Buying running shoes is always a challenge, but if you've got flatfeet it's even harder. That's why it's extra important to consider the features carefully when shopping for the best running shoes for flatfeet. To get some expert recommendations, I emailed Dr. Mohammad Rimawi, DPM, a NYC-based podiatrist with Grand Central Footcare. Dr. Rimawi stressed that flatfeet 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 flatfeet:
Flexible versus rigid flatfeet
- Flexible flatfeet: Often referred to as "collapsed arches," this is the most common type of flatfeet, 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 flatfeet: 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 flatfeet, 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 flatfeet?
Since no two flatfeet 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 flatfeet. Folks with structural issues will have much more variation and need to consult a doctor.
For folks with flexible flatfeet, he offered the following recommendations as some of the best running shoes for flatfeet. 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.
1. These Shock-Absorbing, Gel-Cushioned Sneakers That Are Great For Over-Pronation
What's great about them: Specifically designed for feet that tend to over-pronate, these women's running shoes make a good fit for many people with flexible flatfeet, according to Dr. Rimawi. They have a gel-cushioning system that offers extra shock absorption, particularly during the impact and toe-off phase of the foot strike, and a rigid heel-cup for stability. They feature 3 millimeters of added height and a stiff, sturdy mid-foot section. The sneakers come in 15 color options and a wide variety of sizing (including wide and narrow sizes).
What fans say: "I’ve been an ASICS fan since I was a teenager. In my opinion, as someone with flat feet, they’re the best running shoe. For a couple years the style of the gel kayanos changed but I have to say this model is just like the sneakers I fell in love with. Great fit, excellent support, and appropriate flexibility near the toe. I highly recommend."
- Available sizes: 5 to 13 (regular, narrow, wide)
2. These Dual-Stability Shoes For Neutral Or Under-Pronators With Segmented Crash Pads
What's great about them: Designed for feet with neutral to under-pronation, these women's running shoes are a good fit for flexible flatfeet that tend to under-rotate when they run. They're built with a strong, 10-millimeter heel drop and dual-stability arch pods that provide extra support in the mid-section. They have moisture-wicking mesh to keep your feet cool and a soft, padded tongue. The high-energizing cushioning makes the heels extra shock-absorbing, and the shoes also have segmented crash pads for seamless transitions. The lightweight sneakers come in three colors and a range of sizing that includes wide and extra-wide options.
What fans say: "I walk about 3 miles every morning and they make it SO comfortable and easy! Sturdy and fit like a glove! Recommended by my chiropractor! and I'm SO glad to have found them!"
- Available sizes: 6 to 12 (regular, wide, extra wide)
3. These Moisture-Wicking Mesh Sneakers With A 10-Millimeter Heel Drop
What's great about them: Featuring a 10-millimeter heel drop, these mesh running shoes are another good choice for flatfooted feet due to collapsed arches, according to Dr. Rimawi. They showcase a well-cushioned footbed that absorbs impact and a sturdy rubber sole with great traction. The lightweight mesh is soft and breathable, with moisture-wicking properties and the ability to dry quickly. They are sturdy, stable, and come in a stylish light blue color.
What fans say: "My favorite thing about these is the mesh toebox ... Felt like I was just wearing socks with supportive bottoms. Normally I feel like shoes have a [breaking]-in period, but these were comfy right out of the gate.
- Available sizes: 7 to 11
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