The debate of barefoot running and flat feet has two sides: on one hand, there is the case that an insufficient arch does not allow enough support (or "bounce") to support a barefoot runner. On the other side of the coin is the argument that running barefoot actually strengthens the arch and creates a higher arch. Let's dig into each of these sides a little deeper.
The Case FOR Running Barefoot and Flat Feet
While there may not be an official position on this issue from the scientific or medical community, there are plenty of positive anecdotal accounts from barefoot running enthusiasts who are flat footed. In fact, there is a good discussion on this topic at the Runners World website where you can read some of these accounts. It is known that running barefoot promotes a running style that relies on a forefoot strike as opposed to a heel strike, which is typical when running with shoes.
As a result, a different set of muscles are emphasized with each stride, especially the small muscles in the middle of the foot and the calves. So, if these small muscles around the arch are strengthened, the middle of the foot will naturally tighten and flex inward as it grows stronger. The foot actually adapts its shape over time to support this more natural running gait--at least that's the theory. There are even stories of people who have dropped a shoe size because of this phenomenon.
The Case AGAINST Running Barefoot and Flat Feet
Others warn that flat footed people should not run without shoes (or at least consult a physician first) because they lack the cushion in the mid-foot to absorb a forefoot strike--remember that barefoot runners use a different running style in which they land on the forefoot.
If you have flat feet and are thinking about barefoot running, it is advisable to consult your physician and/or take a gradual approach to see how it goes. Perhaps you can start by walking barefoot, then jogging short distances. You may find that your arch grows and strengthens with this activity and then you'll be ready for barefoot running.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on barefoot running and flat feet. If you are interested in learning more about running without shoes, check out my other articles on the topic: