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Flat Feet and Exercising

Joe Fleming explains how you can safely work out if you have flat feet.

Do you have flat feet? If so, you are not alone. Approximately thirty per cent of all people deal with flat feet and the challenges that come with them.

Flat feet and fallen arches can make exercise, in particular, quite challenging, especially workouts that involve running or jumping. Having flat feet does not mean you have to skip exercising altogether. Read on to learn tips and tricks that will make working out with flat feet easier and more enjoyable.

How to Tell if You Have Flat Feet

Some people are well aware of their flat feet, but about one in ten people do not realize anything abnormal about their feet.

If you are not sure if this is a problem for you, stand up straight and check to see if the arch of your foot touches the ground. There should be a bit of space between the sole of your foot and the floor. If your feet overpronate (ankles roll inward) while you walk, flat feet are probably the culprit.

Why Can Flat Feet be a Problem?

Some people do not feel held back by their flat feet. But, for many others, flat feet can lead to more severe issues. Some of the most common problems that arise from flat feet include:

  • Ankle, knee, hip, and back pain
  • Acute and chronic foot pain, especially in the arches or balls of the feet
  • Swelling and stiffness in the lower body
  • Increased injury risk from overpronation

One study also found that people with flat feet have a harder time walking than people with normal arches. They have to work harder and consume more oxygen as they walk.

If you deal with pain or experience general difficulty during workouts, your arches might be the problem.

What Causes Flat Feet?

In many cases, flat feet are genetic. However, many health conditions can contribute to fallen arches and flat feet. Some of the most well-known conditions associated with flat feet include:

  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Posterior tibial tendon damage, rupture, or dysfunction
  • Diseases related to nervous system dysfunction or muscle weakness (cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, etc.)
  • Tarsal coalition (bones of the foot fuse together)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Tendonitis
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy

Choosing Shoes for Working Out with Flat Feet

Flat feet should not hold you back from working out. Choosing the right shoes for working out with flat feet can make all the difference in your stamina, pain levels, and overall workout performance.

Listed below are some tips that will help you choose the right shoes for your favourite workouts:

Choose a Straight-Last Shoe

The shape a shoe is built around is referred to as a last. People with flat feet tend to do best with a shoe built around a straight or semi-straight last. When you shop for shoes, you should be able to find out from a shoe store employee or through a simple online search whether the shoe you are considering is a straight- or curved-last shoe.

Look for a Low- or No-Drop Shoe

It is also helpful to shop for a shoe described as low- or no-drop. A high-heeled shoe would be considered a high-drop shoe; a flip-flop would be a no-drop or low-drop shoe. Wearing low- or no-drop shoes with supportive insoles will help keep your feet neutral and provide more stability.

Low- or no-drop shoes also prevent heel striking, which contributes to knee pain for many people.

Choose a Shoe with Plenty of Arch Support

Good arch support is ideal for people with flat feet. When shopping for running or workout shoes, look for a pair that has an arch built into both the sole and the insert in the shoe. This will prevent slipping and give you more stability.

Make sure there is not any "give" under the arch, either. This will worsen as you continue to wear your shoes, and they will be less effective at preventing pain and injuries.

The Best Exercises for Flat Feet

You cannot reverse flat feet or fallen arches, but you can make them less painful by working on strengthening your feet regularly. Listed below are three exercises that will help relieve many of the aches and pains associated with flat feet.

Barefoot Walking

One of the simplest things to strengthen your feet and reduce the negative symptoms of fallen arches is to walk around barefoot whenever possible. It allows you to get better connected to the way you move and use the small muscles in your feet without interference from your shoes.

Arch-Strengthening Exercises

For this simple arch-strengthening exercise, all you will need is a pen and a penny. Place the penny under the ball of your barefoot and place the end of the pen under the middle of the arch so that it sticks out from the inside of the foot.

Flex the arch muscle in your foot to feel the ball of your foot pushing down into the penny. Keep your toes relaxed, and make sure your arch does not press into the pen. Do this exercise 5-10 times in a row on each foot.

Advanced Arch-Strengthening

When you have mastered the above exercise, you can make it more challenging by standing on one leg while you flex your arch muscles. Stand with your back to a wall when you do this.

After finding your balance, lift one arm and reach across your body to touch the wall behind you. Do not let your ankle roll outward.

Return to the beginning position and repeat with the other arm. Do this exercise five times, then switch feet.

Final Thoughts

Do not let flat feet hold you back from working out regularly (and do not use them as an excuse to avoid exercise). With a bit of work and the right pair of shoes, you should not have any problems maintaining a consistent workout routine.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FLEMING, J. (2018) Flat Feet and Exercising [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at Passionate about healthy lifestyles, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.