Foot Health Blog
Find expert articles from physical therapists and podiatrists to help understand, diagnose, and treat different foot health issues such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, flat feet, and more.
7 Best Insoles for Flat Feet—Tested by Physical Therapists
Insoles can help relieve pain, redistribute pressure, and correct any malalignment in the leg due to different types of flat feet. However, because of the sheer number of insoles on the market, making a choice can be stressful. To help, we’ve narrowed down the list to include only the best types of insoles for flat feet.
Top 7 Flat Feet Insoles According to Physical Therapists
Overall Best: Upstep Flat Feet Custom OrthoticsBest for Standard Volume Shoes: Protalus T-100 InsolesBest for Sensitive Feet: URthotics Comfort+ InsolesBest for Loose-Fitting Shoes: SOLE Softec Ultra InsolesBest Budget: Tread Labs Pace InsolesBest Flexible: FitMyFoot Full-Length InsolesBest for Moderate-Fitting Shoes: Superfeet BLUE Insoles
1. Overall Best Insoles for Flat Feet
ProsCustom-made by top podiatristsAddresses your foot needs directly180-day money-back guaranteeFSA and HSA eligibleFree shipping and returnsConsShort waiting period before receiving orthotics
Upstep Flat Feet Custom Orthotics are easily the best and most effective custom orthotics for flat feet. They are designed specifically for you by expert podiatrists according to your footprint, to help with existing foot conditions and to fit your lifestyle. They also help maintain body alignment, control abnormal foot motion, and prevent injury during walking.
At Upstep, we put our customers first by guaranteeing satisfaction and providing flexible payment options. Our insoles are 100% risk-free and come with a 180-day money-back guarantee. You can make payments with your HSA and FSA cards or choose to make four interest-free payments using Klarna. Not to mention, we also offer free shipping and returns.
» Read the review: custom orthotics for flat feet
2. Best Flat Feet Insoles for Standard Volume Shoes
ProsAlign and support your bodyAvailable online and in-store90-day money-back guaranteeConsNot custom-madeLess perfect fitPossible insufficient supportFeet may slip around due to thinness
Protalus T-100 are full-length insoles for standard volume shoes such as dress shoes and casual shoes. These insoles align the body and support the entire foot, especially the subtalar joint, preventing excess foot motion. This alignment reduces stress on the ankles, knees, and hips.
Unlike Upstep Orthotics, Protalus insoles are available for sale in-store and online and are not custom-made. Consequently, they do not fit quite as well as Upstep's custom orthotics, making them less effective for flat feet. Because of the thinness of these insoles, feet may slip around while walking.
3. Best Flat Feet Insoles for Sensitive Feet
ProsCustom-madeComfortable for sensitive feetFSA and HSA eligibleConsNo interest-free installmentsComplicated paperworkRisk of error when completing paperworkBetter suited for other foot conditions
URthotics Comfort+ insoles are also custom-shaped to fit your foot and serve your exact needs. Ideally, they are best for those with sensitive feet and are particularly helpful for those with pain in the ball of the foot or metatarsals. They also provide extra comfort where that is the goal, but they are not very effective in managing discomfort caused by flat feet.
URthotics Comfort+ insoles do not allow interest-free installments, even though they cost as much as $159. However, they are purchasable with HSA and FSA cards. Also, you need to understand and articulate the foot condition clearly in the paperwork included with the foot impression kit, which can be a bit complicated for some who are not really familiar with all the little details in regard to their condition.
Our advice? Orthotics Comfort+ insoles are better suited for conditions other than flat feet.
4. Best Flat Feet Insoles for Loose-Fitting Shoes
ProsComfortableProvide shock absorptionPromote equal weight distributionConsNot custom-madeStiff arch supportIt can take longer to break inMolding process may cause imperfect fit
SOLE Softec insoles are made from a moldable EVA base and are ideal for conditions where cushioning and comfort are needed.
Softec insoles are not custom fitted and require molding using an oven for fitting. Alternatively, you can wear the footbeds for a few days to allow them to adapt to your feet but they do seem to take longer to break in. They are ideal for loose-fitting footwear and activities requiring maximum shock absorption. They also improve balance, reduce plantar fascia strain, and promote equal weight distribution on the feet.
For a store-bought insole, Softec insoles are fairly effective. However, these simply do not hold up compared to a custom insole that factors in foot pathology.
5. Best Budget Insoles for Flat Feet
ProsAffordableAvailable in multiple sizes and arch heightsGuaranteed to replace cracked or misshapen insolesConsNot custom-madeLess than perfect fitNot as durableProvide support but not cushioning
Tread Labs Pace Insoles are easily the most affordable store-bought insoles available. They come in multiple sizes and arch heights, allowing you to find as close a fit as possible. They are best for shoes with full-length removable inserts and work well for overpronators and those with plantar fasciitis.
Unfortunately, they do not produce the best results when used to manage flat feet since they don't allow for the perfect fit.
6. Best Flexible Insoles for Flat Feet
ProsCustom 3D printed insoleImprove alignment and stabilityFSA and HSA eligibleConsApp precisionCan't be trimmed to fit shoe sizeLimited 30-day return policyCustomer responsible for shipping
FitMyFoot insoles are easier to get than store-bought brands. You can measure your feet on their mobile app and have a 3D print of your insole sent to you.
FitMyFoot insoles are best for shoes with removable inserts like casual and athletic shoes. They reduce foot pain, improve body alignment and stability, and help your shoes fit better.
However, the brand's returns policy only honors returns within 30 days of purchase. Even then, the client will be responsible for the shipping costs.
