For those of us with flat feet, running can prove to be a more complicated endeavor than one might assume. Foot pain, fatigue, cramps, aches—the list of common complaints goes on, and those don’t even account for the stress that comes with finding a well-fitting shoe. Some offer support for a few miles, others a few months, and nothing is ever consistent from one pair to the next. But the best running shoes for flat feet can offer much-needed support to reduce the likelihood of injury and ensure your runs remain efficient and enjoyable. Before you can address flat feet, however, you’ll first need to determine if your feet lack an arch in the first place.
The best running shoes for flat feet provide comfort and support to reduce pain when running. running shoes
Here’s a quick test to determine if you have flat feet: “If you were to step in water and then place your foot on something like brown paper—you can get a sense of what type of foot you have,” says Dr. Dan Geller, a Board Certified foot and ankle surgeon based in New York City. If you have a flat foot, the entire sole will touch the ground and the print won’t have the natural C-shape of a neutral or high arch.
Flat feet don’t always cause problems, but often times, “a flat foot leads to pronation which means your subtalar joint [on the inner side of your ankle] rolls inward and your heel bone goes outward,” explains Dr. Geller. When you look at a foot that’s overpronating, the ankles are falling towards the midline of the body and as a result, many people with flat feet are “prone to certain injuries more so than someone with a neutral foot type.” And “if your biomechanics are not corrected from the ground up, it can really affect your joints moving upwards, like your knees and hips.”
It’s not all bad news, though: Running shoes designed for flat feet can help you achieve a more ideal alignment throughout the entire gait cycle—from heel strike to propulsion. If your flat feet cause you to overpronate, you’ll want a shoe that offers support and directs your foot into a more neutral running position. You’ll have to choose between the three classifications of running shoes: neutral shoes, which do not offer any particular support along the medial edge, stability shoes, which blend support and cushiony softness, and motion control shoes which offer the most support through features like medial posts but “tend to be a bit more firm,” says Dr. Geller. And if you’re not sure how much support you need, it may be beneficial to consult a podiatrist to determine how your foot’s anatomy affects your exercise.
Truth be told, there’s no one-size-fits-all footwear solution for those with flat feet. You should still consider factors like fit (wide versus narrow), cushioning and the shoe’s basic design. But with these tips in mind, you should be able to identify a running shoe that meets your needs. Below, we’ve rounded up seven of the best running shoes for flat feet based on research and reviews. Find the pair that meets your needs and enjoy the pain-free miles to come.
Weight: 9.0 ounces | Cushion: Moderate | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 12 millimeters
Brooks is known for their roster of versatile road running shoes that perform well from daily training runs to big races, and the Adrenaline GTS 22 is no exception. (There’s a reason why this model is on it’s 22nd year.) The Brooks Adrenaline is known as a motion control shoe “because the medial or instep of the shoe tends to be a little bit higher and a little more firm, thereby creating more support and structure for the foot,” explains Dr. Geller.
Unlike some ultra-firm motion control shoes, Brooks strikes a fine balance between cushion and support. The Adrenaline feels soft enough that you can wear it on high mileage days thanks to the DNA Loft cushioning, but it still integrates patented GuideRails technology—two pieces of firm foam around the heel to keep your foot in a neutral position throughout your entire stride. For many flat-footed runners, the Brooks Adrenaline will provide that sweet spot of support.
Weight: 8.5 ounces | Cushion: Minimal | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 8 millimeters
These pronation control shoes from Asics are some of the best value shoes you can buy, even if you don’t happen to find them on sale. According to the brand, this model can prove beneficial for those suffering from injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, bunions or heel spurs. The knit upper is soft and flexible, allowing it to hug your foot and move with you, and the underside provides excellent shock absorption. “If you look at Asics, their Gel system works well for runners that are logging miles on concrete,” explains Dr. Geller. “That’s why a lot of people will gravitate to these shoes.” And, if you train at night, you’ll appreciate the reflective details that enhance your visibility in the dark.
