People With Flat Feet Can Still Run Comfortably With the Right Support

·16 min read
Photo credit: Aisha McAdams
Photo credit: Aisha McAdams


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Editors’ Note: We reviewed this article on september 6, 2022 and still stand behind these expert recommendations. We’ll continue to evaluate this list on a monthly basis to make sure the models below represent the best running shoes for flat feet available now.

Flat-footed runners face a number of challenges in finding the right running shoe—not least of which is a glut of conflicting information on the topic. The internet and your local running store will likely urge you to buy a shoe with more arch support. Experts in the field of sports injury will instruct you to do the opposite. So who do you trust? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer—the optimal shoe for you largely depends on your gait cycle, range of motion, and individual foot, among other factors. But there are a couple of features to look for in running shoes that may help make your low arches feel more supported and comfortable—and a couple of shoes that have been known to work well for flat-footed runners. Read on for our picks and buying advice.

Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet

The Experts: I’m a runner with high arches. To do this topic justice, I conducted significant research into the needs of flat-footed runners, including speaking with running experts Dr. Kimberly Davis of the RunLab and physical therapist Jay Dicharry, author of Anatomy for Runners. Both Davis and Dicharry have extensive experience assessing and treating runners of all experience levels, gait types, and footwear needs; they were able to provide significant insight on the topic. That, along with my own experience—I’ve tested, reviewed, and written about running shoes and gear for more than a decade for Runner’s World—helped inform my recommendations.

What to Consider in a Flat-Footed Running Shoe

There Are Two Kinds of Flat Feet

Some runners have anatomically flat feet, and other runners have what’s known as “collapsed arches,” which are flat because of a muscle weakness. Although the two types can look very similar, how you approach buying shoes for them varies widely, says Dr. Kimberly Davis of the RunLab, an Austin, Texas-based clinic that assesses running biomechanics and offers physical therapy and training.

Dr. Davis says that when it comes to shopping for a shoe for a flat-footed runner with collapsed arches due to muscle weakness, you can add arch support until the foot gets stronger and can support its own arch. But with an anatomically flat foot, arch support just sends stress up into the knee where it can lead to knee problems. That’s why it’s important to know what type of flat foot you have before you settle on a shoe—and take into account not just your foot but your entire body, including knees, hips, and range of motion.

Added Arch Support Is Not Always the Answer

Runners with flat feet tend to overpronate, which is when the arches of the foot roll inward after landing. (However, this isn’t true across the board—there are plenty of flat-footed runners who are biomechanically sound and efficient, and don’t experience any overpronation.) Up until recently, the running industry steered overpronators toward stability shoes to control this motion. Gradually, all that is starting to change with the realization that stability features don’t do much to correct the natural cycle of the foot, though some runners prefer having them. Dr. Davis says people with flat feet often have really flexible feet that never get rigid for the push-off. “The footwear industry tries to solve that by putting an arch support in there to give them an arch or create suppination in the foot,” she says. “But that foot is structurally built that way, it’s not something you can solve with a shoe.”

Flat-Footed Runners Can Benefit From a Full-Contact Midsole

Jay Dicharry, author of “Anatomy for Runners” and director of the REP Lab in Bend, Oregon, agrees arch support can be detrimental because the arch is by nature dynamic, and having extra structure there can stop your foot from moving. Dicharry says flat-footed runners should put more focus on seeking out a shoe with a straight “last,” which is the mold that dictates the shape of the shoe. A straight-lasted shoe has a wider midfoot base and less of a cut-in, a profile that has fallen by the wayside in favor of hourglass-shaped shoes. Most current shoes don’t provide much of a solid support surface for flat-footed runners, he says. “The problem is all these hourglass shoe shapes look nice on the wall, but when someone with a flat foot puts weight on one, part of their foot is bearing weight on the fabric upper,” he says. “The upper doesn’t work as a midsole for foot support. Feet do well when they’re on an even surface.”

Flat Feet Are Just One Aspect Among Many

The truth is most running shoes will work for most runners; however, if the shoes you’re using aren’t comfortable immediately or if you’re experiencing any pain while running, you should try a different pair. Get your movement pattern analyzed, whether at a clinic like the RunLab or even a running store that offers gait analysis. Once you have more information about your feet and movement patterns, you can provide all that information to a running store to find the best shoe for you. Don’t be afraid to take a shoe out for a test run following assessment before purchasing anything.

How We Evaluated These Shoes for Flat Feet

To determine these recommendations, I scoured the database of Runner’s World shoe test data, interviewed test editors on the Runner’s World test team, and conducted a deep dive into available online shoe reviews. To further find out what shoes sell best for runners with flat feet, I spoke with representatives at five of the top shoe companies. Each shoe here was included on the basis of its comfort, performance, durability, and value. Because the topic of running shoe fit and preference is so individual (it’s never a bad idea to visit a running shoe store so you can try before you buy), some of the information I uncovered was conflicting or counterintuitive, which is why I’ve included so many options. If you have flat feet, one of these shoes should work for you.

