Last update: 02-06-2020

What is Flat Foot

Every individual has a different shape and size of feet as per body structure. This can be a result of heredity, medical condition, or the biological origin of the person. If a person feels the bottom of their foot, they can trace a crest or dip at the center. This crest or arch is the normal and commonly found pattern in the majority of people. 

In the absence of this arch, the entire bottom is plain and flat. The whole foot surface thus remains in contact with the floor or ground upon movement. The condition where a person’s foot is completely in contact with the ground, from heel to toe in a flat manner is called “flat foot”.

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Dr. Scholl's Heavy Duty Support...
Physix Gear Sport Full Length...
Powerstep unisex adult Pinnacle...
CURREX RUNPRO - – World’s...
Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort...
Dr. Scholl's Heavy Duty Support...
Dr. Scholl's Heavy Duty Support...
Physix Gear Sport Full Length...
Physix Gear Sport Full Length...
Powerstep unisex adult Pinnacle...
Powerstep unisex adult Pinnacle...
CURREX RUNPRO - – World’s...
CURREX RUNPRO - – World’s...
Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort...
Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort...

Probable Causes

  • Obesity or Improper weight distribution
  • Arthritis 
  • Genetic Disorder
  • Severe injury during developing age

What Effect Does Flat Foot Have

Under normal circumstances, a person with a flat foot does not necessarily feel any trouble or abnormality. But in certain cases, an individual with a flat foot starts to develop pain and unwanted pressure in the heel as well as foot ligaments. The pain can gradually propagate up to the knees as the alignment of the foot isn’t right. 

The condition of the flat foot leads to torn ligaments. People with flat feet also have a higher risk of stress fractures. Certain individuals also complain of a lower grip and slippery toes due to flat feet. The common problems faced are:

  • An unusual way of walking
  • Stress concentration in heels and knees, leading to torn ligaments
  • Swelling or inflammation of the foot
  • Reoccurring pain and troubles in hip and ankles
  • Blisters in the center of the foot.
  • More prone to Achilles Tendonitis

How do Insoles or Arch Support Help with Flat Foot

If a person has a history of pain or discomfort due to flat feet, medical advice is essential. Most people prefer to choose shoes or footwear with insoles, orthotics and simple arch support to help improve the condition.

The common working principle of all three is to re-align the shape of the foot to distribute the stress evenly. By doing so, the excessive pressure concentration at heels or toes can be avoided. These also help in avoiding over-pronation. They prevent unnecessary stiffness and fatigue and provide for ease of movement.

Arch Support & Their Importance

In cases where the repercussions of the flat foot are significant, the arch support is the most preferred means of relief. Arch support individually, or in addition to an insole, provides the cushioning right at the crest/arch. This leads to the retention of artificially formed crest-like pattern that relieves the pressure from the toe and heel.

Arch support can typically exist in the form of a latex material that forms an impact absorbing surface. It is similar to keeping a cushion under the neck profile for proper head support. By providing extra arch support, the comfort level of the ball and socket joints increases many folds.

Insoles (Orthotic Insoles)

An insole is an inner sole or detachable semi-cushioning part of the footwear. Insoles typically exist inside a normal shoe or boot. Additional insoles, custom-made for flat foot are very helpful. 

Orthotic insoles are medically recommended method of treating a flexible flat foot (termed as FFF in short). These can be found in various shapes and designs. A typical orthotic insole can look like a simple shoe insole with padding in the selected area. 

By adding this to the footwear, an arch is made that compensates for the absence of a natural arch. It de-centralizes the load distribution and provides stability to the heel. They can be found in the form of simple cushioning, sock-like design, or even as a padded insole.

How many types of insoles are available for flat feet?

An elaborate analysis of the pattern of one’s feet allows them to determine the requirement of an insole. Upon a closer look, you can identify whether your feet:

  • Turn inward
  • Turn Outward
  • Remain Neutral

After analyzing the above, half the job is done. The other part is to study the arc or the crest. Once the extent of the arch is determined, a person can identify the level of FFF. This allows them to choose further from 3 major categories:

Comfort Insoles:

These are predominantly designed in a manner that enhances the extent of comfort to your feet. For people with lower crest or arch, it is highly useful. It enhances the arch by re-distributing the pattern and in doing so, de-centralizes the pressure point.

 It ensures that the arch is now prominent. This means the heel and toe are less flat and hence the ligaments do not face the danger of being torn by overstress. 

Molded Insoles: Molded insoles are for arches that have a grounded or flat profile. As the name suggests, they have molded in a way to suit variable crest profiles. These are usually similar to an integral insole. Along with comfort, they also help with weight management. 

