You don’t have to give up on running if you have flat feet.
You probably have heard of a common foot condition, known as “flat feet” or pes planus. And it’s actually very common, especially in Asians, affecting up to 20 per cent of us! When somebody has flat feet, their foot has very little or no arch at all, compared to regular people.
There are actually 2 different types of flat feet, flexible flat feet and rigid flat feet.
Flexible flat feet means that an arch is actually visible, but flattens when any weight is placed on it. It is typically caused by lax ligaments in the foot and is usually heredity.
Rigid flat feet means that there is no arch visible whatsoever. Rigid flat feet can be heredity or due lifestyle choices. Being sedentary or overweight can cause it and poor footwear is also a reason.
If you have flat feet, your entire sole comes into full contact (or almost full contact) with the ground. Having flat feet puts a strain on your muscles, ligaments and joints due to an uneven distribution of body weight.
While it’s not a life-threatening condition, you should still be cautious. It may cause discomfort in your legs when walking or standing, especially for long periods of doing so.
But what does it mean for runners? After all, running requires a lot of muscle exertion from your legs and, especially during long-distance races such as marathons. As a result, you may not only experience flat feet running pain but also ankle pain after running.
Common flat feet running problems
There are several problems that running with flat feet can cause. Flat feet running pain is a common issue, but there are various short-term solutions.
These are the painful bony bump that you can find near your big toe. Due to the constant chafing of skin against shoe, flat feet runners have a higher chance of developing these bumps. The best way to treat these are using bunion pads, warm soaks and ice packs. These measures can prevent the bunions from progressing and provide pain relief.
Due to flat feet, your Achilles tendon and ankle may be forced to compensate for the increased motion of your midfoot. This puts extra weight on it and can cause tendinitis to occur. This may cause pain and inflammation along the Achilles tendon. The home solution to this is simply resting the injured foot, icing it and taking the proper medication. Be careful not to over-exert yourself before it heals completely.
Similar to tendinitis, the increased pressure on the lower leg muscles may prove problematic for people with flat feet. You will feel pain (sharp or dull) during or after exercises, and it will be sore to the touch. Good solutions to shin splints include icing the shin 20 minutes multiple times throughout the day, doing flexibility exercises and taking a break from running until it heals.
Hammertoe is a condition in which a toe bends upwards then downwards at a joint (yikes!), which gives it the look of a hammer. It is more likely to occur to flat-footed runners and those whose 2nd toe is longer than the big toe. When running with flat feet, an ill-fitting shoe can cause this problem to occur. Having bunions may also cause it to occur. Several ways to resolve it are soaking it in warm water before stretching your toe and ankles, splinting the toe to straighten it and doing foot exercises to relax the foot tendons. Using pads and other such products meant for hammertoes can also help to quicken recovery. For more serious cases, physical therapy may be required.
Similar to bunions, frequent friction between the sole of the shoe and your feet cause hard layers of skin to develop. With flat feet, your foot is unstable and is even more likely to continue rubbing against the sole, causing calluses to form. Try using warm soaks, specialised pads and moisturiser to treat it. For thicker ones, use a washcloth to rub it after the soak.
How to run with flat feet
Running with flat feet can cause discomfort and various problems as shown above. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide as much support to your ankles and feet as possible. After all, prevention is better than cure. The best way to do so is by inserting arch support insoles into your running shoes. If you’re having trouble finding arch support insoles in Singapore, here are a few examples.
Feetcare also has multiple insoles for flat feet, and are based in Singapore. You can even call or schedule an appointment with them for a better understanding of your condition! With their insoles for different types of flat feet, they truly have something for everybody. They also have various products, such as shoes and sandals that are tailor-made for the flat feet community.
Orthotics Lab Singapore also has custom soles, along with appointments and home visits. They also have feet analysis and an educational tour on these appointments.
Choosing the correct running shoes is also key to running with flat feet. Your best options are motion control or stability running shoes. Motion control running shoes are for those with rigid flat feet, as these shoes control your running motion and prevent any wrong movements. These shoes provide strong arch support alongside a stiff heel. Stability running shoes are better for those who have flexible flat feet since they prioritise extended support for the foot arch. These type of shoes help prevent excessive pain when running with flat feet.
How to run faster with flat feet
If you strengthen your ankles, you’ll be less prone to the various ankle problems caused by flat feet. Here are three exercises you can do at home. Be sure to do them three times a week for maximum ankle strength.
Standing Squat Jumps
- Start by standing up and drop into the squat position. Check for proper form.
- Jump straight up and swing your arms overhead.
- Lower yourself back into the squat position. Repeat 9 more times.
Arch Muscle Strength Exercise
- Sit on a chair and cross one foot over the other thigh.
- Wrap a band around the elevated foot & step on the other end with your other leg. Be sure to keep it taut.
- Raise the elevated foot with your hands.
- Lower the foot back to the starting position. Repeat 9 more times.
- Start in the lunge position
- Jump up and land with the other foot forward. Repeat 9 more times.
A version of this article first appeared on www.menshealth.com.sg.