7. Best Flat Feet Insoles for Moderate-Fitting Shoes
ProsComfortableAffordableDurable up to a yearConsNot custom-madeProvide medium arch supportBetter suited for everyday use, not flat feet
Superfeet BLUE are thin insoles that can replace removable sock liners in roomy to moderate-fitting shoes. They help to improve the overall fit and comfort provided by your shoes.
For an item that costs only $54.49, Superfeet BLUE insoles are durable, lasting up to a year. These insoles are made for everyday use and provide some arch support and shock absorption. However, they are not ideal for managing flat feet.
Ready to Step Up Your Comfort Game?
While all the above insoles will produce some results, Upstep insoles are the best for flat feet as they are custom-made by the top podiatrists and specifically designed to fit the wearer, allowing you to receive the exact support you need.
Upstep Flat Feet Custom Orthotics' custom fit, excellent quality, and craftsmanship provide the best value for money. It is my professional opinion that there is no going wrong with Upstep's Flat Feet Insoles.
Flat feet6 of the Best Insoles for Weightlifting With Flat FeetWhile weightlifting is not typically a high-impact sport, it does place your lower limbs and feet under intense strain—even more so if you have flat feet. Once the arches collapse, it negatively affects your posture and reduces your shock-absorbing qualities. This can increase your risk of injury, particularly to your knees, hips, and lower back.
Therefore, the importance of wearing (correct) insoles cannot be overstated. Using orthotics for flat feet while weightlifting can aid with foot alignment, provide cushioning and comfort, and improve stability and mobility while providing overall support. Below we've listed the most comfortable insoles for flat feet recommended for weightlifters.
1. Overall Best for Weightlifters With Flat Feet: Upstep Custom Orthotics2. Best for Shoes With Removable Insoles: SOLE Active Thick Insoles3. Best Semi-Rigid Arch Support: Superfeet FLEXmax Insoles4. Best for Wide Feet: Tread Labs Pace Wide Insoles5. Best for Shoes With Non-Removable Inserts: Protalus M-75 Insoles6. Best Stability and Motion Control: URthotics Comfort+ Insoles
1. Upstep | Flat Feet Custom Orthotics
ProsCustom-madeDesigned by seasoned podiatristsAdds stability and improves arch supportFSA and HSA eligible180-day money-back guaranteeConsShort waiting period before you receive your insoles
Upstep Flat Feet Custom Orthotics improve arch support, weight distribution, and shock absorption. Designed by seasoned podiatrists, these insoles promote the alignment of the kinematic chain.
Upstep custom insoles cradle your foot contours, given that they're custom-fitted to your foot shape. This provides a strong base that adds stability to help the weightlifter take their game to the next level.
Upstep Flat Feet Custom Orthotics are affordable. Payment methods include FSA and HSA cards or interest-free installments via Klarna. Additional benefits include a 180-day money-back guarantee and free shipping and returns.
2. SOLE | Active Thick Insoles
ProsEco-friendlyRelieves pressureAffordable90-day guaranteeConsMolding process may result in an uncomfortable fit
SOLE Active Thick Insoles are designed to relieve pressure on your feet, a feature that's essential for weightlifters to minimize the risk of a foot injury. The insoles also give your feet extra cushioning and support.
SOLE insoles are best with footwear that has a removable insert. They're recommended for those who engage in high-pressure activities since they can reduce plantar fascia strain and increase balance.
SOLE insoles are eco-friendly and made from 100% recycled corks. It also features EVA that’s made of 20% waste. Together, these form a footbed that you must mold to your foot shape after purchase. However, by conducting the molding process yourself there is a chance that the insoles may not provide a perfect fit or sufficient support.
» Still searching for the perfect fit? Discover the best insoles for wide feet
3. Superfeet | FLEXmax Insoles
ProsAerospring foamSemi-rigid arch supportComfortableDurableConsMay need trimming which can cause an incorrect fit
Superfeet FLEXmax Insoles are semi-rigid arch support insoles with full-length Aerospring foam to support and cushion your feet.
Superfeet insoles come with a rounded edge and feature a flexible heel cradle. The specialized FLEXmax design allows the insole to provide long-lasting comfort for roomy footwear. Its structured heel cups stabilize your ankle while the contoured design redistributes weight across your feet and reduces joint stress.
However, these insoles may have to be trimmed to fit in your shoes. Trimming them incorrectly can result in an uncomfortable fit.
4. Tread Labs | Pace Wide Insoles
ProsMedical-gradeFirm arch supportComfortable thick top coverMillion mile guaranteeConsNot tailor-madeCustomers' unique foot needs not addressed
Tread Labs Pace Wide Insoles are medical-grade insoles that support your foot arches, improve alignment, and bring pain relief. Weightlifters with flat feet will benefit from the arch support and deep heel cups. The thick top covers give added comfort.
These insoles are affordable, including interest-free installments via ShopPay. Tread Labs's million-mile guarantee covers these insoles if they crack or lose their shape.
While these insoles are better suited for wide feet, they're not custom-made and don't address your foot needs directly.
5. Protalus | M-75 Insoles
ProsTri-planar technologyAnti-slip ridgesEVA foam bodyAffordable90-day money-back guaranteeConsMultiple sizes may not provide a perfect fit
Protalus M-75 Insoles are semi-rigid orthotic arch supports that improve cushioning and comfort while walking. The 3/4-length insoles are best for wider shoes with non-removable inserts. These insoles aim to benefit anyone with flat feet as well as limit overpronation by keeping your ankle in a neutral position and maintaining the integrity of your arches.
