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For those of us with flat feet/discomfort (lengthy)

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For those of us with flat feet/discomfort (lengthy)

Old 05-09-12, 08:37 AM
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RT
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For those of us with flat feet/discomfort (lengthy)

Much has been posted lately about foot discomfort and possible remedies. The thread typically dwindles into twitchy and opinionated conjecture from some who have not experienced true foot pain that is either caused by or magnified by cycling. Hopefully this thread can be made sticky and open to constructive comments.

As one who has lived with foot discomfort through the years (from the age of 21), I have tried many things, many treatments, and many devices. All have helped in their own way, some more than others.

Orthotics
When plantar faciitis first entered my life, I could not walk when getting out of bed from the pain in my heel (I was 25). Relief was found through my chiropractor, who got me into some personalized/molded orthotics. Once I wore these out, I never replaced them, but the PF never returned. Discomfort, however, was perpetuated by the wearing of cheap shoes that provided no support. Over the years, this took its toll and made PF look like a Swedish massage.

I tried the orthotic route again, this time with Good Feet arch supports. I understood the science, and the product still looks brand new to this day. The trouble is, it can really hurt flat feet if worn daily, so it has been worn based on how my feet feel when I get up.

One day, I happened by some Walk Fit orthotics in Bed Bath & Beyond (the As Seen on TV ones). They were $20, so I tried them, and I have to say they were head and shoulders better than the Good Feet for which I paid $245.

While in Big Lots yesterday, I came across the same Walk Fit orthotics for $6 - I bought every pair in my size, and my feet are happier than ever.

Physical Therapy
After employing the use of orthotics for years, I went on a whim to see a physical therapist that came on a recommendation. I won't go into the details as every case is different, but the logic he showed me was flawless. Orthotics can help, but they simply treat the site of the discomfort. The discomfort itself was brought on by years of walking incorrectly, which made its way down to the foundation of my body. While orthotics try to correct from the feet up, it is easier to treat from the waist down. I was locking out my knees and walking on the outside of my feet. After only three months of focusing on my posture and cadence when I walk (I know, it sounds easy), my feet feel a definite benefit.

Acupuncture
Any commentary is welcome. I am going to my first appointment this weekend to see if it is yet another element in the solution. Has anyone had results from acupuncture? I will report after several treatments as I suspect is not like taking a pill to quell an allergy.

Diet
Another topic that has been beaten to death in this forum is that of diet and vices. During my boozing days, I made a lot of bad decisions. Nothing illegal, mind you, but when you're loaded, you tend to make some questionable decisions. I was a smoker because of my drinking, and my diet was pretty bad (bar food, mac and cheese, no vegetables - you get the idea). When my drinking ceased, my diet followed, and smoking after that. This is not a post to condemn those who still drink or smoke or eat fried food (Richie), it is merely something I noticed. When my body got healthier, my feet felt better.

No one thing/change in my life made it all better, but there are many contributing factors. If you have the bad feet, for God's sake, see a professional in this field. Start somewhere. Don't just accept it.

And to think, this whole post started with $6 orthotics at a discount store
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Old 05-09-12, 08:42 AM
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acupuncture for me was only palliative, but was a worthwhile/interesting experience.

professional orthotics have made a huge difference for me (originally to treat PF, a morton's neuroma, and sesamoiditis), and I am still hunting for an OTC orthotic that is as good as the fully customized ones i have.
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Old 05-09-12, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by motorthings View Post
acupuncture for me was only palliative, but was a worthwhile/interesting experience.

professional orthotics have made a huge difference for me (originally to treat PF, a morton's neuroma, and sesamoiditis), and I am still hunting for an OTC orthotic that is as good as the fully customized ones i have.
I kid you not with the Walk Fit. Remarkable for a product with the As Seen On TV stigma.
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Old 05-09-12, 08:55 AM
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I'm not a doctor or anyone of any medical background, but this is my experience:

With people experiencing discomfort, I would recommend looking into the pattern of wear on their sneakers; especially if they are runners. Finding out if you are a pronator or supinator can help diagnose or at least understand the source of pain. Another easy way is to head to the treadmill and video record your foot strikes as you do a slow jog (and alternatively watching yourself as you do a fast run).



