Home » The Difference Between Flat Feet and Overpronation

The Difference Between Flat Feet and Overpronation

Is there a difference between flat feet and overpronation? Flat feet and overpronation often occur together but they are actually two different conditions.

What Does it Mean to Have Flat Feet?

Generally speaking, a flat foot lacks an arch on the inside of the foot. This results in the entire sole of the foot touching the ground.

Flat foot typically refers to the non-moving shape of the arch.

Flat Foot Arch Before

This is a picture of my foot before I started working on building up my arches.

As you can see in the picture, there is almost no space underneath the inside of the foot. There is no arch in the middle of the foot.

So it’s clear that the foot is flat. However, from this picture, it’s hard to tell if the foot overpronates.

What is Overpronation?

Overpronation refers to a movement of the foot. Pronation is the inward roll of the foot and lowering of the arch that occurs when weight is put on the foot.

Almost everyone pronates to some degree when they walk or run. Pronation is part of the body’s shock absorption system.

The “over” part means that the foot is pronating more than normal. This is a somewhat vague concept because there is no clear measure of how much pronation or movement of the arch is optimal.

Overpronation is considered a problem because it affects the timing and direction of forces on the foot and leg. Excessive pronation is believed to place a person at an increased risk of injury.

These are pictures showing how I used to walk before strengthening my feet. You can see that when I’m landing on the left foot the heel is lined up in an almost straight in a neutral position.

When all my weight is on the leg (picture on the right) you can see how much the foot pronates.

pronation-collapse

The heel moved out to an everted position and the foot bones can be seen collapsing to the inside of the foot.

The Relationship Between Flat Feet and Overpronation

Like me, most people with flat feet have flexible flat feet. This means they have an arch in their foot when their foot is off the ground, or they can form an arch in their foot, but the arch collapses when standing.

In this case, flexible flat feet and overpronation are closely related. One of the reasons I didn’t have an arch was because my foot pronated a lot when I put weight on it.

So when I talk about correcting flat feet, I’m usually referring to both:

  • increasing the height of the arch in standing, and
  • controlling the amount of pronation with walking or running.

The two conditions are not always related though. A person can have both flat feet and overpronation, or either condition on its own.

So it’s possible to have a normal-sized arch and a visible arch in a footprint but then overpronate with activities that put more force through the foot, like running.

Many of the exercises in the program I used to build arches were also aimed at improving overpronation.

About James Speck

James is a physical therapist with a special interest in the foot and ankle. He created this site to share his own journey toward better arches. Read more

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5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Flat Feet and Overpronation”

  1. I’ve been dealing with my feet for awhile….used to wear orthotics but it help for a while but never seemed to last tried superfeet…now I’m trying just to deal with my feet by not using any type of extreme shoe insert… it hurt for awhile but now i feel like my feet are feeling a little bit better…gonna try your little plan to see i can make my feet better,,,THXS

  2. Thank you for this article. Instinctively, I knew that my foot is NOT flat, despite what a (very unpleasant) podiatrist told me recently. I have very high arches and I overpronate. Despite that, when I stand, I still have an arch in my feet. The insides of my feet Never touch the floor, regardless of how much weight I put on them. I have Plantar Fasciatis and my arches are probably weak.

    • My foot is NOT flat either, but I have Plantar Fasciatis — a hard spot felt in the middle of the bottom foot, pain when pressed hard with finger.
      Have you any suggestion for treatment, Susan ?
      (My foot doc said wait and see, 1 yr ago, not so severe even now)

      Thanks.

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