Protalus M-75 insoles use patented tri-planar technology and anti-slip ridges to improve balance and stability. An EVA foam body improves cushioning, and a moisture-wicking top cloth reduces moisture to control odor and slippage.
While these insoles are available in multiple sizes, you may not necessarily find the perfect fit.
6. URthotics | Comfort+ Insoles
ProsCustom-madeComfortableProvides stability and motion controlDeep heel cup for pain reliefFSA and HSA eligible6-months money-back guaranteeConsWaiting period before receiving your insoles
URthotics Comfort+ Insoles guarantee extra comfort for your feet. These insoles are also tailor-made by podiatrists who factor in every detail about your foot shape, needs, and biomechanical state to create unique custom orthotics for you.
The custom base provides stability and motion control, while the deep heel cup offers pain relief and protection. Additionally, URthotics custom insoles are FSA and HSA eligible and come with a 6-month money-back guarantee.
» Find out why different athletes experience different benefits from orthotics
Custom orthotics remain the best bet for weightlifters with flat feet. Asides from being designed to your exact foot specifications, they factor in the intended use and help optimize performance during weightlifting activities.
Flat feet7 Best Cycling Shoe Insoles for Flat FeetHaving flat feet is a disadvantage when it comes to cycling. Apart from contributing to pain due to repetitive stress, it reduces your ability to pedal optimally. While cycling shoes can help bridge some of this gap, a proper cycling shoe insole for flat feet will do more.
Knowing an insole for flat feet will help is one thing. Choosing the right one with the different types available on the market is quite another. That’s why we have reviewed the insoles on the market and listed the best cycling shoe insoles for flat feet below.
» How can you treat flat feet? Try these exercises for flat feet
1. Upstep Cycling Custom Orthotics
With research suggesting that custom orthotics are better for flat feet than prefabricated ones, Upstep cycling custom orthotics rank highest in our list of cycling shoe insoles for flat feet.
They're designed by professional podiatrists using your unique foot impression and personal lifestyle information. The insoles are made of high-quality materials, have a durable polypropylene shell, high-quality top covers, and well-cushioned middle layers to guarantee comfort every time.
The benefits of cycling orthotics include durability, maximum support and comfort to the foot, limited overpronation, and easier pedaling during cycling.
» Do you need additional support while cycling? Compare the best cycling shoe insoles for arch support and plantar fasciitis
2. Upstep Flat Feet Custom Orthotics
Upstep flat feet custom orthotics are somewhat different from cycling custom orthotics as they directly address your flat feet condition. They have a reinforced heel counter and moderate arch support to maintain body alignment.
Additionally, Upstep flat feet custom orthotics are affordable, and you can pay in installments or with your FSA and HSA insurance.
» Looking for everyday flat feet orthotics? Consider these best insoles for flat feet
3. SOLE Performance Thin Insoles With Metatarsal Pad
SOLE performance thin insoles score extra points because of their metatarsal pads which help relieve pain in the balls of your feet and support the natural spacing of the metatarsal bones.
They come in multiple arch heights and help promote natural foot alignment, minimizing overpronation due to flat feet. They also have a 1.6 mm cushioning underfoot, ensuring everyday comfort during activities.
SOLE Performance insoles are not custom fitted. Instead, they're heat- and wear-moldable, so you can get a fit that's as close as possible.
4. Tread Labs Dash Insoles
Tread Labs Dash insoles are rigid insoles made from carbon fiber, making them light and super-thin. These are performance insoles meant to improve foot biomechanics and aid optimal energy returns during physical activity.
Apart from having thick arch supports, these insoles also have 5mm thick, ventilated top covers to prevent your foot from sweating too much. Dash insoles come in four different arch heights. While the low and medium arches are the most suitable for flat feet, they're less effective than custom orthotics that would fit your foot perfectly.
5. Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Insoles
Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort insoles have a very unique shape and help to stabilize the foot on all kinds of terrain, including very rough ones. Its features include a deep heel cup to stabilize the ankle joint and two layers of heel-to-toe cushioning to reduce fatigue and provide comfort.
While Superfeet trailblazer comfort insoles are affordable, they provide a short-term solution to a long-term foot challenge. They're not as durable and may need replacement often.
6. Protalus T-100 Elite Insoles
Protalus T-100 elite insoles give the necessary arch support for all foot types. The insoles are full-length with semi-rigid orthotic arch support and a tri-planar system that keeps the ankle joint aligned and the foot stable.
They're also made with moisture-wicking fabric and microbial lining to remove any odor from your feet if you sweat a lot. However, these insoles are not custom-fitted and come in specific sizes that may warrant trimming to fit foot contours.
7. URthotics Comfort+ Insoles
Like the Upstep insoles, URthotics Comfort+ insoles are also custom fitted to the foot. They're designed not just based on the foot contour but also on any pre-existing foot conditions and potential activities. Ideally, URthotics comfort+ insoles are best for those with sensitive feet.
While these insoles can be expensive, and unfortunately there are no options to pay in installments, you can purchase the orthotics with HSA and FSA cards.
In the end, your choice of an insole depends on you. However, if you want quality and want to make a long-term investment, we recommend choosing custom orthotics. These insoles are customized to your feet and needs, thereby giving you the best support. Also, if you don't want to spend time breaking in your insoles, your custom orthotics will be ready to wear when you receive them.
» Are custom orthotics beneficial for all sports? Explore the benefits of orthotics for different athletes Flat feetCan Natural Treatments and Custom Insoles Cure Pain From Flat Feet?Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, is a condition in which the arches of your feet are depressed, and most, if not all, of the sole is in contact with the floor. The condition is further divided into two sub-conditions known as and characterized by:
Flexible flat feet (FFF)
Patients appear normal when seated or standing tiptoed, but their arches collapse when they stand up and apply weight to the soles of their feet.Rigid flat feet (RFF)
Patients have collapsed and flat arches regardless of the position that their feet are in.
