If you have fallen arches, then you know what a pain it can be—literally. Keep your feet happy with these podiatrist-approved shoes for flat feet.
It's estimated that about 30% of people have fallen arches, or what you probably call flat feet. But how do you know if you have them? “Characteristics of flat feet are fallen arches or a loss of the arch completely,” Dr. Hillary Brenner, DPM, of Bell Health in New Jersey, tells Health. “The front of the foot and toes point outward and move away from the midline of the body, the ankle turns in, and the heel turns out.”
People with fallen arches need the right support from their shoes to promote proper alignment. Below, explore some of the best podiatrist-approved shoes for flat feet that ensure lasting support and comfort.
The best shoes for flat feet
- Best Everyday Sneakers: Munro Gabbie Sneaker
- Best Booties: Munro Lexi Boot
- Best Orthopedic: Alegria Paloma Slip-On
- Best Running Sneakers: Asics Gel Kayano 28 Sneaker
- Best Sandals: Birkenstock Arizona Soft Footbed Sandal
- Best Walking Shoes: New Balance 1540v3 Sneaker
- Best Slippers: Vionic Indulge Sadie Mule Slipper
- Best Heels: Coach Cora Block Heel Penny Loafer
- Best Flats: Mephisto Emilie Flats
- Best Flip-Flops: Oofos Oolala Sandal
- Best Slip-On Sneakers: Adidas Puremotion Adapt Running Shoe
The side effects of wearing an ill-fitting shoe
Low arches can cause more problems than you may realize: In addition to tired, achy, and swollen feet, flat arches can bring on bunions, hammertoes, tendonitis, arthritis, and flat-out pain (pun intended).
“A lot of times, when people have flat feet, they will experience pain in the heel, arch, ankle, and outside of the foot,” Dr. Brenner explains. “They can also have overall aches and pains throughout the foot and lower leg. Pain can also occur in the shins, knees, hip, and back. They can also get blisters on bony prominences, bruising on the toes, nails, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs.”
And the causes of flat-footedness may be just as varied as peoples’ experiences of the condition: “Foot type can be genetic or a result of imbalances and stresses put on the body, so there are many different types of flat feet,” says Emily Splichal, DPM, a New York City-based podiatrist. “Some people have a ‘pancake’ foot, while others are considered more of an over-pronation.”
RELATED: The Best Flats With Arch Support
What to consider when shopping for new shoes
No matter the shape of your flat foot, good gear will help keep a healthy pep in your step. We talked to experts to figure out what people with flat feet should look for in good-for-you shoes:
Your arch type: Before you pick a shoe, Dr. Chanel Perkins, DPM, says you need to better understand your arch type: flexible flat foot or rigid flat foot. “If you have a flexible flat foot, then the arch is maintained when sitting but collapses when standing. If you have a rigid flat foot, the arch stays flat whether sitting or standing. Having said that, a person with a flexible flat foot will have very different shoe needs from someone with a rigid flat foot.”
She continues, “If the flat foot is flexible, the main characteristic of the shoes is to reduce pronation, so the shoes will have to be firmer to allow correction of the foot to a more neutral position. On the contrary, if the flat foot is rigid, the shoe will need to be more cushioned and accommodative and therefore less firm and corrective.”
Stability: Since flat feet collapse inward when you walk and run, it’s important to get a stabilizing shoe that prevents overpronation, which will help minimize pain in your feet, ankles, knees, and legs. Look out for features like internal wedges along the arch and supportive posts. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Splichal stresses that you should “steer clear of flip-flops if you suffer from collapsed arches. A lack of arch support from shoes can increase the stress to the feet, as well as the knees and hips.” Ditto for ballet flats.
Durability: Generally speaking, the stronger the shoe, the better the support. “You want to check the flexibility of the shoe,” Dr. Perkins notes. “If it folds in half like a soft taco, it’s certainly not going to have the support you might need if you’re experiencing any arch or heel pain from flat feet.” A shoe with a dual-density midsole, or one that is wider and has better construction, will guarantee more support and protection.
Below, shop 11 cute pairs of shoes that meet podiatrists’ sole-centered standards.