Great Option for Heavier Runners

ASICS GT-4000 2

The GT-4000 has held cult favorite status among low-arched runners for so long that Asics describes it as its “flat-foot hero.” If you look for flash and style in a running shoe, this model’s upper won’t be the first to catch your eye, but it’s got it where it counts—primarily through the midsole, where it packs the support and durability that heavier runners in particular tend to appreciate. There, you’ll also find loads of firm cushion and some mild stability features, like a guidance line to keep your gait consistent. The shoe sits on a longer support piece and a straighter last than many of the brand’s other models, which means your foot can find more contact. Wider-footed runners will also like the spacious toe box and broader base intended to disperse shock over a larger surface area. You can also find it for well under $100—a steal compared to some of the other shoes on this list. The updated 2 maintains everything we love about the first version and adds a softer heel and more stylish, streamlined upper.

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All-Arounder for All Kinds of Runners

BROOKS ADRENALINE GTS 22

The Adrenaline isn’t a shoe designed specifically with flat-footed runners in mind, but you’ll often find it recommended as one, simply because it’s a smooth-riding all-arounder that works for many different types of runners. Our testers have described it as “the self-driving car of the running shoe world”—and with good reason. Built with light stability features like guide rails in the midsole, the Adrenaline can buffer an overpronating foot into alignment without causing discomfort for a more neutral strider. This 22nd version of the shoe is as cushioned, long-lasting, and supportive as previous models, with a full DNA Loft midsole and only minor upgrades to make the shoe softer and more comfortable. It’s not a shoe you’d likely pick for all-out fast efforts, but for everyday training runs of all distances, it’s ideal.

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Plush and Firm At Once

HOKA GAVIOTA 3

We love the Gaviota for its smooth ride and Goldilocks cushioning—the shoe finds a happy medium between being plush enough to prevent soreness over long distances, and firm enough to hold onto some snap. Flatter-footed runners have also gravitated toward the shoe, as well as Hoka’s line in general, drawn to that blend of added support and responsiveness at the midsole. For smaller runners it might feel a bit bulky due to its size and stability features, including denser cushioning designed to guide your foot into place as you move through your stride. But medium to Clydesdale runners will appreciate the support in that thick slab of EVA foam. The toe box has ample room for feet to splay, and the engineered mesh upper is forgiving, yet protective and secure.

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Roomy Forefoot Section

HOKA ARAHI 6

The Arahi is proof that a stability shoe can still feel lightweight and responsive, as opposed to bulky or clunky. With an open construction and roomy forefoot section, the shoe brings a lot of comfort and cushion to runners of all foot types—especially runners with slightly wider feet. The latest version of the shoe isn’t a huge departure from the shoe’s previous iteration—it boasts the same streamlined upper made from recycled materials, Meta-Rocker geometry for smoother transitions, and thick EVA foam midsole—but the new 6 is even lighter with a plusher, more comfortable tongue. Heavier runners in particular have responded well to the Arahi’s firm but generous cushioning, as have both neutral runners and overpronators.

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High-Volume Training and Long Distances

SAUCONY ECHELON 8

Runners with flat feet or low arches have had a lot of luck with the Echelon. A neutral shoe with little arch support and a wider platform through the midsole and forefoot, the Echelon provides plush cushioning and the durability to handle high-volume training and long miles. Heavier runners and runners who use orthotics have appreciated the shoe in particular—though its appeal isn’t limited to those groups. Said one of our testers of the previous model: “The Echelon 7 seems like a tough shoe that will last.”

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Firmer Foam Throughout the Arch

ASICS GEL-KAYANO 28

For years, flat-footed runners in our test crew have responded positively to the Kayano due to its supportive, multi-density midsole and firmer foam through the arch. The shoe was designed to be a stability shoe for overpronators, but it served a lot of high-mileage neutral runners as well—so much so that the shoe is often categorized as both a stability and neutral shoe. This latest version, the 28, has a redesigned, three-layer midsole that feels bouncy, soft, and supportive underfoot—but also lightweight, despite its abundant padding. A flexible, breathable upper holds your foot into place and gives it plenty of room to move and breath. The overall ride feel of the shoe is smooth and stable, with layers of plush cushioning underfoot.

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Maximum Stability

NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM X 860v12

This new trainer took home a 2022 Runner’s World shoe award for “best stability shoe” due to its blend of old-school stability features—like a dense medial post to slow pronation—and new-school midsole tech, with a soft, forgiving Fresh Foam layer stacked atop a firm, zippy one. For some, the well-cushioned blend feels too firm for longer mileage. But other testers welcomed the maximum support in a faster-feeling, less clunky package. Wide-footed testers also loved the stretchy, spacious forefoot and toebox, which felt just right in terms of comfort and not too loose or sloppy.