The experienced symptoms will vary between individuals from mild to severe, though similar treatments are prescribed to those who seek help. This article looks at the efficacy of using custom-made insoles or orthotics to alleviate or potentially cure the pain of flat feet.
What Causes Flat Feet?
Flexible flat feet are normal in young children as the arches only tend to develop at around age 7. For those who carry the condition into adulthood, they can thank their genetics as this sub-condition is often hereditary. However, if you are predisposed to having flexible flat feet, you may not need to worry as most individuals with this sub-condition will be asymptomatic and live their lives without needing treatment.
Rigid flat feet, however, are unusual and dangerous. Often caused by injuries or congenital disorders, RFF manifest in structural issues and misalignments of the tendons and ligaments in either your feet or legs. The progression, or even cause, of this condition can be exacerbated by obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and old age.
Why Are Flat Feet Bad?
If you have asymptomatic FFF, then you are probably safe in not getting treatment as it's unlikely that it could progress into further issues. If, on the other hand, you experience any pain or other secondary conditions as a result of either FFF or RFF, then it's strongly advised that you seek treatment as soon as possible as this could lead to a number of further complications.
Flat Feet Can Cause Overpronation
Our feet naturally pronate in order to absorb shock from the impact against the ground, but overpronation is when your ankles roll too far inward to where the soles of your feet are flat against the floor. Since the feet are the foundation for the standing body, alignment problems like this can lead to further conditions like mild to severe pain in the knees and ankles.
If the condition is not treated, it can progress to severe conditions like spinal misalignments and issues in the hips and lower back.
Flat Feet Can Cause Plantar Fasciitis
Since the tendons in flat feet are not operating correctly, they can overstretch the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs under your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes) and lead to plantar fasciitis, which is a painful inflammation.
Although people with plantar fasciitis usually heal with time, if the cause of this condition is flat feet, then it might be something you have to deal with for an extended period of time.
How Can You Alleviate the Pain of Flat Feet From Home?
Before learning about potential conservative and natural treatments for flat feet, it's important to understand that flat feet are not reversible. Although the symptoms can often be managed and alleviated, flat feet will never simply "go away" in the same manner that a cold might. Despite this, there are some things you can do to make the condition easier to live with.
It's important to understand that there is no time limit. The more you implement these methods, the more manageable your symptoms will become over time, while if you start to slack and forget to do them, your condition may become worse once more.
Is Walking Barefoot Good for Flat Feet?
Some people suggest that walking, or even exercise, without shoes on can strengthen the muscles in your arch as they need to overcompensate to make up for the lost support. However, it's important to understand that there are no scientific studies that suggest barefoot exercises can treat flat feet.
If you do intend to exercise and suffer from flat feet, you'd have more luck using a pair of sports insoles for flat feet instead of doing it barefoot.
Exercises for Flat Feet
Science has found that since one of the potential causes of flat feet is weakened muscles or tendons, you can perform exercises intended to strengthen them, such as:
Supinated arch lifts are performed from a standing position and require you to keep your toes and the outside of your sole on the floor while attempting to lift the inside arch of your feet. Repeat for multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions.Towel curls are specially vetted and are performed in a seated, comfortable position. Place your foot on a flat towel or blanket, then, focusing on keeping the ball of your foot flat against the floor, try and scrunch the towel up with your toes. Repeat for multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions.Achilles Tendon stretches could help as a weak Achilles could be a potential contributing factor to your flat feet. Perform them by standing with one leg extended behind you and your hands supported against a wall. Then lean forward with your spine straight, feeling your leg muscles and Achilles tendon stretch. Perform for 15-30 seconds on each leg.Calf raises can help stretch the muscles in your calves that connect to your feet and are performed by standing with your feet flat, then lifting your heels off the floor as high as you can for multiple sets of 10-15 reps.
Massages for Flat Feet
You may also find some benefits in various massage techniques.
Flexing the toes back and forth with assisted hands can help strengthen the muscles in your arches.Deep, circular motions in the arches, heel, and legs can help reduce inflammation and, therefore, alleviate pain. This technique can also be applied to the Achilles tendon.
Can Orthotics Alleviate Pain or Correct Flat Feet?
Custom orthotics are among the first conservative treatments recommended for flat feet. There are several studies that advocate for their effectiveness at both alleviating the pain of flat feet, as well as helping to strengthen the weakened muscles and help the feet operate correctly, leading to improved balance and quality of life. Custom-fit arch supports are molded to the specifications of your feet and will have more benefits than generic over-the-counter insoles.
It's advised that using orthotics with the purpose of treating flat feet should result in the individual wearing them as often as possible. Arched insoles intended for flat feet work the same way as stretches and exercises, but more passively and over an extended period of time.
Should You Purchase Custom Insoles for Flat Feet?
As mentioned earlier, there is no ultimate cure for flat feet. However, there are many ways that the symptoms can be treated and lessened without having to go through expensive and painful surgeries. If your flat feet are asymptomatic, then you don't have to worry and go out of your way to purchase a pair of expensive insoles. However, if they are beginning to cause you pain or other conditions, you can rest assured that there is scientific evidence to support the basis of treating flat feet with custom orthotics and at-home exercises. Flat feetConservative and Invasive Treatments for Flat FeetFlat feet (pes planus) is a condition characterized by a loss of arch height, leading to the entire foot making contact with the ground while standing. This condition can be seen in one or both feet and may lead to other conditions such as ankle or knee pain if left untreated.
