Being flat-footed, which is also known as having a low arch, can lead to foot pain and other muscle and joint pain during workouts without the proper shoes for support. When shopping for athletic shoes made specifically for flat-footed folks, take into consideration the shape of your foot, your walking stride, and the motion control of the shoes.
Assess Your Arch
Before shopping around for your next pair of athletic shoes, assess your arches to be sure you have the correct information to get the best shoes for you. The common test for determining your arch type is the "wet test," as Runner's World calls it. For this test, simply dip your feet in water, then step onto a piece of cardboard or a brown paper bag. Seeing no arch, only the outer edge of the middle of your feet, you have a high arch; seeing about half of your arch indicates a normal arch. If you can see all or nearly all of your footprint, you have a low arch.
Flat feet require serious support from shoes. "Fitness" magazine suggests trying cross-trainers or tennis shoes for more vigorous workouts, since these shoes are made to accommodate sideways movements in addition to forward movement. To determine the amount of support a shoe can provide, hold the shoe perpendicular to the floor with the toe of the shoe touching the floor. If the shoe bends when you press down on the heel, "Fitness" magazine says the shoe will not properly support low arches.
Although it is not always the case, many people who have low arches also tend to overpronate. This means that as you walk or run you roll your foot inward too much when your foot strikes the ground. Runner's World recommends taking a pair of shoes you wear often and placing them together, heels outward, on a flat surface such as a table. If you see that the shoes sag inward toward the arches, you likely overpronate. If the shoes stand straight up, you do not overpronate. If this is the case, the Mayo Clinic recommends athletic shoes with motion control and a straight last, which refers to the shape of the sole, to keep your foot stable.
When trying on athletic shoes, wear the type of socks you will normally be wearing with the shoes, and try to fit shoes near the end of the day, when feet are slightly swollen from the day's walking. If possible, go to a specialty store where you can have your walking and running style assessed by an expert, who can then recommend several brands of shoes for you to try on.
Shawna Van Trease has been a freelance copy editor and writer since 2007. She has written extensively for private clients, including market research and website development firms. Van Trease holds a Master of Arts in social work from the University of Chicago.