Why Flat Feet Make You Faster?
It has been widely talked about all the negatives of having a flat foot or a low ankle bone when it comes to sports performance. In today’s post, I will go over all the advantages of flat feet, talk about some famous athletes with flat feet, and discuss how flat feet can actually make you faster.
To start, Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time, is flat-footed. There are many professional basketball players and countless athletes/sprinters who are flat-footed and do incredibly well in the sports they play. Also, about 20-25% of people are generally flat-footed.
For instance, having flat feet gives you the unique ability as an athlete to absorb shock better as compared to someone with a high arch. This is because when landing the foot arch itself has more range of motion to control and absorb shock.
Overall, there’s NO evidence to support that flat foot negatively impacts your speed or ability to run fast. However, it is important to understand that people that are flat footed do need to strengthen their feet in order to run fast or have success in sports. The reality is there are some risks that come from this foot type that we will go more in depth into.
Famous Flat Foot Runners:
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having flat feet and how they can make you faster:
Believe it or not, you are actually less injury prone with a flat arch than somebody who has a high arch. It’s because a flat foot creates more flexibility within the foot which is incredible for shock absorption in comparison to a high arch which has less flexibility and therefore less ability to absorb.
The key thing to bear in mind is that it’s not about what you are born with that makes the difference, it’s about how you train and strengthen your feet to make sure your genetics and how you were born strengths, not weaknesses.
Better Landing Mechanics
Athletes with flat feet can do an excellent job of controlling their landing phase while sprinting., which is critical in maximizing foot contact time Additionally, typically when first hitting the ground the foot is in close to a neutral or slightly pronated position and extending when contacting the ground. Then when the foot hits the ground the foot can easily go through excessive pronation to quickly transition off the ground. This is an advantage in comparison to someone with high arches or weak feet.
This is why it is extremely important to develop strong feet to control landing no matter what type of arch you have. A common issue people with flat feet have is maintaining good arch support when landing leading to long foot contact or potential injuries. This is because of a fallen arch during deceleration or the inside ankle bone falling down towards the floor. A normal foot creates more natural stability to control this.
After the foot pronates to stabilize the landing it also goes right back into extension which is why having the added flexibility is a huge benefit to be able to run faster. This comes from having great stability and balance in the foot and ankle all the way up to the hips.
Flat vs Normal Feet Best Running Shoe
In addition, studies suggest that training with bare feet can even help you improve your speed and performance. This is because the foot has to respond to uneven surfaces and achieve better motion control. Even if the foot is more flat because the entire body will be able to develop additional strength in comparison to only training with shoes on.
When it comes to running shoes, there is a huge difference between those that are designed for flat feet and those that are made for high arches or neutral foot shapes. The main reason is the cushioning and support. For flat feet, you’ll want something with extra cushioned midsoles and more stability features like arch supports, dual-density midsoles, or even orthotics. Shoes designed for high-arched feet on the other hand are usually lighter and less cushioned as they don’t need to provide as much support.
When buying a new shoe you should consider what pair to get based off how you currently use your shoes. You can see if you have excessive heel striking or put more pressure on one foot in comparison to the other when walking or running. Based on how worn out the heel is you may need orthotics or at the very least toes to help keep your toes wide.
Important Points to Consider
- When your heel drops, it’s called pronation, and when the arch is coming up, it’s called supination. If we compare two athletes, one has a flat foot and the other doesn’t, we notice that even people who don’t have problems with arches don’t necessarily have good landing mechanics.
- A person with high arches can find it difficult to get into a pronated position; whereas, the athlete who has flat feet gets into pronation rather quickly. Typically this leads to faster foot contact time and quicker turnover
- People with flat feet are more at risk for plantar fasciitis and shin splints. This is why training foot strength and balance is critical to play sports at a high level and stay healthy.
- You don’t have to correct your flat foot, regular arch, and high arch. Instead learn how to use your body weight to help you run faster and generate more power.
- If you have flat feet, you’d want to spend some time strengthening your arch for better body control and movement. There are many different balance exercise and arch exercises to do in order to train your feet to be strong. Here is a video I made to help you. Best Body Weight and Strength Training Exercises For Your Feet
Frequently Asked Questions:
If I have flat feet do I need arch supports?
The simple answer is no you do not need to get orthotics with flat feet. However you should consider getting a shoe that gives plenty of cushion especially for runners. There should also be plenty of space for the toes to properly absorb the body weight. Vans would be an excellent example of a terrible shoe as it provides terrible cushion and limits range of motion in the big toe. This will make the feet week and the arches will have even less support.
Is it okay to run with flat feet?
Yes, many runners have flat feet. However, it’s important to make sure you have the right type of running shoes that gives proper arch supports. If you are just starting to run be sure you get plenty of rest to prevent overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis or pain in the knees. If you do not build strength in the lower legs you are putting yourself much more at risk for pain long term..
Are there different types of flat feet?
There are two main types of flat feet – flexible flat feet and rigid flat feet. Flexible flat feet tend to have a flat arch, with the majority of the foot touching the ground when standing. Rigid flat feet typically have a more pronounced arch, but still may cause discomfort when running due to the lack of cushioning in the sole. (This is a main cause of plantar fasciitis and shin splints)
Are flat feet good for running?
Flat feet is not good for running but it is not necessarily bad either. Really the additional flexibility in the arch is good for sprinting in comparison to long distance running. Typically people with flat feet are light on their toes and are able to maintain a good athletic position. This is great when playing a sport but for runners who are putting massive amounts of repetitive force into the legs could be more susceptible to injury.
How are flat feet diagnosed?
Flat feet, or fallen arches, can be diagnosed by a physical examination of the feet. In those cases where fallen arches are caused by an irritated posterior tibial tendon, the doctor may want to observe how the patient stands and their GAIT pattern when they walk. Flexibility tests can also be done to help narrow down a diagnosis. Depending on the situation and any existing symptoms, X-rays or an ultrasound may also be used to examine the feet and determine how or why the arches may be causing pain.
There are so many potential anatomical differences in the foot so at the end of the day the feet are not the reason for success or failure. It is how you utilize your feet that really makes a difference. This includes the toes and ankles as well. The big toe must have great flexibility to maximize vertical push-off. The ankles must properly bend and stabilize to help the feet absorb the force into the ground.
We can go much deeper into many of these concepts and we will through more of these blog posts. For now, if you are interested in getting training from us or would like to work with one of our coaches check out some of these links to learn more.