Causes of Flat Feet
There are two types of flat feet.
Firstly, there is Flexible Flat Feet (FFF), usually seen in childhood upon starting weight-bearing activities and is caused by laxity/weakness in the ligaments of the foot and muscles. When weight is put onto the feet, the arches drop, and the feet become flat on the floor. When weight is removed from the feet (such as when lying down), the arches appear normal.
Rigid Flat Feet (RFF) is characterized by a rigid foot that doesn't change shape when weight is removed or added. Development of flat feet with inward-turning ankles in teens and adults is indicative of a structural issue or injury. Consult a medical practitioner for advice as to why this is the case.
Best Conservative Treatments for Flat Feet
Best Exercises for Flat Feet
Strengthening the muscles making up the foot and lower leg will help rebuild the arch, leading to less pronation in the foot.
Sitting with the feet facing forward, curl the toes into the floor and towards your heel, elevating the arch
Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax
Repetitions of sustained contractions will improve strength greatly
Some may prefer to stand in front of a wall for increased balance
Push onto the toes, and rise onto the forefoot, contracting the calf muscle
Hold for 3 seconds and relax
Repeat 8-10 repetitions for 1 set
Perform 2 sets 3 times daily
Decreased ankle range and mobility may cause flat feet to progress due to calf muscle shortening, pulling downwards on the arch from the underside of the foot.
Stretch the calf muscle by placing the ball of your foot against a wall and attempting to slowly push the heel towards the ground
Hold for 20-30 seconds for effective lengthening
Swap to the other foot and repeat
Best Massages for Flat Feet
Foot massages can aid with discomfort and pain.
Massaging from the heel along the foot to the toes and muscles of the lower leg and Achilles tendon are great areas to start. Find any pressure points and gently massage them to lengthen and relieve tension in the muscles and promote flexibility in the foot.
Best Footwear for Flat Feet
The support your feet get in some shoes may not be adequate during a long day of standing or walking, especially as the muscles of the foot fatigue from use. Custom orthotics for flat feet are a great option but may prove to be costly. Shoes that provide arch support with the original insole will be a good option for flat feet. Fit them on and check to see that your arches are supported.
» Need additional support? Browse Upstep's range of On My Feet All Day Orthotics to enhance the support you get from your shoes
Other Natural Treatments for Flat Feet
Orthotics can greatly help people with flat feet by supporting the arches to limit pronation during weight-bearing activities, such as standing, walking, or running. Insoles or shoes that provide arch support will be the best option for you. Orthotic insoles are affordable and can be used in multiple pairs of shoes simply by interchanging them.
» Looking to relieve flat feet symptoms? Consider investing in flat feet custom orthotics for a long-term solution that easily fits into your lifestyle
Additionally, walking on a soft surface is a good way to strengthen your arches. As the foot sinks into the soft surface, it provides momentary arch support for your foot. Focus on maintaining a normal gait cycle while the foot is trying to find a stable surface to move over, requiring a fair amount of interosseous and lower leg strength.
Surgical Treatments for Flat Feet
Surgery for flat feet is considered when conservative management strategies have failed to relieve your symptoms. The medical practitioner (podiatrist) will examine your feet and usually conduct an X-ray. Persistent pain, limited function, and a tendon rupture may all be reasons for surgical intervention. Usually, the doctor will either fuse bones together to prevent deformity and pain, perform an osteotomy (cutting and changing the orientation of the bone), or replace a ruptured tendon.
Can Flat Feet Be Cured Naturally?
Steps can be taken to reduce the symptoms experienced by people with flat feet by applying the methods discussed in this article. Strengthening and arch support won’t permanently fix the arch, but will certainly improve it to a point where the symptoms are easily manageable. Massage and use of medication might help you relieve pain, and you should seek advice from a medical professional if your pain persists.
» Still unsure about the efficacy of orthotics? Read this review for flat feet custom orthotics Flat feetBest Exercises for Treating Flat FeetFlat feet are a common condition, referring to a loss of arch height or reduced development of the arches of the foot from childhood. Lower arches cause more of the sole of the foot to be in contact with the ground. This is called overpronation of the foot and ankle complex and is usually a result of weakened muscles in the arch and lower leg. There are other causes such as injury, ligament laxity, arthritis, pregnancy, and obesity that may contribute to flat feet. Complications such as shin splints, hammertoes, bunions, and plantar fasciitis can occur if flat feet are not treated effectively.
How to Warm Up Before Exercising With Flat Feet
A warm-up prepares the body for exercise, increasing the effectiveness of the activity while preventing pain. An example of a good warm-up is described in the three steps below.
To start the warm-up, sit on a soft floor with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise the toes of one foot off the ground, while maintaining contact with the floor with the rest of the foot. Raise for 5-10 seconds, then lower to the floor. Repeat ten times with each foot, three times daily.Sitting in the same position, raise the toes of one foot off the floor, and spread the toes evenly, holding for 5-10 seconds. Then repeat with the other foot. Again, sitting with feet shoulder-width apart, gently push the toes and forefoot into the ground, tensing the muscles in the arches of the foot. A slight outward ankle roll can be felt here. Next, while sitting, raise the heels and go up gently onto the toes and forefoot. Hold momentarily and lower back down onto the entire foot. You can do this with both legs at the same time, or it can be done one leg at a time to ensure well-controlled movement.