Performance Insoles: Performance-enhancing insoles are helpful for athletes and professionals. The athletes (especially runners) always try for a neutral foot profile. The performance insoles maintain this profile and hence help enhanced and prolonged periods of stressful activity.

Pain-Reducing Insoles: A completely flat foot can be a painful experience for the concerned professional. Pain-reducing insoles are advised by doctors for professional or daily use for flat foot. They are especially applicable for patients who have arthritis, Achilles tendonitis, and other issues. 

HOW TO SELECT BEST INSOLES FOR FLAT FEET?

To select the ideal insole, one must carefully analyze their feet on certain points. 

Type of arch/crest:

  • No arch (Flat Foot)
  • Uneven or unorthodox crest
  • Normal arch

Work profile/ User requirement

  • Day to day use
  • Sports and athletics
  • Professional use
  • Medically recommended use

Major Issue Behind the Use

  • Higher Comfort
  • Performance Enhancement
  • Pain Relief
  • Profile correction (Walk profile) 

Once the correct requirement is shortlisted, it becomes easier to choose the correct insole. To subdivide the variety of cases in an organized manner, the insole selection can be sub-categorized as:

For Work Boots/Shoes:

The majority of people with a flat foot or low arch wear daily work boots or shoes. As per their work nature, it can cause excruciating pain for a prolonged period of discomfort. To identify the correct insoles for these, common users always look for a few key features.

  • Type of Foam: Memory foam or absorbing kind is preferred.
  • Region of Pain: If the Pain is in heels or in the knees, the selection of the profile is made accordingly.
  • Posture: Especially for traveling and moving professionals, insoles with ideal arch and posture are preferred as per personal needs.
  • Technology: Gel type retaining or simply latex built (also depends on budget and frequency of use)

Best Insoles For Running Shoes

Athletes with relatively flatter feet or lesser crest can opt for a variety of insoles. The prime focus while selecting insoles for running can be attributed to the following points:

  • Shock/Stress Absorption: Insole with custom foam pattern and distinguished arch support give higher shock absorption capacity and lower rolling
  • Foot Profile: Depending on the nature of profile (inward, neutral, outward) an athlete or runner can choose a correcting insole. Typically, these individuals opt for custom or molded insoles.
  • Periods of Stress: If the flatness is true and stress periods are long, pain-relieving insoles are a must. These are recommended by physiotherapists, certified doctors, or suggested by coaches.
  • Adjustable Arch Profile: Certain insoles have the feature of adjusting the crest or arch profile with strap-on options or replaceable profiles.

For Plantar Fasciitis

It is a state where the tendons are swollen. The tissue at the foot’s lower half (which is in ground contact) gives unbearable pain. The tissues can be sore or torn, depending on the extent of damage (Tsung, Zhang, Mak, & Wong, 2004). In addition to an ideal insole, medical consultation is important.

Important points for correct insole:

  • Pain Relief: People suffer from pain for years but do not emphasize on it. A perfect profile of insole can work wonders on the pain.
  • Medically Proven: A variety of insoles are loosely available. Because the cause is more personal, hence serious medical advice is recommended.
  • The Pattern of Comfort: Since the usage will be prolonged, hence comfort is necessary. Sleeve or sock type can be chosen if suitable.
  • Cost-Effective: Just because an insole is costly, doesn’t mean it is right. Profile and usage should be mutually dependent. Hence cost analysis is important.

Injury Prevention:

High-intensity activities for flat-footed people can cause serious injuries. The use of preventive insoles is recommended (Nagano & Begg, 2018). If the correct insole is not used, tendons and ligaments and joints can get impacted. Stress fractures or tears can be career-ending for professionals.

  • Impact Bracing: Intense sessions can lead to high impact and loading. This needs sufficient cushioning and buffer. 
  • Pain Relief: Sometimes, the athletes are willing to put tough yet painful sessions. The right insole should lower the magnitude of the pain.
  • Flexibility and Profile: With fluid/ gel technology, the profile is not only flexible but also has memory. The repeated use shall enable a flexible fitting.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Insoles?

Advantages of Insoles

  • Enhancement of comfort level.
  • Prevention of overloading and muscle/tissue tear.
  • Delay or avoidance of major issues like arthritis.
  • The flexibility of Achilles tendon.
  • Performance Enhancement for professionals and athletes.
  • Pain relief for moderately and severely affected patients.

Disadvantages of Insoles

  • Do not address the main cause. Only provide a temporary fix.
  • It can exaggerate the problem by overuse.
  • Wrong use can give alternative problems.
  • Usage without recommendation or consultation can lead to hip and knee pain.