Here’s Why Flat Feet Are a Gift For a Runner, And Which Shoes to Wear to Avoid Injury

running shoes for flat feet
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Chances are no matter where you are in the world, you have the ability to run. Running is one of the most accessible and available forms of exercise for the able-bodied as all you need is some space and a pair of shoes you can strap on. It’s a globally-beloved sport with 5k, 10k, half-, full- and ultra-marathons happening daily and new running technology being developed constantly. From the best running hats to the reflective gear you need and the best face masks for running and keeping others safe — we’ve covered a bunch of gear related to the sport on Spy. However, as prepared as you can get, running is still a sport that’s infamously hard on the body. From your knees giving out to your hips aching for days — there’s a lot can go wrong if you’ve got the wrong gear and don’t give your feet the support they need. The risk of injury is only magnified if you’ve got flat feet.

What Does the Term “Flat Feet” Mean?

Flat feet lack a shock-absorbing arch that typically angles upwards when you arch your big toe, and creates space for energy to dispel whenever your foot hits the earth. Every time your foot comes in contact with the earth there’s a slight bending in that happens called pronation. You land on the outside of your heel and roll inwards to spread out the impact efficiently and decrease the risk of injury. However, with flat feet there’s less of an arch and your foot is more likely to roll in too much — a defect called over-pronation. You can also under-pronate, which is something that happens to those with especially high arches. For this reason, having flat feet can actually be a blessing for shock absorption because your foot has more surface area to subsume the blow, but this can only happen with proper footwear.

How Can I Tell If I Have Flat Feet?

According to experts, truly flat feet are more rare than most people think. Most runners who have labeled themselves flat-footed actually have arches, they’re just very low. However, this is more desirable than high arches because your foot is more flexible and less likely to strain or pull on surrounding muscles.

What Features Should I Look For in a Running Shoe for Flat Feet?

One of the best things you can do for flat feet is give them a great, motion-stabilizing pair of shoes that won’t allow for too much pronation. A firm midsole is ideal as well as a medial post, and more support than cushioning. We’ve gathered the best running shoes for flat feet so you can conquer any trail, road and distance with minimal pain.

Flat Feet vs. Collapsed Arches

There are actually two types of flat feet out there to look out for, and decipher between for which one you are. Flat feet are feet that are naturally shaped that way, whereas a collapsed arch is a muscular weakness. The latter will want a shoe with arch support to help the muscle gain back its strength until the foot can support its own arch, whereas for super flat feet the focus is more on the midsole. You’ll want a wide midsole rather than an hourglass-shaped shoe (the kind that’s very trendy right now) so your foot has room to spread out. Ask your doctor or local expert at a running shoe retail store which one you are before purchasing a pair of shoes.

Editor’s Note: I’m not an expert on running, running shoes or your unique gait. Please consult your doctor, orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist or other expert if you’ve got serious injuries from running that need attention. 

1. Brooks Men’s Beast 20

BEST OVERALL

No matter what type of runner you are — you can probably find a Brooks shoe that’ll help you out on the trails. They’re a fantastic manufacturer of all types of sneakers — and these Beast 20 running shoes offer cushioning, support, comfort and extra space for the flat footers out there. The softness you’ll feel when wearing them doesn’t come with a lack of responsiveness or durability, and the fit is secure due to the engineered-mesh upper and embroidered structure. This is the ’20 version of this shoe — to the best of our knowledge a new version hasn’t come out yet for this year but we recommend keeping your eyes peeled.

Brooks men's beast, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

2. Brooks Men’s Adrenaline GTS 21

RUNNER UP

This shoe, also from Brooks, is excellent for over-pronation, a common problem with flat footed runners. It provides adequate stability and support and smooths out each stride so your body can maximize efficiency. The DNA LOFT crash pad built inside cushions the footfall and has BioMoGo — a material that adapts to every stride. The mesh upper has a 3D Fit Print that’s engineered to provide structure without bulk, and streamline while also allowing plenty of space.

