Have flat feet? You can still tackle any distance in these podiatrist-approved running shoes for flat feet.
Even though it depends on a number of factors—including running style, body weight, and what kind of surface you typically run on—replacing your running shoes every 350-500 miles is usually a good idea, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM). If sneakers look visibly worn or are literally falling apart before that, though, it’s definitely time to say adios. We know how hard it can be to break in a new pair of running shoes, so finding a replacement can be overwhelming. And if you have flat feet, there are even more features you need to consider.
Motion-control shoes used to be the main option for those with flat feet, but newer studies show that "prescribing" shoes based on arch height or pronation doesn't necessarily reduce injury risk or pain in runners, says Minnesota-based podiatrist Paul Langer, DPM, from Twin Cities Orthopedics and a fellow at the AAPSM. "Matching the foot shape with the last shape of the shoe is a good starting point when focusing on fitting for comfort," he says.
A few important features to look for in a running shoe for flat feet are no heel elevation, no tapering of the toe box, and little to no toe spring, according to Ray McClanahan, DPM, founder of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon. He explains to Health that there are actually different kinds of flat feet (who knew?), including rigid flat feet, flexible flat feet, feet that are flat because they are weak, and feet that function flat due mostly to shoe construction.
While pronation is totally normal during the gait cycle, overpronation can cause a laundry list of problems, including tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and arthritis, and can even worsen bunions. Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a New York-based podiatric physician and Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons, tells us that "sneakers that have arch support built in, adding an insert or even a custom orthotic, in more severe cases, are also ways to control over pronation."
Another feature to consider is a shoe's flexibility, says Clifford Jeng, MD, medical director of the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. He points out that many shoe stores will organize their “shoe wall” into three main categories: neutral, stability, and motion control. Pronators should opt for a more stable shoe, he says. "You can recognize the shoes that will control motion better by the wide, chunky heel and the stiffer sole."
Below, we asked experts to share the sneakers they'd recommend for flat-footed runners—but it's important to note that they do also suggest getting professionally fitted so you have the best shoe for you, which can mean something different for everyone.