The Best Walking Shoes for Flat Feet

Finding walking uncomfortable?

Check the soles of your feet before you veg out on the couch all day to recuperate. Nearly 30 percent of Americans struggle with flat feet, a mild physical deformity of the foot.

Known by the medical name pes planus (or sometimes “fallen arches”) this condition is almost always mild, requiring little to no intervention. But the lowered arch in flat feet can cause muscle fatigue and pain. In advanced cases, osteoarthritis can occur.

Whether you’re walking to work or just getting a bit of fresh air, finding the right support is vital to preventing further. Understanding the anatomy of a flat foot and how specialized support can help is the first step to finding the best shoes for those long evening walks. If you’re feeling a little flat about the whole thing, this short guide should brighten up your day.

Flat Feet: The How’s And Why’s

People who suffer from flat feet (be they man, woman, or child) often complain about fatigued muscles in the foot, ankle, and shin. What causes this is the pressure your foot meets with each time it touches the ground.

Foot physics vary person to person, but nearly everyone shares the same baseline in the absence of medical problems. In the average foot, pressure comes in at the heel, down the side of the foot, and then gets dispersed out around the ball of the foot. Pressure along the side of the foot radiates upward, where (hopefully) a strong ankle and calf provide the necessary support to keep you upright and comfortable.

In flat feet, the sole and arch make immediate contact with the ground, so the pressure isn’t dispersed correctly. The ankle and foot become unstable, causing your muscles to fight one another in an effort to prevent rolling or an unstable gait. They eventually become tired, tight, and achy.

Referred pain into the shin, thigh, hips, and lower back is exceptionally common and almost to be expected later in age.

For someone with flat feet, walking large distances becomes excruciating. After a few hours of walking, suddenly you’re achy-breaky tootsies desperately need a break. This can dissuade you from getting enough exercise; after all, who wants to experience pain on a regular basis?

By far, the best way to address the problem is with proper foot support. Physiotherapy can help, too, but you can significantly reduce your pain levels just by choosing the right shoes.

Birkenstocks

Need a sturdy pair of sandals to take you from downtown to the beach to the trail? Regular sneakers and trainers can feel restrictive on the beach, but going barefoot is one of the worst things you can do for flat feet. Instead, grab a pair of Birkenstock sandals with cork soles. As you wear them, the shoes mold to your foot; after just a few short weeks, you’ll find they match the shape of your arch almost perfectly.

Birkenstock is well-known for nature-inspired shoes with a high level of quality, but they go all-out with style also. Gone are the days when the company offered just one main style. Today, you’ll find everything from dressy shoes to very basic slip-ons in the brand’s line.

True “Walking Shoes”

Flat feet, high arches, or very average feet with no special features; nothing keeps your feet as comfortable as a good pair of walking shoes. As an individual style, the walking shoe focuses on providing support for the foot as you walk.  It evens out your gait and provides excellent comfort, even when you’re out for hours. High-quality walking shoes are a must-have for tourists, urban adventurers, and anyone else who spends a great deal of time on their feet.

For flat feet, choose walking shoes that feature a snug and supportive roll bar at the Achilles tendon, motion stabilizing materials, and a low-arched design. Straight lasted soles are ideal; they’ll keep your foot aligned, and thus, spread pressure evenly.

Design-wise, the sky’s the limit. Walking shoes come in a broad range of styles, and may mimic hiking boots, trainers, dress shoes, and business-appropriate oxfords. Others, like the Finn Comfort walking shoe, have a distinctly urbanized style.

Trainers

Trainers, sometimes referred to as athletic shoes, support flat feet in a few different ways. The primary benefit lies in the fact that trainers are excellent at absorbing shock, regardless of the surface you’re walking on. For someone with flat feet, who probably experiences pressure along all areas of the foot rather than just the ball or heel, that can ward off achiness and joint problems later on.

But no two trainers are alike; just as it is with every other shoe, the style you purchase can and does matter. When buying, look for shoes with an extended mid-sole and straight lashing. Supportive memory foam or gel insoles with a slightly curved arch work well for some; the mild rise in the center of the foot slightly corrects the deformity in mild cases.

To avoid: high-arch trainers with a deep rising curve in the mid-sole. Your flat feet won’t sit in them correctly, inducing pain.

Brand-wise, look to New Balance for flat-footed relief. Any of these five trainers – especially the W1540 – should suit most women just fine. Men have their own version, the M1540, with the same features in a more masculine design.

Orthopedic Shoes

Around 50 years ago, people looked at wearing orthopedic shoes as undesirable. Mid-century orthopedics focused entirely on support, sacrificing style to ensure an even and comfortable gait. Any sense of fashion went out in the window, and was then immediately replaced by a higher degree of cushioning and a bigger, bulky design.

Unfortunately, the idea that orthopedic shoes must be ugly to fit right is pervasive – not to mention entirely untrue! At first glance, you’d never even know that most of today’s orthopedics even contained special supportive technology. It’s easy to find stylish orthopedic shoes for women and men in a broad range of fashion genres.

Orthotics aren’t like your standard sneaker; many insurance plans consider them a form of medical device, even if they do look as good as they feel. The designation isn’t just an accident; orthotics often contain high-end support technology and an anatomically-correct design that hugs all areas of the foot evenly.

If you have flat feet, a shoe like the Wrangler by Deer Tracks  may help; the removable footbed slides out to make way for therapeutic insoles if needed. Others, like the Fit – AreniOne by the same brand, have a built-in fiberglass shank that aligns the arch of the foot.

Regardless of the style you choose, orthotics can help to alleviate flat foot symptoms. Even if you don’t wear them all day, wearing them around the house or when relaxing will still provide you with measurable results.

