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TIPS FOR RUNNING WITH FLAT FEET

people running

Running has always been an important element of my fitness and cardio workout routine. I am not what you would consider to be a “serious” runner. I don’t do marathons or even 10k runs. I’m your basic weekend warrior out for a three-mile jog, three to four times a week. My feet are low arched, not quite flat feet but not normal either. And I am now in my 50’s so I’m beginning to feel the effects of all the pounding that my feet and lower extremities have taken over the years. If you’re a runner with flat feet, or nearly flat feet like me, this post has a few tips for you to reduce pain and keep running longer.

When somebody has flat feet, their foot has very little or no arch at all, compared to a person with normal feet and arches. There are several types of flat feet, all of which have one common characteristic, loss of the arch through partial or total collapse. Flexible flat feet are the most common type of flat foot. It usually occurs in both feet and progresses in severity throughout the adult years. Rigid flatfoot, while least common, is the most painful type and is usually associated with inflammation and complications with the tarsal bones of the feet.

INJURIES FROM RUNNING WITH FLAT FEET

It should not be surprising that many running injuries are foot-related as the foot, and the arches of the foot, are the first part of the body to absorb the shock of each step. Even for casual runners like me, this impact can add up over time. The forces absorbed by your feet while running are between three and seven times your body weight. That means the foot of a 150-pound runner absorbs 1,000 pounds or more of force for each foot strike.

In a Runner’s World article, Dr. Lloyd Smith, a sports podiatrist and past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, said, “A lot of people who run, and run successfully, have flat feet. Yet we do know that people with flat feet have a greater chance of getting injured than people with normal-arched feet.” If you have flat feet, your entire sole comes into full contact with the ground putting strain on your ankles, muscles, ligaments and joints. Overtime, the uneven distribution of body weight can cause other types of overuse injuries. As a result, you may experience a general aching or fatigue in the foot or leg after running. Pain in the heel, arch, ankle or along the outside of the foot are also common. Over time there are various problems that can be caused by running with flat feet, including pain along the shin bone (shin splints), lower back, hip, and knee.

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TIPS FOR RUNNING WITH FLAT FEET

  • Choose the correct running shoes. This is key for runners with flat feet. Motion control running shoes are good for runners with rigid flat feet, as this type of shoe will control your running motion and prevent any wrong movements. Stability running shoes are better for runners with flexible flat feet since they provide supportive features in the mid-sole area, specifically under the arch of the foot.
  • Avoid running on uneven surfaces. When you have flat feet, your feet turn outward when you run, putting additional pressure on your ankles and knee joints. Uneven ground can accentuate your pronation problem and make matters worse.
  • Support your ankles and feet when running. A recent LIVESTRONG article entitled “How To Run With Flat Feet” recommends adding orthotic arch support inserts into your running shoes. “Arch support insoles prevent your feet from overpronating when you run, giving extra support to the foot and ankle. The type of orthotic you need depends on the severity of your condition.”

One thing I’ve learned is that gel inserts don’t cut it when it comes to running with flat feet. I tried nearly every kind on the market. It’s why I decided to try a firm arch support. I went with SelectFlex because it’s customizable, allowing me to adjust the level of support I need. The results were really remarkable, but not surprising. A gel insole just isn’t capable of giving you the kind of support an adjustable, firm footbed can. With SelectFlex, my arches feel well supported and my ankles and feet feel better aligned. This has resulted in less overall foot fatigue after my run and a more rapid recovery, so I can get out there and hit the pavement the next day feeling more refreshed. What a great idea.

If you're looking to run farther with less pain, why not give SelectFlex a try?

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DO I NEED ARCH SUPPORT?

person tying shoes

Your feet are the foundation of your everyday life whether you are casually walking around town, moving about at work, or out for a long run. The human foot is a very complex body part incorporating 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons. Did you know that the average person walks 100,000 miles in a lifetime and your feet sustain roughly 300,000 pounds of downward force for each mile you walk? The arches of your feet bear the brunt of these harmful forces. Getting insoles for your running shoes or other footwear is critical to proper arch support and overall foot health.

WHAT’S YOUR ARCH-TYPE?

The foot arch is the curved portion of the foot that starts just below the ball of the foot and extends to the heel. Foot arches are all unique, but there are three basic types of arch:

  • high, also called a cavus foot
  • low, often called flat feet or fallen arches
  • normal

It is relatively easy to determine your arch type. Simple wet your feet and look at the wet imprint of your foot. A low arch imprint will show the entire bottom of your foot. Low arches are more flexible and tend to roll inward and over-pronate.

low arch

A high arch imprint will only show your heel and the top part of your foot near your toes. High arches are more rigid and are usually classified as supinated.

high arch

A normal arch imprint will show the inside curve of your foot missing. Normal arches are often biomechanically efficient but still can be susceptible to common foot problems like heel pain or ball-of-foot pain.

normal arch

The arches of your feet can change over time as the body grows, as you gain weight, or due to a lack of proper arch support or improper foot alignment. Improper arch support and alignment can cause a chain reaction leading to ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain. If unaddressed these conditions can lead to other harmful foot or foot-related problems.

PROPER ARCH SUPPORT FOR AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE

If you lead an active lifestyle, your feet are exposed to even more stress than the average person. If you’re a runner, the gravitational force absorbed by your feet increases to between 3x and 7x your body weight. The foot of a 150-pound runner absorbs 1,000 pounds or more of force for each foot strike. Proper footwear and running insoles, especially for athletic activities, is essential.

