So if you have a structural abnormality such as flat feet, it’s natural to be concerned about both the short-term and long-term effects on your health, comfort, and performance.
So what’s the verdict? Are flat feet going to hold you back and keep you from excelling at your sport or doing what you love without pain? Or does it not really matter?
Some Good News and Some Bad News About Athletes With Flat Feet
For many people, flat arches are asymptomatic. When this is the case, they do not necessarily require treatment.
The bad news, however, is that some cases aren’t asymptomatic. For athletes, flat feet can sometimes pose significant risks if not managed or treated properly.
The Potential Downsides for a Flat-Footed Athlete
It helps to start out by understanding what a healthy arch does.
The arch acts sort of like a shock absorber for your feet. When bearing weight during the loading phase, the arch flexes slightly and rolls slightly inward (which is called pronation). This allows the impact forces to be distributed over a wider region of the foot and over a longer period of time, reducing the strain on muscles, bones, and joints throughout the feet and legs.
Flat feet, on the other hand, tend to be hyper-flexible and prone to overpronation, or rolling farther inward than normal. This increases the amount of stress, pressure, and strain on the inside of the foot and ankle.
As we said above, for some people there are no discernable symptoms from flat feet, and it doesn’t hold them back in any way that’s noticeable or impairs their personal enjoyment of activities. But for others, the biomechanical inefficiencies introduced by overpronation can lead to a greater risk of problems such as:
- Heel pain
- Muscle spasms
- Fatigue throughout the foot, arches, and legs
- Ankle weakness
- Shin splints
- Knee, hip, and back pain
There’s also the potential that flat feet can have an impact on overall athletic performance. Many sports require exceptional balance, speed, agility, and the ability to change directions quickly. While these skills aren’t necessarily impossible to perform at a high level with flat feet, their potential may be somewhat limited due to the extra work your body must perform to overcome the biomechanical inefficiency.
Treatments for Flat Feet
If you have flat feet and play sports, or you’ve started to feel like you’re being held back by chronic pain, instability, or other foot or ankle concerns, give us a call for an evaluation. The great news is that, quite often, your situation can be greatly improved through completely non-surgical measures.
Your shoe choice will be very important. Look for those with extra stability, motion control, and arch support. The right pair can help you counteract your natural overpronation and achieve greater stability.
Athletes with flat feet also often benefit from arch supports or, when necessary, custom orthotic inserts designed to fit their precise foot shape. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we use FitStation digital scanning and pressure plate technology to capture the precise shape, movement, and function of your feet, then send that data to a lab that 3D-prints your orthotics exactly to spec.
This advanced approach is a huge leap forward in orthotics technology, and is capable of providing much more personalized and effective orthotics than the traditional plaster mold or foam box approaches. Plus, the resulting orthotics are especially great for athletes, since they’re extremely light and comfortable, and even come in several sport-specific varieties (such as running and soccer).
Beyond shoes and orthotics, if you’re already experiencing a lot of painful side effects from your flat feet (such as plantar fasciitis), we can also provide several additional conservative treatment options, such as laser therapy or perinatal injections.