As a runner, you know already know the benefits of your favorite sport. Better sleep, weight control, more energy, chronic disease prevention--just to name a few.
You've probably had some injuries and want to do everything you can to prevent another one. As a runner with flat feet, keeping your feet in tip top shape can be a bit challenging--but it can be done.
How Flat Feet Affect Runners
Runners with flat feet are over-pronators--meaning their feet roll excessively inward toward the arch when they walk or run. When this happens pain and discomfort can occur in the feet, lower legs, low back, and hips. In the feet, this usually means plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of the heel or arch) or Achilles tendonitis (pain in the back of the heel).
If you've experienced problems in any of these areas of your body as a result of running, there's a good chance you have flat feet and are over-pronating.
While overpronation is a key reason runners with flat feet are more prone to foot pain, another factor--equinus or tight calf muscles--also plays a major role in the development of heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
That's why prevention of the two most common foot problems for runners with flat feet requires both correction of foot mechanics and treatment of tight calf muscles.
Correcting Your Foot Mechanics
While some runners can get away with correcting their flat feet with over-the-counter inserts such as Powersteps or Superfeet, the vast majority will need custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are designed for your feet only and provide the best correction for flat feet.
Stretching Tight Calf Muscles
Most runners stretch right before they run. While wall or tree stretches (if you run outside) may seem adequate, stretching for a few minutes will have little impact on very tight calf muscles. Instead, Dr.Rion Berg of the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City recommends using an splint while reading or watching TV for 20-30 minutes for his patients with tight calf muscles.
Keeping Your Feet in Top Shape
It's also important to keep your plantar fascia or heel cord stretched and your feet strong.
Tennis ball massage
Tennis balls are great for keeping the bottom of your feet stretched out. While seated, use a tennis ball to massage all areas of your feet with special emphasis on your plantar fascia. Massage each foot for 2-3 minutes.
Towel curls can help strengthen your feet. While seated and with your feet on a towel, scrunch up the towel with your foot while your heel stays planted. Repeat 15-20 times with each foot for 2-3 sets.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Running with a few extra pounds translates to more stress on your feet; seven extra pounds of pressure for every extra pound of weight. So maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the pressure on your feet and reduce your chance for foot pain.
Built-Up Your Running Slowly
Just starting a running program with flat feet? Increase your training schedule by no more than 10-20% per week to prevent injury.
Choose Better Terrain
Stick to training on flat ground. Running hills can increase your over-pronation putting more stress on your feet and plantar fascia. In addition, hill running and stair climbing put a lot of strain on the Achilles leading to Achilles tendonitis. Finally, softer surfaces are better than hard ones. A running track is a good option.
Buy Running Shoes for Flat Feet
Your shoes are your best defense against foot pain. Old, worn-out shoes will not adequately support your feet. Likewise running shoes that aren't designed for your foot type and the kind of running you do won't either. Be sure to go to a shoe store that specializes in running like Super Jock N Jill, Brooks, or REI in the Seattle area. Their employees are trained to help you find the shoe that will best meet your needs. In addition, check out my blog, "How to Buy the Best Running Shoes".