Shoe pattern wear:

Pronation - outside heel strike + inside toe wear (you roll your ankle inward), valgus
Supination - outside heel strike + outside to wear (you roll your ankle outward), varus

Most flat feet people (and 85%) of the population are pronators. In which case, doing research on wedges or in-the-shoe insoles to correct this problem will help alleviate feet pain and realign the knee while cycling.

https://www.bikefit.com/products.php

Also be aware that valgus/varus wedges are designed for the heel or the metatarsils (front foot/toes).
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Old 05-09-12, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by blcknspo0ln View Post
I'm not a doctor or anyone of any medical background, but this is my experience:

With people experiencing discomfort, I would recommend looking into the pattern of wear on their sneakers; especially if they are runners. Finding out if you are a pronator or supinator can help diagnose or at least understand the source of pain. Another easy way is to head to the treadmill and video record your foot strikes as you do a slow jog (and alternatively watching yourself as you do a fast run).



Shoe pattern wear:

Pronation - outside heel strike + inside toe wear (you roll your ankle inward), valgus
Supination - outside heel strike + outside to wear (you roll your ankle outward), varus

Most flat feet people (and 85%) of the population are pronators. In which case, doing research on wedges or in-the-shoe insoles to correct this problem will help alleviate feet pain and realign the knee while cycling.

https://www.bikefit.com/products.php

Also be aware that valgus/varus wedges are designed for the heel or the metatarsils (front foot/toes).
Good advice. This is what the physical therapist showed me as the result of years of 'walking wrong.'
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Old 05-09-12, 09:09 AM
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Walking and running are different than when riding for those with flat feet.
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Old 05-09-12, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
Walking and running are different than when riding for those with flat feet.
Running yes, but when you take poor walking habits and first address those, the cycling follows. I am not sure the point of your reply.
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Old 05-09-12, 09:21 AM
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My problem "started" with my knees. At least that's where I realized it was a problem.

I went to the doctor with "knee pain." It turns out that my feet over-pronate, and it has caused my knees to not track properly over the years. There is a groove that your patella fits in, but mine has made its own groove. It started bothering me when it basically got all the way through the cartliage and was hitting the other bone. Arthritis, basically.

One physical therapist looked at me for about 10 seconds and told me "oh look, you are standing wrong.....you shouldn't have that bulge on the inside of your feet......that's supposed to be supported by your foot bones, but it isn't." He made me some orthodics, but I don't wear them since they're just too big to work with anything other than huge shoes. I haven't had any luck trying the many store-bought insoles either. Addidas and Sketcher shoes seem to make it "not that bad" for me.

Occasionally, I'll get what I call "weak ankle" where it feels like one of my ankles is sprained for a week or so, but my knees are really where the problem has manifested.

I ended up having surgery on one knee, but that was a total disaster. The doctor did a "Lateral release" which involved cutting one of the tendons holding my patella in place. His reasoning was that he hoped it would fall back into where it belongs without something pulling on it. That was not true at all! Now it locks up sometimes when I've been sitting for a while. I'm so mad at that guy! but whatever.

This is basically why I bought a bike in the first place. I was doing kungfu/taiji/sanshou for my exercise, but that was doing more damage to my knees, so I ended up getting a bike. I've been pretty happy ever since I got on this bike and built up some more muscles in the area.

I have had acupuncture with minimal results, but to be honest, every chance I get with my old kungfu teacher to do something on me, I'd rather use that time having him work on my wrist which has a host of other problems and bothers me more. He has taught me some acupressure stuff that I can do on my own.

With cycling, as long as I spin and don't mash, I'm fine. If I do a ride where I mash up a bunch of hills (or bridges around here), my knees will bother me for a few days afterwards.

I've also figured out subtle new ways to walk up/down steps that don't put all my weight in the trouble areas. I get around just fine. In a nutshell, I've stopped doing things that hurt and started doing things that don't hurt.

