Exercise is an important part of any healthy life. Any kind of exercise can help with circulation, digestion, muscle tone, mental fitness, and a great many other health benefits. But some people have to approach the subject with more care than others. Everyone can improve their circulation and extend their healthy life by reaching a cardio heart rate. All of our muscles benefit from building strength and tone. However, not everyone can take typical workout advice at face-value. Not everyone can stand for long periods of time, or at all. Someone with flat feet may not be able to easily go for a run or a swim, pump iron, or do calisthenics without concern but that doesn’t mean that they can’t work up a sweat and stay healthy anyway.

Exercising with Flat Feet

There are a nearly infinite number of physical conditions, both minor and major, that can get in the way of a traditional workout routine. Of all the numerous physical conditions, one of the most subtle and incredibly common is flat feet. Approximately 30% of the population has flat feet, arches that collapse and ankles that roll inward at the slightest opportunity. And this condition, while not debilitating, has a way of complicating your exercise routine.

For everyone out there looking to stay in shape despite rolling ankles and the ache of heels that hit the ground a little too hard, we’re here to share best practices for working out with flat feet.

Be Careful About Your Ankles

The first and most important thing to learn about your own feet is what a collapsible arch does to your ankles. When your foot is in the ‘proper’ shape (when you stand as if you had an arch), your ankle is straight and the ankle bone is distributed equally to either side of the foot. However, when you stand naturally and let your arch collapse, the ankle rolls inward, creating what is known as pronation.

While this is not a big deal most of the time, when walking and doing normal low-key tasks, exercise is a different matter. People with flat feet are at a higher risk for sprained ankles because your ankles are more prone to rolling out of place. So be careful and be aware of your ankle position. Try to always work out holding your foot in the correct position and strengthen your supporting muscles to prevent ankle-related injuries.

The Right Shoes are Everything

Fortunately, you don’t have to consciously hold your feet and ankles in place all the time. What you really need is a pair of sneakers with excellent arch support. Not every pair of sneakers will be right for you, but there are many great sneaker designs that will include arch support that comfortably fits your foot in the shape it would have if you had arches.

Don’t be afraid to try on as many brands and models as you need to in order to find the right pair. There is a very good chance you will eventually identify a brand and line of shoes you can rely on for years. If you never quite find the right fit, start experimenting with gel insoles that can add extra shape and support to the bottom of any shoe, including less supportive dress shoes as well.

Alternate Between Sitting and Standing Exercises

Finally, remember it’s important to be aware of the tendency of your flat feet toward soreness. Flat feet don’t distribute weight in a natural way and tend to put a little too much-concentrated pressure on the balls and heels of your feet which take the most impact. It’s not uncommon for people with flat feet to be unable to run, dance, or remain standing for long periods of time. And that’s okay.

The trick is simply to alternate between seated and standing exercises. If you find our feet sore after thirty minutes of running or jumping jacks, switch to weightlifting at a bench or doing floor exercises for a while instead. The fact of the matter is that as long as you give your feet the occasional break, you can keep working out all day if you want to.


Having flat feet can make a vigorous exercise routine more challenging, but by no means impossible. As long as you are aware of the needs of your feet, you can build muscle, stamina, and cardiovascular health as effectively as anyone with working arches. With the right shoes, no one will even know the difference.

If you suffer or have pain in your ankles, knees, hips or lower back due to flat feet Cawley PT can help! Call our office at 570-208-2787 and speak with one of our doctors or email us at cawleyptfrank@gmail.com