Stretching Exercises for Flat Feet
Foot stretching can be done by sitting with one leg crossed over the other and applying a gentle backward stretch to the forefoot. The stretch should be felt in the muscles in the sole of the foot. This will aid in stretching the overworked and fatigued muscles of the foot, thus reducing pain or discomfort. Stretching the calf muscles can greatly aid you in maintaining mobility in the ankle joint. By lengthening the muscular structures that could be putting a downward pull on the arch of the foot, some pressure is taken off the arch, giving it the ability to maintain its shape. Stretching the calf muscle can be done against a wall or with your heel off the end of a step. Hold for 15-20 seconds for optimal lengthening of the muscle tissue.Foot rolling is another great way to help you manage your flat feet. You can make use of a massage ball to relieve the muscles and tissues of the underside of the foot by pushing down on it, in a sitting position. The pressure against the ball will also apply a stretch to the plantar fascia of the sole, where inflammation could be leading to pain.
Strengthening Exercises for Flat Feet
Toe crunches can be done sitting with your feet on a small towel or piece of material. Attempt to grip the material by curling the toes downwards and scrunching the towel up. You should feel the muscles in the arch area contracting and eventually slightly fatiguing. Heel raises can be done by standing with the feet shoulder-width apart, facing a wall for support. Raise onto the toes and forefoot, hold for one second, and then lower the heels back down to the ground. Repeat 10-15 times with both feet, simultaneously. Marble pick-ups are great exercises to strengthen the foot muscles and can be done by sitting with marbles on the floor in front of you. You then need to attempt to pick them up with your toes and place them into a container. By picking up the marbles, you’ll be strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot. Aim to pick up 10-15 marbles per foot.
Can Exercise Correct Flat Feet Permanently?
Any possible pain or discomfort that could arise from flat feet can be effectively managed using a combination of exercises, stretching, and adequate daily foot support from custom orthotics or appropriate footwear. Flat feet, however, cannot be permanently cured with exercises alone or in conjunction with other forms of conservative management.
Building and maintaining the foot arch can be difficult to do effectively and requires daily exercise. The strength gained from the arch exercises will help your feet absorb some of the shock placed through them when doing activities like running or jumping, and slow down how quickly they fatigue during exercise. This should significantly limit your chances of developing ankle pain or injuries in the foot-ankle complex and will relieve flat feet pain. Flat feetRunning With Flat Feet: All You Need to Know to Prevent InjuryHaving flat feet is a common condition affecting many people around the world. It is characterized by a loss of arch height when weight is taken through the foot. While some develop symptoms like pain in the feet and lower legs, many people with flat feet can still participate in running and other physical activities largely symptom-free.
Causes and Complications of Flat Feet
Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet are usually seen in young children. As children grow, their arches strengthen to support more weight while walking. Flat feet in adulthood are typically a result of the arches not developing during adolescence. A sudden loss of arch height in adulthood is uncommon and could indicate a more serious issue.
Flat feet can be a result of a variety of factors and conditions, including:
Genetics Overuse and strainLigament laxity in the lower leg and structures of the footShortened or “tight” Achilles tendon Loss of intrinsic foot muscle strengthInjury to the foot, affecting the structures of the arch ArthritisDiabetes Obesity Pregnancy
Complications of Flat Feet
Flat feet are associated with a range of potential complications, which usually present themselves when the condition hasn't been sufficiently managed. Complications can arise after excessive exercise or physical activity when incorrect, unsupportive, or rigid footwear is worn, or when walking or running barefoot on hard surfaces.
Some examples of complications include:
Pain in the arch or heel Shin pain/shin splints Bunions & calluses HammertoesNumbness in the footReduced mobility Back pain Muscles in the foot fatigue quickly
How to Prevent Injury When Running With Flat Feet
Products to Use
There are many products that provide the necessary support to prevent injuries or pain from occurring when running. They lower the strain placed on the lower leg while doing endurance running activities, which minimizes your chances of developing an overuse injury.
Custom running orthotics that fit correctly in your running shoe, without compromising comfort, are a good option for preventing complications from running with flat feet. The orthotics will prop the arch up when weight is applied, preventing the arch from dropping and the inward turn of the tibia, which is commonly associated with flat feet. This takes the strain off the rest of the body that is actively compensating for the reduced contribution of the feet to the gait cycle. Energy can therefore be used more efficiently, allowing you to run with better efficiency, without the risk of injury.
Techniques to Practice
Exercise in conjunction with orthotics or supportive footwear can help align your feet and legs. As you run, your muscles fatigue, which causes pain after covering some distance. Exercises can strengthen the muscles of the foot that actively support the arch and lengthen some of the structures that may contribute to pulling the arch downwards. Other remedies, including self-massage, weight loss, and rest can also aid in relieving symptoms of flat feet.
You can try the exercises below to target these structures and reduce overpronation. They can be done as a warm-up for running or in preparation for daily activities.
Arch squeeze: While sitting with your foot flat on the floor, slide the forefoot backward, toward your heel, and squeeze the arch. Hold it for 10-15 seconds. Relax the foot and repeat about 10 times per foot. Calf stretches: These can be done against a wall or using a step. Place your weight on your forefoot, usually one leg at a time, and slowly attempt to lower the heel to the ground. You should feel a gentle stretch at the back of the leg. Hold it for 15-30 seconds for true muscle lengthening. Foot stretches: Stretching the foot muscles can help relieve pain and muscle fatigue. Sitting on a chair, bring one leg up to rest horizontally over your other leg with your toes facing forward. Apply a gentle stretch to the toes, stretching them backward. Hold it for 15-20 seconds, then release. Repeat 4 or 5 times for each foot.Heel raises: Heel raises strengthen the muscles of the foot and lower leg that support the arch, and subsequently, the weight of the whole body. This exercise should be done on a soft surface, preferably barefoot. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise your heels off the ground, going up onto the forefoot and toes. Hold for a second or two, and then lower the heels to the ground again. Repeat 10-15 times, and repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
Should You Run With Flat Feet?
