Buying shoes is quite often a fun and exciting activity. But for sufferers of flat-feet (like myself), it can prove to be a tedious and overwhelming task. There are many shoes on the market sporting all kinds of cool tech, different designs, and styles, but what’re the best shoes for flat feet? There are some essential characteristics to look out for those with flat-feet. This condition is sometimes misunderstood and can cause considerable discomfort to those unfortunate enough to be afflicted by it. But being flat-footed doesn’t mean you’re in the “not-so-hip” club. An estimated 20% – 30% of the population has some form of the condition which highlights just how common it is among the general public. There used to be a time where people would be disqualified from joining the US Military if they had flat feet (luckily, that is no longer the case). It was a recognized norm that flat-footers had less tolerance to foot stress than regular people. Studies have shown that people suffering from flat-feet generally experience a lower quality of life due to the various stresses resulting from irregular weight distribution on their feet, back, and hips. But, on the bright side, people with flat-feet can function just as effectively by implementing a few corrective measures.

What are Flat-Feet?

Flat feet and high arches explained in picture form
Flat-feet (or overpronation) presented on the right. Source: Mayo Clinic

Flat-Feet (also referred to as overpronation) is a relatively common condition where the arches of the feet have fallen, either partially or completely. There are various grades of flat-feet and it is often a condition that is genetic and requires no surgical treatment. It is relatively easy to determine if you have flat-feet – wet your feet and press them on a flat surface to determine your arch type. If the resulting print is a complete imprint of your foot, then you are highly likely to have flat-feet. Symptoms of flat-feet may include aches on your calves, lower back pain, and constant stabbing pain in your heels. Flat-feet may also contribute to reduced physical activity and low motivation due to the fact that you’re in pain anytime you try to walk a block or two. This makes choosing the right type of shoes incredibly important.

This guide will serve you with the best tips for picking the right shoes for flat-feet. Over the past 8 years, I have been on a quest to try and solve my flat-footedness without resorting to invasive procedures (aka surgery). The treatment for this condition ranges from orthopedic implants to physical therapy or simply just swapping for a pair of shoes designed for flat-feet. It is imperative that if you have this condition and it is causing you significant discomfort, you should see a doctor immediately as there could be some other underlying factors besides flat-feet. After being diagnosed, it is of utmost importance to provide the best support to your feet, so the condition does not worsen or cause you further pain. This is why your selection of shoe can be incredibly relevant to how the condition affects your life. Shopping for the best shoes for flat feet can be made far less stressful by following these simple and effective tips:

1Shop for Shoes Later in the Day

The first tip is to always shop for shoes later in the day. You may be wondering what difference this would make. Your feet swell ever so slightly during the day, and this little difference can prove decisive when testing the comfort of a pair of shoes. It stands to reason that to pick out the right shoe that will stay comfortable throughout the day, it is better to go try on shoes later in the day. This will allow you to pick the shoes that provide the best comfort as they will be a better fit than ones you may have selected first thing in the morning. These tiny differences can have the most significant results when it comes to finding the best shoes for flat feet that are comfortable and supportive.

2Be Wary of Size Variations

One important thing to keep in mind is that sizes vary wildly between brands. You cannot, therefore, assume that a size 8 of one brand will fit the same in another brand of similar size. The discrepancy in sizes can be particularly daunting to someone with flat-feet since these size differences can cause considerable discomfort. The width of the shoes can also vary between brands and finding a pair with the right size and width will determine the overall fit of your shoes. When dealing with flat-feet, it is extremely important to make sure that the shoes are a good fit. If your shoes are too tight, they can cause pain and discomfort. If they are too loose, your feet will fatigue faster due to improper arch support. It is imperative that you keep an open mind when dealing with size variations and not assume you will only fit into just that one size. Shoes for flat feet generally have arch support, so it’s important to keep this in mind.

3Remember Your Socks

One of the most overlooked item when picking out shoes is the socks that you are wearing. This is not usually a thought that enters most people’s minds. Nonetheless, the type of socks you are wearing can make a huge difference to the overall comfort of your shoes. With this in mind, during shoe trials, you should always wear the socks you intend to wear regularly. This will give you the optimum fit and ensure your shoes wrap snugly around your regular socks. Sometimes, the type of shoes you are buying will directly influence what sock you’d be wearing. For example, if you’re shopping for hiking boots, chances are that you will be wearing thicker hiking socks. And if you’re buying running shoes, you should pick thinner sports socks. The thickness of your socks will have a direct impact on the comfort of your shoes. You don’t want to be that guy (or gal) wearing thick hiking socks with your running shoes on a bright sunny morning.

