Running with Flat Feet : How to Improve Arch Height

Running with flat feet isn’t a bad thing, if you are a forefoot runner because landing with a forefoot strike improves arch height.

When landing on the forefoot during running, the foot arch undergoes 3-point bending during landing, which improves arch height. Sadly however, there are many runners with flat feet struggling with arch pain when running and other foot injuries from running, but fortunately help is on the way!

Running with Flat Feet

The myth is, running shoes with arch support helps reduce pain in a runner with flat feet. The truth is, the most fast-acting intervention for improving arch height is by walking barefoot on uneven surfaces. In addition, running barefoot for just 2-3 minutes a day is also enough to strengthen the muscle groups that support the arch of the foot.

  • Robbins and Hanna found that outdoor barefoot activity bolstered intrinsic foot muscle tone, helping to raise the main longitudinal arch as compared with indoor barefoot activity.
  • They discovered that natural surfaces with protruding irregularities acted faster on improving arch height than barefoot walking on smoother surfaces.
Running with Flat Feet
Above, a figure from the study, showing the relative improvements in arch height with various barefoot activities. As you can see, within 2 months of barefoot activity, arch height increased as a function of decreased total area of the plantar surface. Subjects were instructed to increase weight-bearing activity barefooted as much as possible both indoors (i.e. at home) and outdoors (i.e. gardening, washing your car etc). Barefoot running and walking was also encouraged and the duration of these activities increased gradually over several weeks. Productively, moderation is key. SOURCE: Robbins and Hanna, Med Sci Sports Exerc,1987; 19(2):148-156

The researchers also reasoned that running shoes with arch support reduces support functionality of the main arch, thereby forcing more load on the plantar fasica –hence why plantar facsciitis is very common among habitually shod joggers. This also confirms that these shoes push runners more towards arch dysfunction and poor foot health.

The researchers also wrote about how barefoot runners use the 4 muscle groups that support the arch instead of the plantar fascia which is why plantar fasciitis as well as collapsed arches are a rarity in habitual barefoot populations.

The Take Home Message

The hallmark intervention strategy for flat feet sufferers is by mechanically stimulating the nerve cells that line the bottoms of the feet since muscular degeneration surrounding the arch is linked to low sensory traffic.

For one thing, walking barefoot on an uneven surface shoots enough pulses through the proprioceptors to improve arch height, but weight-barefoot activities, such as walking barefoot wearing a weighted vest or performing your routine strength training regiment barefoot, accelerates arch height enhancement. It really is as simple as that.

More From Run Forefoot:


Robbins SE and Hanna AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc,1987; 19(2):148-156.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!


  1. Hello,
    I’m currently 18 years old and I’ve had flat feet for as long as I can remember. I saw the YouTube video where someone talked about how running barefoot can help fix the arches of the feet. I would love to start doing this and I saw that there are results within just two months. For how long will I need to run or walk outside every day?

  2. Hi I am very flat footed and did not know if this wasn’t too bad a shape if barefoot running is a bad idea or not? I have tried assignment seems to be way more comfortable than running and shoes believe it or not. Not getting any success with wearing orthotics. also what kind of footwear would you suggest for everyday life trickling also work in the business world.

  3. Hello. I have a question. I have had tendon/ligament inflammation/irritation that has caused pain in my right foot for about half a year now and is causing the arch to fall. Is barefoot walking/running on grass or sand known to help with this type of injury? I also left this same comment on a youtube video of yours.

  4. terrible article. It addresses the need to utilize natural foot muscle without interference but does not provide how to walk properly. Without this, its basically useless.

    sample here shown is with high arch, research need to pull sample on collapsed arch to really make the case. otherwise its just smoke and mirror.

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