With the necessary self-management for flat feet, you can run and do all your normal daily activities with few symptoms. The combination of exercises and orthotics aids in maintaining your foot arch and preventing strain injuries during endurance activities. Should adverse symptoms persist, consult a medical practitioner for professional care. Flat feetSecondary Conditions Associated With Flat FeetFlat feet is a condition in which the foot arch flattens out completely, causing the whole sole of the foot to rest on the floor when standing. Flat feet can occur in childhood with the non-development of the foot arch and, in some cases, due to an injury to the foot arch or supporting tendon.
How Do Flat Feet Affect the Body?
Initially, flat feet are asymptomatic. The condition causes pronation and overpronation, with your foot and ankle rolling inwards when you walk so that you bear more weight on the inner border of your foot. This effectively pushes the foot out of alignment with the rest of the kinematic chain.
To maintain your posture and balance, the lower leg muscles have to compensate for the malalignment. Consequently, there is more tension in some areas than usual, and over time, this may have complications or worsen existing injuries.
Which Secondary Conditions Are Associated With Flat Feet?
If this condition only affected the foot, it would not lead to as many problems—but unfortunately, it doesn't. The increased tension in the foot causes far-reaching complications that go beyond the foot, affecting the ankles, knees, hips, and even the spine. Many of these complications are also musculoskeletal. Some of the secondary conditions associated with flat feet include:
Degenerative disc disease
Flat feet increase the strain on the back, as weight transfer through the spine to the feet is incorrect. As a result, there is a quicker degeneration of the spinal discs, leading to symptoms such as severe back pain from flat feet. You may also experience weakness and numbness as nerves become impinged. Corns and calluses
Because the entire sole is in contact with the ground, weight transfer is not as efficient. As a result, some areas of the foot bear more weight than others, causing painful corns and calluses to form on the foot.Toe deformities
Flat feet also place extra stress on the big toe and second toe, causing deformities like bunions to develop on the toe. This, in turn, worsens the foot condition and a vicious cycle of pain, and more pain results.Plantar fasciitis
This refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia—the long ligament located at the bottom of the foot, which supports the foot arch. Flat feet put extra strain on the plantar fascia, resulting in irritability and inflammation.Degenerative changes in the ankle and foot joints
Evidence suggests that degeneration is faster in the ankle and foot joints of people with flat feet due to the inefficient transfer of energy through those joints. It can even cause the feet to feel too weak to support the body. The insides and bottom of the feet will also have an increased penchant for swelling after prolonged standing or walking.Knee pain
Flat feet predispose the foot to excessive pronation, which in turn causes the knees to rotate internally into a "knock-kneed" position. This leads to patellofemoral pain syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome.Hip pain
Flat feet affect the gait, and the body's attempt to compensate increases the tension on the joints, muscles, and ligaments of the hip, causing hip pain.
How to Prevent Flat Feet From Causing Further Problems
At first, flat feet are not at all symptomatic. It is best to keep it this way and prevent flat-foot complications from setting in. At this point, interventions aim to support the fallen arches, strengthen the feet and ankles, and relieve pain symptoms. There are both conservative and invasive treatments for flat feet.
The following treatments are commonly used to prevent flat feet from causing further issues:
Use of orthotics
Orthotics inserts can help relieve some of the load placed on the foot by its inward roll during overpronation. There are various types of custom orthotics, and you will need to determine whether rigid or soft orthotics are best for your needs. Orthotics reduce the chances of developing overuse or strain injuries during physical activity.Physical therapy
A physiotherapist will prescribe the appropriate strengthening and stretching exercises for flat feet. These help strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and the arch and stretch any taut tendons and muscles to relieve the strain on them. Joint mobilization may also be incorporated to loosen up jarred joints.Proper footwear
Supportive footwear with wide toe spaces will support the foot, elevate the foot arch, and give the toes wiggle room. Finding the best insoles for your flat feet is also highly recommended. If you're looking for further information, take a look at this article on the best footwear and insoles for flat feet from a physical therapist's perspective.Bracing or Taping
Bracing or taping the feet in a certain way can help position the foot correctly and stabilize it. This treatment is often advised at the acute stage. Surgical intervention
Where the above treatments are conservative, sometimes more invasive methods are required. If flat feet are due to structural problems, surgery may be necessary to restore the foot to its anatomical position. Flat feetHow to Rebuild Arches in Flat FeetFlat feet are a common and usually pain-free condition that affects many people globally. This condition is commonly caused by the arches of the feet not developing during childhood. The lack of arch height means that the majority of the sole of the foot makes contact with the ground. Flat feet occur due to weakened muscles in the foot, trauma to the foot, or a range of other conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, injury, and ligament laxity. If left untreated, flat feet can lead to pain and disability.
Can You Exercise With Flat Feet?
The challenge of exercising with flat feet is that complications could arise in the feet and body without the benefits of arch support from corrective footwear or the best orthotics for flat feet. The arches act as a natural shock absorber for the body. Ensuring that you have proper footwear arch supports that can absorb some of the impact can be helpful in limiting pain and other complications, such as shin splints, from occurring. Exercises can help strengthen the arch of the foot and lead to a lower chance of developing pain or injury in the feet during exercise.
How Much Can You Rebuild Your Arches Without Surgery?
