Flat feet (also known as pes planus or pes valgus) are characterized by low arches: feet lay flat on the ground. This guide does cover the best walking shoes for flat feet along with an in-depth overview on what you need to know if you have flat feet.
Disclaimer: This guide was created for educational purposes and tends in no way to offer medical advice or diagnosis.
How we review walking shoes for flat feet
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Do you need shoes for flat feet?
Yes, if you have flat feet.
There are two types of flat feet: rigid and flexible. Rigid is handled with surgery, because the arch of the foot is always missing, whether it’s a weight- or non weight-bearing condition. Flexible flat feet miss the arch only when weight bearing. When feet are elevated, arch is visible. This type of flat feet is the focus of this guide.
Symptoms of flat feet
Flat feet is tightly related to severe overpronation: feet rolling inwards during walking.
Possible symptoms of flat feet are:
- Painful or achy feet
- Leg and back pain
- Swelling on the inner side of your feet
- Feet get tired easily
Discover your arch type
If, based on the graph above, you’re still not sure about your arch type, you can do a quick wet test to find out. You should: wet the sole of your foot (ideally both of them, one at a time), then stand on a piece of paper while allowing the moisture from your feet to sink into the paper, and step off.
It is easy to notice the difference between these types: flat arch simply leaves the biggest wet footprint, without a distinctive curve between forefoot and the heel.
If you’re not confident about this test or feel your feet need more attention, consult a podiatrist. They look at your barefoot movement, pronation, tibia rotation, and heel deviation - which gives them a complete picture of your feet.
6 Features of walking shoes for flat feet
1. Arch support
- Makes the movement more comfortable
- This study has shown that oxygen consumption during walking is decreased when a suitable arch support for flat feet is used.
- Wearing arch support insoles can be beneficial for uphill and downhill walking exercises in persons with flatfoot because the results of this study showed that oxygen uptake was effectively decreased during uphill and downhill walking, and there was less rectus femoris muscle fatigue (one of the quadriceps muscles) during downhill walking (as shown here).
2. Stability for overpronation
- Stability features are needed to support the foot and distribute weight evenly. Stability for overpronators is explained in detail in our guide for overpronation shoes.
3. Stiff heel counter
- Heel support is needed so the heel is stable and the foot doesn’t roll inward.
- Look for a stiff heel counter and padded heel (for comfort).
- You should look for a snug fit in the heel area.
4. Firm midfoot
- Choose shoes that are more on the firm than on the soft side. Your feet need stability. This means you shouldn’t be able to twist (torsional flexion) the shoe easily, only to a degree.
5. Wide-fit shoes
- People with flat feet tend to choose wide models most often.
- Shoe should not squish (on top) or squeeze (from sides) the toes.
6. Removable insole
- This feature comes in handy when you decide to buy a pair of insoles for flat feet.
Average price of walking shoes for flat feet
When looking at the average MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price), we can see that walking shoes are more expensive than the other shoes. However, those prices are tagged when shoes appear on the market. You can always look for good deals (discounts). If you’re looking for tips on finding good deals, check our guide for buying cheap shoes.
FAQ about flat feet
What causes flat feet?
Flat feet might be hereditary or acquired. For the latter, they happen as a consequence of obesity, aging, pregnancy, or specific health conditions.
According to this study, the main factors that contribute to an acquired flat foot are excessive tension in the triceps surae (consists of two muscles and forms the main mass of the calf), obesity, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, or ligamentous laxity in the spring ligament, plantar fascia, or other supporting plantar ligaments.
Weakness of the muscular, ligamentous, or bony arch supporting structures will lead to collapse of the arch. Basically there’s too little support for the arch or too much arch flattening effect. Acquired flat foot most often happens due to the combination of too much force flattening the arch in the face of too little support for the arch.
Does flexible flatfoot require treatment?
As shown in this study, the arches of flatfoot (and also normal foot) are obviously influenced when walking down the stairs. The plantar data were significantly increased. This goes to prove that it’s necessary to wear orthotic insoles for flexible flatfoot in order to prevent further deformation.
This study has also shown that using a foot insole improved foot alignment and decreased energy consumption in people with flat feet.
Can walking barefoot fix flat feet?
There is no evidence that would support this. People think that, for this to happen, muscles need to get stronger by walking barefoot. This study has shown that with strengthening the muscles the arch height doesn’t change, and this study has shown that stronger muscles don’t mean higher arch.
Should I consider insoles or orthotics?
Depends on your condition. If you’re curious about insoles, you can dig into our guide on insoles.