet with arches that overpronated when I was a young skinny runner. I learned quickly that my feet needed help.
An Australian foot and Ankle Clinic describes pronation and uses my car analogy at the end; “In essence pronation is a movement or position of the foot. When the main joints in the back and middle of the foot “roll in” upon weight bearing this is referred to as pronation. Pronation is a normal function of the foot and occurs to absorb the impact of weight bearing similar to the suspension of a car.”
The foot is like the foundation of your house. When there is something off at the bottom, there can be problems all the way up. Feet that overpronate can be susceptible to running injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome and plantar fasciitis.
What Kind of Shoe do Flat Feet Need?
A shoe that has what’s called a straight last can provide a wider and better fitting platform for someone with a flat foot. An article from Runner’s World provides information on shoe lasts (the shape of the shoe) that you might find helpful. You should be able to draw a straight line from the center of the heel to the toe of the shoe of a straight-lasted shoe. The arch area in a straighter lasted shoe will not be as scooped out as in some other shoes and can provide more room for a flat foot.
Stability shoes like those worn by overpronators may also help by providing extra support and the are often more straight-lasted.
How Do I Know Which Shoe Will Work Best?
The foot was recognized by one of the world’s geniuses (Leonardo DaVinci) as a marvel and is the most complex bone structure in our bodies. Each foot has 26 bones in each foot connected by a network of muscles, tendons and ligaments and allow us to walk, run and move about in an amazing way.
Each of us are born with a unique foot. Every set of feet, every foot is different. The shoe that works for your friend, may not work for you.
Lets look at some possible shoes to try!
1. Mizuno Horizon 6
This is a solid stability shoe from Mizuno that may help someone with a flatter foot who also requires some support to stop the foot rolling in (overpronating). The shoe is fairly straight but the midfoot is scooped out slightly and this may affect some flatter footed runners (they may feel the midfoot pressing on their foot.
An asymmetrical foam wave and rubber wall provides the support in the shoe and MIZUNO ENERZY Foam gives it extra cushion. The shoe comes in regular and wide, and the outsole uses X10 carbon rubber that allows for longer wear.
Good shoe if it fits and you need something solid and supportive.
2. HOKA Gaviotia 4
HOKA are different. I have been running for many years and this was the shoe brand that made me stop and say wow. While many shoe brands were trying to make shoes with less and less midsole but well cushioned, HOKA went with more. I was apprehensive when I tested, reviewed and tried years ago now, but was won over with their lightness despite their chunky appearance!
The HOKA Gaviota 4 is stability shoe that contains their J-Frame(TM) technology to help feet that overpronate. The shoe comes in a regular width and wide which is great for flatter feet that are often wider.
HOKA shoes have a unique feel. This shoe is worth trying and may work best for the heavier runner with a flatter foot who needs some extra support.
3. Brooks Beast 20
This is the 20th version of a great shoe. The men’s version is a beast (in name and function) and they renamed the female version but it is also a tough shoe that provides great support.
The Brooks shoe comes in widths and provides a shoe that holds the foot steady and not just on the medial (arch side) of the foot. I would call this shoe as a motion control shoe (maximum stability) as it goes a bit beyond many stability shoes. For a foot that needs space and a lot of support.
This is a shoe that is worth trying if you need space for flat feet and a solid shoe that provides a good deal of support. The Brooks brand also has a moderate stability shoe that has for years also been in their line, the Addiction. Both the Addiction and the Beast/Ariel were favorite shoes to pull out when I was helping people with shoes and they needed a lot of help.
4. Saucony Guide 16
A shoe that has a few color options and is straight-lasted but is not as straight as some other shoes I have presented here. So if you have a flatter foot but its not pancake flat and you need mild support, then you may want to slip this shoe on. Trying one shoe on can give you and a running shop shoe fitter a lot of information about what is working and what is not and what the next shoe to try might be.
Saucony calls this shoe structured cushion. It has a PWRRUN foam midsole and a very breathable upper that has changed quite a bit from last year’s model. If you are familiar or have worn the Saucony Ride, the Guide looks very similar but has more support.
If you have a flatter foot but a smaller runner, this shoe might be worth trying to see if it accommodates your foot and provides enough support.
5. New Balance 1540v3
This is a shoe that you may not find in a lot of stores but if you can or find online it might be worthwhile checking out. It is a solid shoe.
Its not the lightest shoe, it looks flat (but does not list its drop) and does not come in flashy colors but it might be the shoe for someone who needs a straight, broad shoe with support (often what a flat foot needs). The shoe also accommodates a number of feet as it comes in narrow right up to 6EE width (extra, extra wide) as well.
The New Balance ENCAP cushioning and Rollbar in the midsole creates a firm cushion and stable heel cup and shoe. For some lighter runners this shoe may feel too stiff and be too much shoe.
Hard to find but worth trying if you need something firm, stable and in multiple widths.
6. Asics GT-1000 -11
This Asics shoe is a cushioned shoe meant for someone who overpronates a bit and may have enough room for the flatter foot, that needs some support.
The shoe is the step down in support to the Asics GT-2000 which has a bit more stability features built in.
This model features Asics LITETRUSS™ technology in the midsole to reduce pronation and has FLYTEFOAM™ for cushioning with gel in the heel to help absorb the impact of heel strike when running. It’s a light shoe with some support and might be appropriate for runners who are not too heavy, need some support but you will need to try it to ensure it fits in the arch and is broad enough.
*This may not be a shoe for someone who has an orthotic, is a heavier runner or just has a thick, high-volume foot.
7. New Balance 580 (Unisex)
Men's / Women's
This shoe may not get everyone excited, but there is a reason a version of the shoe I knew as the 587 is still around. New Balance has had a shoe like this in their line of shoe for about 25-years. When I knew the shoe, there was blue men’s version as well and both came in multiple widths.
This very white shoe is a solid, stable, straight lasted shoe with a good deal of volume and could be a good platform and wide enough for a flatter foot. The forefoot does not look to have as much mesh as it used to (was great for accommodating a bunion) but may be worth a try if you can find it.
I like what this shoe offers. The shoe’s cushioning is enhanced with ABZORB (extra cushioning material) in the C-CAP midsole (solid) along with a New Balance ROLLBAR stability post that helps control movement and makes the shoe more stable.
The shoe is solid but the all-white color scheme may turn some off, and a warmer upper to the shoe can make it a bit less breathable than some other options.
Do Shoes Come in Widths?
Running shoes can come in widths and many do, but not every store will carry all the widths for a shoe model. When you are online or at a store you should ask if the shoes come in widths. Some stores may be able to order in shoes in a different width if needed.
How Should my Shoes Fit?
The American Pedorthic Footcare Association has some great information about tips when you are tying to figure out if your shoe fits. In general, a shoe should be comfortable, snug, not tight and have room at the toe and not rub on your ankle bone or achilles. Compare a few shoes to find the one that is appropriate for your foot type and feels and fits the best, for you.
A shoe can feel different, but it should generally not take time to “break in”. Find a shoe that feels good, fits well and is designed for your foot type.
If you have concerns or questions about your feet or your shoes are just not enough to make your feet happy, then it may be time to talk to a local Podiatrist or Pedorthist.