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Custom-Like Fit

SAUCONY GUIDE 15

Previous versions of the Guide focused on comfort and cushion at the expense of added bulk, but the lighter-than-ever 15 finds a sweet spot. The shoe is still very cozy, soft, and stable—with a Pwrrun midsole and toned-down stability features like a medial post for added support—but this latest iteration has a more streamlined upper and a lighter, more responsive blend of foam. It also still maintains the custom-feeling fit that originally won it a fanbase among lots of different types of runners, including the flat- and wider-footed. It’s a good shoe for medium to long runs, and does exactly what its name implies—gently steer you toward a more neutral stride.

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Available in Three Widths

NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM 880V11

As running shoe soles have grown more shapely over the years—with more dramatic mid-foot cut-ins—New Balance’s 800 series has remained faithful to the (largely) unsculpted last. These shoes are well-loved for their cushion and support, particularly by those with wider feet, as they’re available in standard, wide, and extra-wide widths. Shoes in the 880 series provide mid-level neutral cushioning and a responsive ride. The latest version has grippy, dependable traction that won’t wear down too early in your training cycle, and a woven knit mesh upper that might not win any cutting-edge style awards but breathes well and has plenty of stretch. It’s also slightly lighter than the v10.

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Moderately Cushioned With Wider Heel

ALTRA PROVISION 6

A common thread in all of Altra’s shoes is an enlarged toe box that allows the foot to expand and toes to fan out, and a zero (or very low) drop from heel to toe. For many runners, this widened shape, plus a straighter last, works well for flat and wide feet. This model, the Provision, is a stability shoe that also works well for neutral runners; it has guide rails built into the shoe for overpronators, but they’re subtle enough that the shoe feels more like a neutral trainer. This latest version also has a new EGO foam midsole, which brings a lighter, firmer, and more responsive ride to an already excellent shoe. It’s a solid shoe for everything from tempo efforts to long runs. Runners with all foot shapes have found it to be comfortable and supportive enough to give up their orthotics.

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Extra Midfoot Support

BROOKS BEAST 20

Runners who like soft cushioning in a heavy-duty distance shoe have long been fans of the Beast and Ariel (the women’s version). The shoe has a wider platform with extra midfoot support and some added stability features, which many of our wider-footed test runners have appreciated. It also sits on a straighter last, which can help some flat-footed runners make more contact with the midsole instead of the upper. For the shoe’s 20th iteration, Brooks has added guide rails to the midsole for bumpering an overpronating foot into place. The overall weight of the shoe has also been reduced, making this version the lightest Beast to date.

Moderate Cushioning Meets Stability

MIZUNO WAVE INSPIRE 17

Mizuno fans with flat feet have steadily gravitated to the Wave Inspire series for its nice balance of moderate cushioning and stability. The 17 ups the ante with a wider platform and outsole that increases ground contact. Overpronators and heel strikers in particular will find a lot to appreciate here: The shoe has softer cushion in the heel and a denser, reshaped plate at the inner arch, which is designed to support your foot if and when it rolls inward. The 17 also packs more EVA-based foam into the midsole for a softer ride that feels slightly heavier. Overall this isn’t the lightest shoe, but it’s supportive, well-cushioned, and roomy enough to feel comfortable over long distances.

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Roomy Toe Box

BROOKS DYAD 11

Heavier runners and runners with wide feet have long appreciated the Dyad’s roomy toe box, which has plenty of space to let your feet spread out and feel at home. The shoe has also attracted a fandom among the flat-footed crowd, thanks to that generous fit and a straighter last that allows for more on-ground contact through the midsole. Yes, the shoe can feel heavy—but with that weight comes loads of durable cushion and support. At the midsole, the shoe has a soft, memory-foam feel designed to conform to different foot shapes. Two dual arch pods at the midfoot provide a small amount of stability for overpronators without affecting runners with a neutral stride, while a “heel crash” pad smoothes transitions. Injury-prone and injured runners have also found that the Dyad has enough space to accommodate orthotics—so this shoe is a solid option for walkers, as well.

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Best for Trail Running

TOPO ULTRAVENTURE PRO

For runners with wide feet who like to stay planted on the gnarliest trails—or flat-footed trail runners and hikers in general—the Ultraventure Pro is worth taking for a test run. A companion shoe to the also-great Ultraventure 2, the Pro is better suited to rocky, rugged terrain and bad weather, thanks to a protective rock plate that safeguards your forefoot, a heel counter with two gaiter attachment points, and a weather-resistant upper with a Vibram outsole. The “Zipfoam” midsole is firm but well-cushioned, and the shoe’s slanted lugs help keep you upright over slick surfaces and loose mud. The wide toebox and midfoot sections of the shoe give your feet plenty of space to splay out. Even if this particular shoe doesn’t work for you, it’s worth giving other Topo trail shoes a test run—the shoes have an upper and midsole platform that works for many wide-footed runners.

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