I guess my post is all over the place, but I don't care.
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Old 05-09-12, 09:27 AM
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GDG, no, man, relevant experience - that's what I was hoping for. The gist of the PT part of my OP (and your post) was to illustrate how our bodies can create their own way of working over the years to compensate for pain or discomfort when it originates. Years of 'doing it wrong', whatever it is (at the knees, the foot, wherever) create problems in the entire system, not just the origin. I had no faith in PT until I tried it - some think Chiropractic is voodoo, I thought the same of PT, but it has really helped me.

My mother has has great success with relieving headaches and insomnia with acupuncture, and I am only trying it to see if it works. It helps that my insurance pays for 30 visits a year.

My point to Garfield is that if you try to fix the origin of the problem, activities such as cycling which are hard on the feet can get better if you practice proper motion in all other activities.
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Old 05-09-12, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by RTDub View Post
GDG, no, man, relevant experience - that's what I was hoping for. The gist of the PT part of my OP (and your post) was to illustrate how our bodies can create their own way of working over the years to compensate for pain or discomfort when it originates. Years of 'doing it wrong', whatever it is (at the knees, the foot, wherever) create problems in the entire system, not just the origin. I had no faith in PT until I tried it - some think Chiropractic is voodoo, I thought the same of PT, but it has really helped me.

My mother has has great success with relieving headaches and insomnia with acupuncture, and I am only trying it to see if it works. It helps that my insurance pays for 30 visits a year.

My point to Garfield is that if you try to fix the origin of the problem, activities such as cycling which are hard on the feet can get better if you practice proper motion in all other activities.
You're so right on with the "proper motion in all activities thing," but the problem is that we usually don't totally understand that until we're old and there has been damage done. LOL.

My acupuncture experience is kind of limited because I didn't have a "real" doctor with appointments and insurance. I just got it whenever there was a chance. And this is really something that you need multiple scheduled visits for. I had multiple visits, but it was always like "okay come in here and we'll do some work on your knees." It was sporadic (and free). However, talking to him and asking questions while he was doing it was an invaluable experience.

The reason I decided to get a bike was because the PT put me on a bike immediately after surgery. I figured it was okay for me to ride since that was the first thing the PT guy let me do. I get results from cycling, and I'm very happy about it. As you know, there are "bad times" when you just think "woe is me.....I'll never be able to do the things I want......I'll be a fat guy because I can't exercise.....bla bla bla" But cycling has really helped.
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Old 05-09-12, 10:16 AM
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I've got flat feet, but they generally don't cause me any problems so long as I don't wear shoes with high arches.

I tried a pair of Pearl Izumi road shoes last year and their high/narrow arch was torture! I wore them for one ride and would be happy to unload them to anyone who doesn't have flat feet and could use some size 46's. My old Adidas that sadly fell apart had a flatter sole that felt great, as do the Diadoras I'm using now.

I guess my small contribution to the thread is that choice of shoe makes a significant difference.
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Old 05-09-12, 11:24 AM
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I have flat feet and struggled with severe back pain for years. I tried orthotics but they were so uncomfortable and painful to my feet that I couldn't wear them. The chiro that prescribed them switched to a different brand/method and wanted me to try those. I was too poor to do that and didn't trust the guy anyway. I kept dealing with back pain. Fast forward about 5 years and I accidentally discovered barefooting and non-supportive footwear after a trip to Chihuahua (I was only trying to make some sweet Jesus sandals that the local natives wore). This completely changed my life. My back pain improved almost immediately. My feet were sore but once the muscles got used to working right that went away. I was a pronator as described above. I made a conscious effort to walk properly, which took a while to get used to, but my back pain hasn't returned.

As far as cycling goes, I just make sure the shoe is wide enough and I don't have any issues. I can even stand to have a small arch, although I replace the insoles. My feet are strong enough to handle the 2 or 3 hours a day I'm in my cycling shoes.
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Old 05-09-12, 11:49 AM
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here's my experience... kind of long.

i have pretty flat feet and i over-pronate. this caused my knee and shin pain when i tried to work out which is why i didn't do it. that's why i bought a bike- i figured it would be easier on my joints. once i got my cardio up a bit, i decided to take up running, but i was running in cheap, off-brand running shoes and i had pain (not debilitating, but enough that i tried wearing knee braces and i usually took asprin before i even went running) in my knees, shins, and feet. occasional pain when walking, but it was definitely most noticeable when running. i had some knee pain when biking, but i do not know if it's associated with the flat feet.