4Allow Adequate Toe Space

Another size consideration that you should always keep in mind is the space between your big toe and the tip of the shoe. As a general guideline, you should leave about a thumbnail space in this area to allow for flexible wiggle room. If your big toe is pressed against the fabric of the shoe, then this will eventually become uncomfortable with prolonged use. Some may suggest that your shoes will expand as you break them in. But, keep in mind that your footwear will only expand ever so slightly and not something you should rely on.

Once you’ve accounted for the toe gap, test the fit of your shoes by pushing your feet all the way to the front of your shoes and sliding an index finger behind your heel. If your finger doesn’t fit, then go half-a-size up and try again. If it slides in too easily, consider dropping down half a size. If you keep this size consideration in mind, you are much more likely to purchase a shoe that will provide lasting comfort throughout the day. It is crucial to get the perfect fit as this will lead to much lower foot-fatigue down the line.

5Consider Wider Styles

You should check if you have wide feet as well as flat-feet. There are many shoes available in extra wide variations which aren’t commonly known. Selecting wider styles can make a huge difference in comfort levels to those with a wider footprint. If your favorite pair does not come with a wider style, then you may consider going a half-a-size to a size up to find a proper fit. It is important to explore all the options at your disposal to find your ideal fit. It should be noted that you shouldn’t pick too wide a width in your shoes since you’d want some sort of arch support for your flat-feet and this can often be mistaken for narrow shoes. Width can play a major role in determining the support level for your flat-feet.

6Get Accustomed to Your Shoes

One way to get a good feel for your shoes is by wearing them around the house before taking them outside. If you spend some time in your shoes, you will start to get a feel for them. This will also come in handy if you decide to return them as shoe manufacturers/retailers usually have a generous return policy in place. Take it from a guy that loves shoe shopping – few things in life are as fulfilling as wearing your new kicks outside for the first time. It brings about an air of confidence and contentment. The time spent getting adjusted to your new shoes can make the experience of regularly wearing them far more comfortable.

7Replace Your Old Worn Out Shoes

It goes without saying that you should replace your old shoes regularly. But, how exactly can you tell that they have become old? If your shoes have either widened from regular use, or the outer sole shows visual signs of degradation, this is when you know it’s time for a new pair. It is easy to get attached to old shoes, but this attachment should fade once you realize that the gradual loosening of them greatly reduces the support they provide to your feet. This can contribute to foot pain and make the shoes increasingly uncomfortable to wear. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended to replace shoes after every 300 miles of use. This may seem like a relatively high number, but people often underestimate how much they walk and run on a regular basis. Not sure if you’ve done 300 miles? Then use the ye-olde eyeball test and look for visible signs of degradation. Luckily, we have prepared the most important things to look out for when you buy your next shoes.

8Use insoles made for flat-feet

Let’s face it – not all shoes your heart desires are made for flat-feet. Those designer lifestyle shoes you’re eyeing may not be very benevolent to your feet. This is where insoles come in handy and act as a buffer between your feet and the shoes. Keep in mind that insoles can sometimes be inconvenient especially when they shift around in your shoes, and hence should only be used as a temporary measure. They’re not a replacement for shoes which are purpose-built for flat-feet, but they get the job done for those few occasions where you might want to dust off your dress shoes to impress at your annual board meeting.

Shoe inserts are made from a variety of different materials like gel, foam or a mix of foam and rubber. Some inserts are made purely for added comfort while others are made for conditions like flat-feet and plantar fasciitis. Flat-footers should opt for inserts with sufficient arch support. It’s also important to note that the arch support on your insoles should neither be too soft and squishy, or too firm and hard.

Conclusion:

It is important to note that if after following these tips, you still find it difficult in picking out your next best shoes for flat feet, or you’re experiencing protracted pain and discomfort, you should see a doctor immediately as there may be other underlying factors besides flat-feet causing this.

As a flat-footer myself, I own a different pair of shoes for different activities. It’s generally not advisable to follow a “one-shoes-to-rule-em-all” policy. This is because running shoes are designed differently to training or workout shoes and vice-versa. Some of the best Nike Running shoes, for example, are made with added cushioning to absorb shock with each stride in a linear motion. They lack support for lateral movements that you typically experience in a gym (jumping squats, anyone?).