Low arches are often biomechanically imbalanced and can lead to common foot problems such as heel pain, arch pain, and plantar fasciitis. Orthotics should provide rearfoot posting and arch support to keep the foot properly aligned and control over-pronation. With high arches, less of the foot surface is absorbing impact placing excessive pressure on your forefoot and rearfoot areas. This may cause foot conditions such as heel pain, ball-of-foot pain, or plantar fasciitis. The use of metatarsal pads in conjunction with an orthotic insole for running is often recommended to provide additional forefoot cushioning. Normal arches, while often more efficient, can still benefit from orthotics insoles with proper arch support, cushioning, and shock absorbing materials for added comfort and foot pain prevention, especially for runners and other active people.

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BETTER ARCH SUPPORT WITH SELECTFLEX®

Most shoes, including athletic shoes, are designed with very neutral factory insoles that provide minimal arch support and virtually no alignment improvement. Shoe manufacturers realize that everyone’s foot and arch condition are unique and assume that most wearers will replace the factory insole with a proper orthotic insert.

Ever foot arch is unique, so why would you use a one-size-fits-all insole to get the comfort and support you need? The good news is that with the right footwear and foot orthotics you can help to achieve proper body alignment, prevent injuries and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

Opting for a customizable solution, like SelectFlex™ Orthotic Insoles [ADD CTA], gives the wearer the ability to choose from three dynamic arch support settings–Medium, Firm, and X-Firm–based on your unique arch condition and level of activity. The adjustable arch feature in SelectFlex provides dynamic support throughout your gait cycle, delivering your chosen level of arch support on every down-step and lifting and releasing energy back on every up-step. And the proprietary heel cup in SelectFlex absorbs impact with up to 50% increased ankle stability and alignment making SelectFlex a perfect choice for anyone who leads a very active lifestyle. Designed in partnership with one of the world’s leading custom medical orthotics companies, SelectFlex offers all the benefits, and arch support, of expensive medical orthotics at a fraction of the cost.

increase energy and shorten recovery time

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FEET FRESH ON LONG RUNS

person running

When runners advance from a 5K to longer runs, one of the first things they notice is what a toll it can take on their feet. Shoes that are too small, ill fitting, or that don’t provide runners with arch support are just a few of the causes of sore feet after a long run.

We know how important it is to keep feet fresh, especially when training for longer road races, so we put together these tips to support your feet and keep them tip-top on long runs.

GET THE RIGHT SHOES

If you are running in a shoe that lacks arch support, is poorly made, or just doesn’t fit right, you may get blisters, soreness, numbness, and potentially lasting foot pain. Shoes that are too short can cause black toenails and those that are too wide can lead to blisters. Running trainers that lack proper arch support can also cause foot, joint, and back pain.   

Finding the shoe that fits your foot properly can be a challenge if you have feet that are large, small, narrow, or wide, since stores usually carry only the most popular sizes. Look for brands that offer different widths, or seek advice from a specialty running store. Though your feet stop growing when you're a teenager, they will change size throughout adulthood, so remember to have your feet measured when you head out to try on sneakers. Runners can benefit from seeking out a pedorthist when they shop, as opposed to trying their luck with untrained sales people at the big chain stores.

Finally, running experts recommend getting a shoe that’s half a size larger than your regular shoe size. As you run, your foot will swell and expand. Your shoe will also shrink over time, especially if you get them wet regularly. Having some wiggle room for your toes will help keep your feet happy.

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USE AN INSOLE 

If you are looking to reduce foot pain, recover from runs faster, and increase foot efficiency, give an over-the-counter insole a try. Running shoes already have an insole, but getting a specialized consumer insole can improve how your shoes fits and functions, and will likely outlast not just this pair of running shoes, but your next few pairs as well.

The right kind of insole gives runners added arch support, shock absorption with each step, and a deeper heel cup that cradles the feet, encouraging proper alignment from toe to hip. When you shop for an over-the-counter insole, beware of flimsy gels and other, less expensive products that break down quickly. A well made insole not only helps keep your feet fresh and provide support, but spending a little more for a quality product will give you more for your money. 

STRENGTHEN YOUR FEET

You’ve likely spent time doing some strength training of your larger muscle groups, like your core and legs, but the muscles in the feet also need strengthening if you are to advance to longer runs. Weak foot muscles will not move in the correct running position and over time can lead to pain and injury. Look for exercises that stretch and strengthen your feet to keep them strong and flexible.

WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES EVERY DAY

If you are serious about running, you’ve probably spent plenty on your running shoes, but if you are wearing inexpensive, flimsy shoes the rest of the day, you’re not doing your feet any favors. Chronic foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis or flat feet will be exacerbated by flip-flops, high heels and other shoes that lack proper cushioning and support.

One way to protect your feet in your favorite pair of street shoes is to get an insole that offers support and proper alignment that can easily be transferred from running to casual shoes.

PAMPER YOUR FEET

You are counting on your feet to carry you through on those long runs, so why not treat them right? If you notice your feet swell after a long run, apply ice or soak them in cool water. Elevating your feet for several minutes with an ice pack or cool compress can help too.

Some people swear by a quick foot massage or a foot roller to work out stiffness after a run and to relieve ailments like plantar fasciitis.

Even if you don’t have the time for long soaks and a massage, moisturizing feet and keeping toenails trimmed will go a long way in preventing pesky blisters.

As you train for that half or full marathon, keep in mind that these long runs mean more stress on your feet and joints. Making sure you have the right footwear and proper support will not only keep your feet feeling fresh, but also prevent injuries and pain that can keep you from reaching your goal.

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