Brooks men's adrenaline running shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

3. ASICS Men’s GT-1000 8 Running Shoes

BEST BUDGET

If you’re an avid runner you should be replacing your running shoes every 6 months (if not sooner), and that expense can add up. Thankfully, there are plenty of excellent shoes out there made for the average penny pincher who still wants to protect their tired ol’ soles. These ASICS are a perfect example — they have an Impact Guidance System built inside that naturally guides the foot based on its natural gait. The SpevaFoam 45 softens the heel and improves the comfort dramatically, and the DuoMax support system creates a dual-density midsole that supports and stabilizes. ASICS also has their patented FlyteFoam midsole technology that’s super responsive, bounces back quickly and has organic fibers that work against packing out.

ASICS running shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

4. ASICS Men’s GT-4,000 (2E)

BEST FOR LONG DISTANCES

If you’re a flat footer who also loves to conquer 10, 20 and even 100-mile runs — first of all, good for you — and second, you’re going to want a lightweight but structured shoe that can support you without extraneous bulk. ASICS’ FlyteFoam Lyte technology does just that with a lightweight midsole that cushions with organic nano fibers. This shoe also has an Ortholite Sockliner built inside for moisture management and a decreased chance of blisters. The SpevaFoam midsole material also bounces back, giving you the resilience you’ll need to make it through those grueling last few miles. And, the rearfoot GEL technology cushions the shock at the back of the foot so you can smoothly transition to midstance.

ASICS men's running shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

5. New Balance Men’s Fresh Foam 1080 V10 Running Shoe

MOST COMFORTABLE

Comfort is key, especially for your feet in the middle of a marathon. These shoes from New Balance are all about that cushion being part of the Fresh Foam X collection, with plushness in precise spots and a modern construction with the latest technology. The stitched-down tip in the upper provides flexibility while the foxing details give support. The ABZORB midsole absorbs impact with every step via compression resistance and they come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and widths for all foot types.

new balance running shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

6. ASICS Gel-Kayano Lite

BEST SPLURGE

These shoes from ASICS are specifically made to target over-pronation with a 3D Space Construction that slows the rate of the pronation in general via deformable cushioning in the shoe. The shoes have Rearfoot and Forefoot Gel Technology that absorbs shock during impact and toe-off, and allows your foot to move in multiple planes throughout the gait cycle. The high abrasion resistance on the outsole is softer and lighter for flexibility and comfort, and the FlyteFoam has the bounce back you need on long distances. These shoes are a bit on the pricier side, but all this technology for less than $200 is worth the investment.

asics gel kayano shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

7. Saucony Men’s Guide 13 Running Shoe

BEST FOR ARCH SUPPORT

These shoes from Saucony are highly-rated for their arch support, and the PWRRUN cushioning that’s soft and responsive at the same time. The TPU guidance frame leads each foot through its gait cycle smooth and streamlined to save energy, and the FORMFIT upper is designed to wrap around a wide range of foot sizes. Saucony also offers this shoe in a few different colors and styles. One thing to note — the toe box is smaller on this shoe than others so if you’ve got larger and flatter feet another brand might be better.

saucony men's guide running shoe, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

8. HOKA ONE ONE Men’s Gaviota 2 Walking Shoe

BEST EVERYDAY SHOE

Now that athleisure is the go-to for so many of us, it’s important to have running shoes you can casually wear as well as ones designated for workouts. This HOKA shoe has a durable midsole for shock-absorption, a padded insole for cushioning and breathable mesh that’s abrasion-free. They’ve got a little more bulk and weight to them than other running shoes on this list, which is why I ranked them for errands as opposed to long-distance runs.

HOKA one running shoes, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon

  

9. Brooks Transcend 6

BEST FOR RACE DAY

As opposed to the HOKA shoes above, these shoes are made for when you need to hit the pavement and not turn back. They’ve got support via innovative GuideRails as well as super soft cushioning with DNA  LOFT. They have a soft fit that surrounds your foot and expands, adjusts and provides structure as your foot moves. The 3D Fit Print technology enhances this, and the OrthoLite sockliner has step-in comfort you’ll feel from the moment you tie the laces. These are a beloved shoe in the running world and the perfect companion to take with you to the starting line.

Brooks transcend 6 running shoe, best running shoes for flat feet Courtesy of Amazon