Treating flat feet using exercises can prove to be a difficult task. Conservative management strategies and exercises to improve flat feet have limitations in rebuilding the arch entirely and rather serve to maintain and support the arch as weight is applied to it. This is usually done in conjunction with orthotics. Should symptoms of unmanageable pain and discomfort arise, consult with a medical professional.
Top Exercises to Rebuild Your Arches
While sitting with your feet flat on the floor and keeping your toes flat on the ground, slide your forefoot backward towards your heel while squeezing the arch. Try to imagine you're trying to shorten the length of your foot. Hold it for 10–15 seconds. Relax your foot and repeat approximately 10 times per foot.
Heel raises will strengthen the muscles of the foot and lower leg. This exercise can be done standing on a soft surface, preferably barefoot. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, raise your heels off of the ground, going up onto the forefoot and toes. Hold for a second or two, and then lower your heels to the ground again. Repeat 10–15 times, two or three times a day.
Walking Barefoot on Soft Ground
Walking on a soft surface such as sand or grass will require the use of the intrinsic muscles of the foot. These muscles aid in developing the arch as well as producing movement in the toes. Walking on soft ground challenges these smaller muscles of the foot, strengthening them in the process.
Sitting with marbles on the floor in front of you, pick them up with your toes and place them into a container. By picking up the marbles, you’ll be strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot. Aim for 10–15 marbles per foot.
Other Treatments for Flat Feet and Fallen Arches
There are other treatment options available to help manage flat feet. These are most effective when used in conjunction with exercises for treating flat feet to help manage flat feet and secondary flat feet conditions.
Orthotics are a cost-effective way to provide your feet with the necessary support they need to prevent overpronated ankles, which can prevent pain from developing in other areas of the body. Orthotics will also reduce your chances of developing ankle injuries by controlling the ankle pronation that you may experience while walking or running.
Massaging the muscles in the sole of the foot may provide relief to potentially tense muscles often associated with flat feet. A massage ball can also be used to target the muscles of the foot to provide you with similar relief of symptoms.
Two stretching exercises can be used to help manage this condition.
Plantar Foot Stretch
Start by sitting with one leg crossed over the other. Your foot should be over the opposite knee. Apply a gentle stretch backward to the forefoot while relaxing the muscles in the rest of your leg. The stretch should be felt in the sole of the foot. Hold for 20–30 seconds and release.
This will aid in stretching the arch and other overworked and fatigued muscles of the foot, thus reducing pain and discomfort.
Calf Muscle Stretch
Stretching the calf muscles can greatly aid in maintaining mobility in the ankle joint. This will better allow the arches to keep their shape. Stretching of the calf muscle can be done against a wall or with your heel off the end of a step. Hold for 20–30 seconds and release. This can be done multiple times a day.
Medication can be used to aid you in reducing any pain you may be experiencing. Contact a medical professional should your feet suddenly become painful and swollen or if you are unable to walk. A medical professional can best advise how to manage this condition in order to prevent complications in the future.
» Read more about the best exercises for flat feet Flat feetCan People With Flat Feet Be Top Athletes?Flat feet are a common and generally painless foot condition. With flat feet, the entire sole touches the floor when you stand because of fallen or absent arches. While it is asymptomatic in many people, some find that flat feet affect how they stand and move.
Take a look at our post on a collapsed arch vs. flat feet to learn the difference.
Can Flat Feet Hinder Sports Performance?
Flat feet are generally asymptomatic and don't affect people's daily lives. However, flat feet can predispose the foot to overpronation. For an athlete, this can severely impact their performance.
There is suboptimal energy transfer between the foot and the ground with overpronation. Consequently, the muscles, ligaments, and tendons undergo more strain and have to exert more force. Without intervention, the cumulative biomechanical inefficiency will limit an athlete's performance. It can also lead to potential health complications.
Disadvantages of Having Flat Feet as an Athlete
The increased tension caused by overpronation will lead to heel pain, muscle spasms and weakness, ankle weakness, shin splints, and knee, hip, and back pain. There are also many secondary conditions to flat feet that may arise.
Most sports also require a high degree of balance, speed, agility, and flexibility to change directions quickly. If the body has to do extra work, as is common with flat feet, it may be somewhat difficult for athletes to achieve such performance levels.
The Importance of Correct Footwear for Athletes With Flat Feet
There is suitable footwear available for every kind of sport. It's especially important to wear the proper footwear if you have flat feet. They can help keep your foot neutrally aligned, limiting overpronation and the added tension that comes with it. Generally, wearing footwear with limited flexibility, a supportive sole, proper cushioning, and reinforced heel counters is recommended for flat feet.
In addition to the correct footwear, orthotics are also essential. They work together with footwear to restore foot health and provide foot support for flat feet. Apart from correcting malalignment, inserts and arch support also help improve your athletic performance by reducing the risk of injury, providing adequate support, and are designed to suit your specific requirements. The best insoles for flat feet come with arch support, a heel wedge, and a metatarsal bar.
Are arch supports hurting your flat feet? Learn more about how it's possible to have too much arch support.
Are There Top Athletes With Flat Feet?
While flat feet can negatively impact performance, the right intervention has helped some top athletes rise above it. Among these athletes are Ethiopian marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie, the most reputed long-distance runner with four gold medals to his name, and American runner Alan Webb, whose record of running a mile in 3 minutes and 46 seconds took 14 years to break. There is also Saïd Aouita, Shawn Crawford, and Steven Plasencia, to name a few.
Though flat feet can negatively affect performance, any athlete can bridge the gap and improve their performance with the right flat feet remedies.
» Experiencing calf pain due to flat feet as an athlete? Discover the best insoles to treat calf pain