Staying stylish while supporting flat feet doesn’t have to be a distant dream. From orthopedic shoes to stylish, gel-lined dress shoes for work, modern footwear brands want to support your desire to meld fashion and comfort together. Kick up your feet, let those tender toes relax, and find a comfortable new pair of shoes to fall in love with today.

Flowery and Fabulous Reasons to Cozy Up to Cork Footbeds

 

“My kingdom for a comfortable shoe.” Words likely spoken by great shoe-lovers  in the world. Be it the notorious Imelda Marcos or just your shoe-addicted best friend, everyone seems to appreciate high-quality, comfortable footwear that’s stylish and functional all at once.

Much as with everything else in life, finding your footing comfortably starts at the bottom. A high-quality footbed supports and cradles your foot as you walk and helps to cushion your heel and toes from shock. That prevents exhausted, cramped-up tootsies, especially during long days and special events.

So what’s the best material to seek in your next pair of comfort shoes? The answer depends on your lifestyle, but by far, one of the most balanced options for comfort, durability, longevity and flexibility over time is cork. Sourced from a flowering tree, cork wood’s lightweight, porous nature makes for a stunningly breathable, healthy, and comfortable footbed.

But don’t take our word for it. Let these flowery and fabulous benefits be your guide.

Lower Ecological Footprint

There’s a common misconception that cork is a man-made material put together in factories, first shredded then reconstituted like particleboard. While man-made cork does exist, real cork wood insoles are sourced directly from the inner bark of several specific trees, usually Quercus Suber. These trees grow naturally in certain areas of Europe.

What makes them so special is that harvesters can remove the inner layer of cork without cutting down the tree. Farmers tend and care for the trees, who in turn provide us with cork and clean the air. Most cork wood tree forests are managed sustainably through necessity; a good harvest only takes place about once every 9 years. The ideal harvesting time is at year 35 to 38 – long after the tree spends decades benefitting the Earth.

Once the corkwood is harvested, it’s left to age for about six months. Then, it undergoes a pressurized boil that softens it and increases flexibility. Unlike plastics and latex, it doesn’t require heavy chemicals or very much petroleum at all. From there, it’s used by manufacturers of beautiful shoes like Birkenstocks.

Odor Resistance

Ever finish up at the gym only to discover your favorite footwear smells a bit rank? If so, you’ve experienced one of the most common shoe problems to plague mankind. Sweating and activity produce bacteria on the foot; this bacteria is what leads to stinky foot syndrome.

If your shoes are too restrictive, the problem becomes even worse because everything gets trapped inside.

Cork wood, in contrast, has natural antimicrobial properties. That means it resists the growth of bacteria and other smell-inducing critters. When placed into a sneaker or activewear shoe, it can significantly reduce the frequency with which you need to wash your shoes.

But this isn’t just beneficial for activewear; it’s ideal for dress shoes and other clothing worn for special events and high-stress situations, too. Shoes like our Johanna by Hallux Fidelio prevent odorific emergencies when you’re in business meetings or out and about downtown.

Mold Resistance

Cork’s antimicrobial properties have an added benefit: it also reduces the propensity for shoes to become moldy or musty over time, even if you toss them in the attic for a few years. Cork is such a good mold inhibitor that many construction companies and home renovation specialists use it within flooring, particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-moisture locations.

Why exactly is cork wood so superior for mold resistance? It’s hydrophobic and nearly impermeable to moisture. Inside each cell is a harmless gas known as suberin; this protects the material from organics like mold, algae, and other potential invaders.

Cork wood’s impermeability and hydrophobic surface, in nature, protects the cork wood tree from the elements. In your shoes, it serves the same role when warding off mold.

Flexes to Your Foot

Being flexible is important. Become too rigid and you’re more likely to break, crack, or fracture under the pressure, not to mention how uncomfortable you’ll be. That’s true for just about everything in life, be it human or shoe footbed. Unlike other materials, cork wood is remarkably flexible, but in a way that’s more similar to memory foam than to a pipe cleaner – it bounces back over time.

For you, the shoe wearer, that means that your new shoes will eventually conform to the natural curves of your arch, toes, and heel. Sometimes it can take a couple of weeks, but cork insoles and footbeds generally mold to your unique form, providing better support for your foot.

Despite the fact that cork is flexible, it’s extremely strong, too, so there’s no need to worry about it cracking or breaking under pressure.

Absorbs Shock

Cork wood’s flexibility grants it the ability to absorb shock remarkably well. That’s what makes it so fantastic in comfort shoes. Whether sandals or boots with a heel like this Munroe by Nikita, cork footbeds disperse pressure more evenly over the foot because each cell has a unique 14-sided shape that can collapse in seconds and re-expand slowly over time. The average piece of cork, depending on its density, can shrink down to approximately 15 percent or less of its original size; by the time it becomes this small, it’s already absorbed most of the shock and pressure. Higher-density cork offers more durability, while lower-density cork absorbs shock more rapidly and reliably.

That means fewer heel aches, toes that don’t become pinched and crowded, and less lower leg, lower back, and hip pain. You can enjoy more comfortable movement whether you’re stepping out in these FINN walking shoes or just taking the dog for a walk.

Active footwear also benefits from cork’s shock-absorbing properties. Long-distance runners who frequently run on pavement or concrete tracks stand to benefit the most, though cork footbeds in hiking boots and sports shoes can also be extremely beneficial.

Cork is a wondrous, reliable, and sustainable material for footwear. In a world that’s slowly (but surely) moving towards greener living and higher quality products, it just makes good sense to use it in footbeds, insoles, and other fashion materials. Not only will you feel better purchasing shoes that you know are better for the environment, but your feet will thank you, too.