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.
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.
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.