Last updated on December 10th, 2019
Best Shoes for Flat Feet Posture
Odd as it may sound all humans are born with a low arch. By 10-12 years of age most develop a fully sound set of ligaments, bones and muscles of the foot called the Longitudinal Arch or LA (1). An estimated 20–25% of adults in the United States and Canada are diagnosed as having flat feet, either because they fail to develop a normal height arch or because the arch collapses(2-5). This article reviews the nature of flat feet and the important components of the best shoes for flat feet posture.
- Posture and Flat feet
- Common Problems
- Standing vs Walking vs Running
- Best Posture Shoes for Flat Feet
- Latest Reviews
Posture and Flat Feet
Most people who are have flat feet have an inward falling of the arch when standing. The result is decreased height and a loss in stiffness of the LA during walking (7-8). One study compared schoolkids who wore shoes regularly to others who were not. The results were amazing. The non-wearing shod children had overall wider feet and presented with fewer flat feet. Another study found positive changes in the arches of people who increased their barefoot activity. It’s arguable that the very same features of “support” in modern shoes that are meant to help, are causing foot deformation and weakness. We also may be focusing too much on flat feet instead of how strong they are.
Having flat feet doesn’t necessarily mean you will have problems (6). For those who do it’s usually pain and fatigue after long periods of standing or walking (9). It’s a good thing to have stiffness of the Longitudinal Arch as it enables it to function as a propulsive lever during walking and running(15). In fact, reduced stiffness is a risk factor for many lower body problems, such as(5,10-14):
- plantar fasciitis
- knee osteoarthritis
- tibialis posterior tendinopathy
- metatarsal stress fracture
- foot numbness
According to sports podiatrist Dr Ray McClanahan, “Shoes that progressively dislocate the big toes, over the course of a lifetime, cause bunions in nearly all cases.”
Standing vs Walking vs Running
Many people complain about pain with standing. An assumption is made that their flat feet is the cause. Of course it makes sense, as flat feet have been accused of causing conditions that can span from feet to head. The real culprit is not the flatness but the lack of strength and increase in “flabbiness” of the Longitudinal Arch(LA). The loss of strength and rigidity of the LA is connected to the use of the type of shoes worn. If you are standing for your work either stationary or with intermittent walking it is best to assess your shoes. Standing with heels has been shown to adversely affect balance and spinal alignment(19-20).
In the Journal of Experimental Biology, University of Arizona researcher James Webber explores why humans walk with a heel-to-toe stride. Webber explains, “Humans land on their heel and push off on their toes. You land at one point, and then you push off from another point eight to 10 inches away from where you started.
If you connect those points to make a pivot point, it happens underneath the ground, basically, and you end up with a new kind of limb length that you can understand. Mechanically, it’s like we have a much longer leg than you would expect.” His research showed that a non-heel striking walker was working 10 percent harder(16).
Traditional footwear elevates the heel an average of 14-24mm (0.5″-1.0″). Elevating the heel throws off the alignment of the spine and forces an unnatural heel strike. Based on this we need to look for a shoe that resembles or approximates normal walking landing of heel-to-toe stride. A shoe with “zero-drop” will honor the natural even level from toe to heel by maintaining even cushion throughout the foot.
Becoming one of the more studies behaviors of humans is the running stride. Many professionals are questioning the traditional heel-to-toe strike while running as 50 to 75% of all running injuries appear to be overuse injuries due to the constant repetition of the same movement(17). More research is being done each year showing that shifting a running gait away from a heel strike to a mid or forefoot strike may in fact reduce knee injuries(18).
In addition to heel strike it is important to have a wide toe box allowing for your toes to spread. This results in stronger feet. Strong feet are less likely to be painful feet when they have unrestricted movement.
Best Posture Shoes for Flat feet
Due to the narrowness of shoes in today’s market, most of us have experienced foot confinement whether we know it or not. Look for shoes that aim to fix these problems by allowing the toes comfort and the ability to spread and wiggle naturally. Shoes that are designed to mirror the natural shape of the human foot will not squeeze the toes together, nor will they raise the heel but instead give you enough protection from the environment while mimicking a natural barefoot movement. The best shoes for flat feet will place the forefoot and heel flat to the ground which would improve posture and encourage a mid-foot strike. These are the key points when finding the best shoes for flat feet:
- Wide toe box
- Zero-drop heel
- Flexible material
It would also be beneficial to work with a posture expert or practitioner well versed in “minimalist” or “zero-drop” shoes to advise on how to further strengthen your feet. Wearing minimalist shoes means using all the muscles and tendons in your feet more, including the arches. In changing perspective on what is causing your feet problems you will find that flat feet aren’t necessarily the problem but rather weak foot muscles and a loss of stiffness in your Longitudinal Arch.
Lems Primal 2
(20) Baaklini E1, Angst M2, Schellenberg F3, Hitz M4, Schmid S5, Tal A6, Taylor WR7, Lorenzetti S8. Gait Posture. 2017 Jun;55:12-14. High-heeled walking decreases lumbar lordosis.