Weight: 7.6 ounces | Cushion: High | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 5 millimeters
Maclean Wright, an avid runner in Salt Lake City who averages 1,200 miles a year on both roads and trails, has struggled to find comfortable shoes for his flat feet. Now, he swears by Hoka running shoes. For his road runs, he prefers the Arahi 6, a stability shoe, because of its lightweight design. While stability shoes are often a little heavier because of the materials required to provide more structure, these are the lightest shoes on this list at 7.6 ounces. “I used to roll my ankles all the time when I used more narrow performance sneakers, but the stability shoe is wider and therefore more stable,” he explains.
While this shoe doesn’t provide as much structure as a motion control shoe, Hoka’s J-Frame technology offers mild support along the entire length of the shoe, making it versatile enough for a wide range of runners. But this model is more than a stability shoe: Wright also loves the wide toe box and comfy cushioned sole for his long runs.
Weight: 5.8 ounces | Cushion: Minimal | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 0 millimeters
We mentioned before that there is no one right shoe for all runners with flat feet. While some prefer shoes packed with stability features or cushioning, others prefer to keep it minimal, claiming a lack of support can strengthen the musculature of the foot (which can help with collapsed arches.)
With that in mind, the Xero HFS is an ideal transition shoe for runners looking to start their barefoot journey. While many barefoot shoes sacrifice protection for a more natural feel, these have a five-millimeter rubber sole that guards against rocks and a 3.5-millimeter removable insole for extra padding when you want it (and more minimalism when you don’t). They’re also incredibly lightweight and breathable, making them perfect for runs in warm temps.
Keep in mind that research on barefoot shoes is limited and your personal preference may be dictated by your symptoms. If you regularly experience injuries or extreme overpronation when running in traditional shoes, you may want to consult a podiatrist before switching to barefoot shoes.
Weight: 7.9 ounces | Cushion: High | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 8 millimeters
While many of the best speed-oriented running shoes offer neutral support, Saucony has packed some of the most impressive features of its high performance shoes (like the Endorphin Speed) into a stability shoe. On the speed side, it has springy PWRRUN PB foam for superior energy return and a FORMFIT design so you can achieve a perfect, snug fit. But it doesn’t skimp on stability either. Along the medial side of the shoe, Saucony incorporated a stiffer piece of PWRRUN foam to serve as a frame which prevents your foot from caving inward while you run. If you’re looking to push the pace while keeping your flat feet supported, this shoe is definitely down to get you moving.
Weight: 10.6 ounces | Cushion: Moderate | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 12 millimeters
Runners who experience extreme overpronation may appreciate the rigidity of the Mizuno Wave Inspire 18. A plastic wave plate in the midsole creates structure and provides a firm surface, while the heel counter (a design feature which reinforces the heel cup) is firm with moderate padding along the sides to prevent excessive movement. Not only is the midsole designed to enhance stability, but the snug upper and gusseted tongue fit like a glove, too.
One other unique feature of this shoe is the heel drop, which is the difference between the height of the heel and the toe. At 12 millimeters, it’s much more extreme than other shoes on this list, but the elevated heel reduces stress on the Achilles tendon, which can be beneficial for runners with mobility issues or lack of flexibility in the calf muscles.
Weight: 10.6 ounces | Cushion: Moderate | Heel-To-Toe Drop: 11 millimeters
When it comes to running trails, stability is even more important than it would be on paved roads—every step can set your foot off balance as you navigate roots, rocks and uneven ground. It’s easy to roll an ankle, even for runners without the tendency to overpronate, so it’s important to pair your foot with a highly stable and supportive shoe like the Salomon XA Pro 3D V8.
There’s a lot to love about this shoe, like Salomon’s impressive Contagrip rubber outsole which sticks to pretty much everything—including wet rocks—with ease. It also features a Quicklace system so you can simply pull a tab to cinch down the upper, a protective toe cap in case you slam your foot against rocks and comfortable EVA foam for shock absorption. But what sets this shoe apart from the rest of Salomon’s footwear lineup is the 3D Chassis that sits between the outsole and midsole to provide an extra layer of support (but it does add a little bulk too). As a burly trail runner that offers the stability of a hiking shoe, you’ll find that it weighs a bit more, but you’ll also enjoy the support underfoot.
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