You may have heard this before –
“You need runners with arch support”
“You have flat feet” OR “Your arches roll in”

It’s a comment I hear a lot!!

Both working as a Podiatrist and when I worked at The Athlete’s Foot for 4 years selling running shoes.

Flat Feet – What Does It Mean?
Let me start by saying that “flat feet” and feet “rolling in” are terms that are used very loosely! Pronated feet or pronation is a medical term used to describe this “rolling in” motion. 

Flat feet usually refers to a really low or non-existant foot arch or an arch or ankle that rolls in as you walk or run! But does it need arch support?

Why Do We Get Pain? Is It The Shoes?
A lot of foot pain is due to loading issues – think of going from the couch to 5km overnight because it’s January 1st and you’ve decided you need to work off the holiday eating! Your body is not ready for the jump! 
Most of the time it’s getting the training right AND getting the muscles and joints ready to cope with the demands of your activity. This is where we help out!

There are  cases where flat feet and the amount/speed that the feet are rolling is also contributing to pain. In these cases we work to control the motion and work on your movement patterns. 

Do you need runners with arch support? 
A study looked into this in depth! 81 female participants training for a marathon were randomly given one of three types of shoes to wear: motion control, stability or neutral shoes.What were the results?
More than 50% of the women with motion control shoes reported injuries, with every single one of those women having highly pronated (also called rolling in feet)- weird huh?
The researchers found that the approach of prescribing runners with arch support on the basis of foot type was overly simplistic and potentially dangerous! (1)

Another study of 900 runners also found that running in neutral shoes had no effect on injury risk for pronated runners(feet that roll in). So, this would lead us to believe that the biggest predictor of injury is uncomfortable shoes (2).


Take Home Points

You don’t need to wear running shoes with arch support. You should focus on what feels comfortable, because that’s where you will run better
Don’t worry about trying to find the ‘perfect’ shoe as the idea that there’s a magical shoe out there that can account for movement dysfunction is silly
Let’s also remember that shoes are generic, not made for an individual foot

The Risk Of Injury – Where Do Shoes Fit?
The risk of running related injury comes from making assumptions about what type of shoe a person needs based on their foot type without seeing them run. I know people that whose feet roll in heavily but run distance in Nike Free runs (minimalistic shoe) with no issues, which again reinforces the argument for comfort.Shoes are a great tool that help us run but no pair of shoes is going to account for things like muscle imbalances and load issues.

Podiatrists will look into depth at your pain! 

If you are experiencing pain, injury or just concerned about your overall technique a gait analysis from a qualified health professional would be beneficial!Studies I have used ⬇️ 2019. The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomised control trial. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2019]. 2019. Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe: a 1-year prospective cohort study. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 January 2019].

With you every step of the way! Joe Keain
Sports Podiatrist

Flinders Park – 1/166-168 Grange Road
Modbury – 31 Smart Road Modbury
Ph: (08) 8340 4932 / (08) 7226 9901

Author: MelissaZac