Ah, the dreaded flat foot. Devoid of the beautiful feminine arch seen in commercials for faraway beach vacations, the flat foot can cause pain and present uncomfortable biomechanical issues such as hip and knee discomfort. Shopping for appropriate footwear be challenging. The key words buyers should look for are stability, support and motion control.
In technical terms, a flat foot refers to a collapsed arch and most -- or all -- of the sole is in contact with the ground. It can be present in one or both feet. Infants commonly have flat feet due to baby fat, but the arch generally develops as the child grows. Adults can develop flat feet due to prolonged foot stress, injuries, illnesses or as part of the aging process. Oftentimes, discomfort in the hip or knee can be traced back to flat feet. Flat-footed folks often overpronate, which means that the foot turns inward too much.
You can check your feet at home with a simple test. Wet your feet and stand on a piece of heavy paper or cardboard. Step off and examine your footprint. If you see a void between the ball of your foot and your heel, you have an arch. If you see your entire footprint from toe to heel, you have flat feet. Flat-footed folks need to be diligent when shopping for footwear and purchase shoes that provide support.
Stable and Able
Cross trainers are ideal for exercise enthusiasts because they provide support for lateral motion. They also tend to have a wide base, which is helpful for stability. You’ll want to shop for a cross trainer that has a lot of support. Try folding the shoe in half. If it bends in the middle, look for a shoe with thicker support.
Some cross trainers have motion control, which essentially restricts movement. Although these are great shoes for those without arches, they tend to be unpopular because they are heavy and unwieldy. Cross trainers may also be labeled as “stability,” which means they are intended to keep the foot and ankle aligned and stable. Both motion control and stability shoes are ideal for flat feet because they provide extra support and reduced motion.
If you find that your cross trainers aren’t doing the trick, you can supplement your support with orthotic inserts. Orthotics can be custom made by a podiatrist after a mold of your foot is made. These tend to be expensive, but they will provide exactly the amount of support needed. Alternatively, you can buy generic orthotic inserts from sporting goods stores. These will be less expensive, but they will not feature a custom fit.
If you're having trouble locating appropriate shoes for your feet, consider seeing a board certified podiatrist who can evaluate your feet and provide recommendations. Your cross trainers should not require "breaking in." If they feel uncomfortable, keep shopping.
Kelly N. Vance is an ACE-certified personal trainer and accomplished fitness and nutrition writer who has worked in and written about the fitness industry for 10 years. Her additional qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a minor in English and multiple fitness certifications.