Buying running shoes is always a challenge, but if you've got flat feet it's even harder. That's why it's extra important to consider the features carefully when shopping for the best running shoes for flat feet. To get some expert recommendations, I emailed Dr. Mohammad Rimawi, DPM, a NYC-based podiatrist with Grand Central Footcare. Dr. Rimawi stressed that flat feet are "only one of many factors to consider when buying the right pair of running shoes."
While trying to zero in on your footwear needs, it's helpful to first understand the two types of flat feet:
Flexible versus rigid flat feet
- Flexible flat feet: Often referred to as "collapsed arches," this is the most common type of flat feet, according to Dr. Rimawi. In this scenario, the flatness is caused by muscle weakness that makes the arches collapse when your feet strike the ground. This can be due to an injury, a health condition that causes inflammation, or simple underuse. An extra stable sneaker with lots of arch support will be ideal to help you build muscle over time.
- Rigid flat feet: In other cases, your arches may be "non-existent at all times," Dr. Rimawi said. This is also referred to as "structural flatfeet" and is less common. In these cases, extra arch support will not always be helpful and in some cases can create further discomfort.
What to know about foot rotation
In addition to flexible versus rigid flat feet, another factor to consider is foot rotation. According to Dr. Rimawi, some people naturally have the tendency to over-pronate, in which they rotate their foot inward too much. There are also people with under-pronation (aka "supination"), in which they don’t rotate their foot inward enough. Not everyone has these issues, but if you do, sneakers that are specifically developed for over- or under-pronated feet may help.
What are the best running shoes for flat feet?
Since no two flat feet are the same, it is difficult to offer generalized recommendations on footwear. "Each individual's foot type is equivalent to their own unique finger print," Dr. Rimawi explained. "Therefore generic recommendations may not meet their specific demands. If one is serious about running, a proper evaluation by a Podiatrist is warranted."
Nevertheless, he did say there are certain traits that are often helpful as a general guideline:
- A shock-absorbing heel
- An inflexible mid-section
- A semi-flexible front-section roughly 10 millimeters shorter than the heel height (often called a "heel drop.")
He pointed out, however, that these suggestions are only meant for people with flexible flat feet. Folks with structural issues will have much more variation and need to consult a doctor.
For folks with flexible flat feet, he offered the following recommendations as some of the best running shoes for flat feet. Use these picks as additional guidance (along with advice from your own doctor) to ensure you have the best footwear possible for your next run.