If you're a runner with flat feet, you're definitely not alone. Up to 20 percent of the population deals with this condition, which is also referred to as pes planus.
While not everyone with flat feet experiences pain, it can predispose you to other painful conditions like plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation on the bottom of your foot, or posterior tibial tendonitis, which causes pain at the ankle. Fortunately, you've got several options to take to improve your chances of a pain-free run.
Strengthening your posterior tibialis muscle can help decrease the forces on the bottom of your foot and increase the likelihood that you are able to run comfortably with flat feet.
This muscle runs down the back of your leg and along the inside of your ankle before inserting into the bottom of your foot. Not only does it help to point your foot down and inwards, but it also plays a big role in stabilizing your arch and preventing it from collapsing while you run.
The resisted inversion exercise can help you target this muscle.
How To: Sit in a chair with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Tie one end of a resistance band around your right forefoot and secure the other end in a door directly to your right. Keeping your heel on the ground, slowly move your foot inwards as the resistance in the band builds. When you are unable to continue this motion without moving your lower leg, hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds before releasing the tension.
Do three sets of 10 repetitions daily.
Orthotics are another effective way to adjust your gait and improve your ability to run with pes planus. In individuals with flat feet, it's usually best to get an orthotic that spans the length of the foot and provides good support at the arch.
While over-the-counter inserts may be enough, custom orthotics with increased padding on the inside part of the foot may also be necessary. This type of orthotic encourages a more neutral hind foot position and can decrease the strain placed on the arch while you run. Your doctor or physical therapist can give you more guidance on selecting an orthotic that is right for you.
The inner or intrinsic muscles on the bottom of your foot also play an important role in running with flat feet. These muscles help maintain the height in your arch when you put weight through your foot.
Running can subject your feet to forces up to twice that of your body weight. By strengthening the intrinsics, you diminish the pressure placed on the bottom of the foot so it's spread out more equally.
Short foot exercises are a good way to activate these muscles.
How To: Sit on a chair with your bare feet on the floor. Without curling your toes or moving your heel, raise the middle portion of your foot and increase the height in your arch. Maintain this position for 1 to 2 seconds and then lower the foot back down again. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions of the exercise every day. When this becomes easy, make it more challenging by doing the exercise while standing up.
When attempting to return to running, it's important to progress your exercising slowly to avoid irritation or pain. After a proper warm up, begin by jogging at a slower pace and running for about 25 to 30 percent of your previous mileage.
If you have never run before, start with a 5- to 10-minute session. Initially, allow your body one to two days of rest in between runs and avoid exceeding three jogs per week. When you're able to complete your weekly runs without increased pain, increase your mileage by 10 percent each week.
If pain does occur, however, repeat the previous week's mileage until it can be done without increased foot symptoms.
Warnings and Precautions
If foot pain persists or worsens in spite of the suggestions listed above, it's best to stop your workout and speak to a doctor about your condition. Running through your pain can cause symptoms to persist longer and may further delay your ability to exercise. In addition, pain may be a sign of a more serious issue like a stress fracture or a vascular condition. .