How Flat Feet Can Affect Your Athletic Performance
Learn more about how flat feet can affect your athletic performance, what you can do to manage it and some of the risk factors associated with it.
Updated February 16, 2023.
Flat feet (pes planus) is a common condition of the feet where a loss of arch height is seen, increasing the surface area of the foot making contact with the floor. Flat feet could be caused by weakness of the muscles of the feet and lower legs, and is usually not a threat to one's overall health.
Rigid flat feet do not change shape when weight is applied versus lifted off, while flexible flat feet lose their arch when weight is applied and the arch returns when weight is lifted off. Supportive orthotic insoles for flat feet will provide people who pronate adequate arch support to prevent the arch from depressing entirely, preventing the inward turn of the tibia bone underload.
How Flat Feet Affect Running
Pronation is required for normal running activity, aiding in shock absorption and reducing stress applied to the soft tissue of the leg. Excessive pronation can hinder athletic performance by not providing enough of a stable surface to propel off. Balance and propulsion starts with the feet and the body may need to accommodate for this should it be lacking, which may cause shin pain, knee pain, or lower back pain to arise.
Can You Be an Athlete With Flat Feet?
Flat feet are commonly seen in younger children, but as they grow older the muscles of the foot should strengthen and the arches should develop. If a loss of arch height is seen in one or both feet in adulthood, consult with a medical practitioner as to the reason for this. Athletic performance can be increased with the introduction of orthotics by increasing balance while pushing off during the motion of running. During endurance activities, orthotics with adequate support for feet that pronate should limit muscle fatigue experienced in the muscles of the foot.
The risks of developing injuries to the feet and ankles are increased with the severity of the flat feet that you may have. Using orthotics could provide your feet, the grounding point of your body, the necessary platform to move off of as to not strain muscles, or tendons associated with the ankle complex. Orthotics can reduce conditions such as Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsalgia from arising, as well as limiting blister formation during endurance activities.
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