i went to a running store where i watched my stride on a high-speed camera and was fitted for supportive running shoes. nothing custom, but among the most supportive off-the-shelf running shoes you can get. shoes are typically categorized as "neutral," "stability," and "stability plus"- i fell on the stability plus end of the spectrum.

on the high speed camera, it was night and day. with a proper stride, you're supposed to land on the outside of your foot, roll in a bit, and push straight up. when you over-pronate (like i was), your foot rolls too far in and your "push" is almost diagonal toward the inside of your body (as shown in the image above). it was very obvious on video, and it was dramatically improved. when i actually started running in my new shoes, again, it was night and day. stride felt much more natural and no more pain. stopped wearing the knee brace both running and biking.

that said, i've spent the last 6 months training in thai boxing a few hours a week. i do this barefoot and as part of it, i've run, done jumping, etc. on the mat. at my gym at least, you can hear pretty clearly when you heel strike on the mat, especially running and jumping, so i made it a point to always land on the balls of my feet. in general, there's a big emphasis on using the balls of your feet for everything, and never being flatfooted.

after my first 6-8 weeks, i saw that the insides of my calves have developed serious definition. my first real run (outside, with my running shoes) a little while later felt absolutely effortless, and i've continued since then. i'm running longer, faster, and with virtually no pain. improved cardio definitely accounts for some of that, but i think the improvement in strength in my legs and the natural improvement in my stride (closer to neutral) plays a much bigger role. i'm going to try running in more minimal shoes this year and see how i feel, but i'm pretty confident.

So in summary... shoes were a big help, but strengthening the muscles seems to have been even better.
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Old 05-09-12, 12:06 PM
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Liking what I am hearing. Shoes are definitely important, whether cycling or otherwise. I too have found that Skechers have really done it right with the insoles of their shoes - my feet are most comfortable in this brand. If they made a cycling shoe, I would buy it.

It is also good to hear that you guys have learned about your gait and improved the motion, which seems to have helped your problem.
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Old 05-09-12, 12:16 PM
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Good read....as both a cyclist and an Automotive Technician I realized that I think about what position my body is in constantly. Both jobs have me positioning for maximum comfort while still delivering acceptable torque/power. (though my only concern about airflow working on cars is the fan blowing on my face, and the radiator )

I've been told time and time again by older guys in the industry that if you don't get the RIGHT boots/shoes and don't follow some basic ergonomics (wrenching at chest-height whenever possible,etc) it'd hurt big time down the line. I'm starting to learn it now!
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Old 05-09-12, 01:41 PM
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Here's another thought guys:

I would highly recommend those struggling with foot pain to try out minimalist type shoes. I'm referring to the heel-to-toe drop, not so much the 'minimal' feel of lightweight shoes that seem to be growing popular. A caveat, though, is to only use them as a training TOOL, not to replace your athletic/running/walking shoes. Having a shoe that is 0-6mm of drop will cause you to start striking with your mid/fore foot. This will in turn cause your body to adjust to a more natural gait. Without having guys jump down my throat about recommending minimalist runners (in leiu of more injuries, etc etc), just keep in mind that doing this 1x or 2x a week will give you a better feel for how your body responds and you can adjust accordingly.

Case in point, I struggled with foot/knee problems, but once I started training with my New Balance minimus MT10's and Saucony Kinvara's, my running AND my cycling has improved greatly. I'm much more comfortable on the road and on the saddle because I focused on training my body how to run/cycle with a better gait, which in turn helped my overall performance.
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Old 05-09-12, 07:37 PM
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a question i have is i want some proper raod cycling shoes but my feet are flat and fairly wide which ones can i get which will fit?
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Old 05-09-12, 08:37 PM
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I should say that my experience with minimalist/barefoot footwear has nothing to do with running. Walking and hiking but never running, that's why I got into cycling.

I found Giro shoes to fit me quite well. My forefoot is wide and heel is narrow. Giro shoes do have a bit of an arch but I have not found it to be an issue for me. The toebox is wide enough and I don't even think about them while I'm riding. I tried on some speialized shoes but I would have had to special order the wide size, and shoes is something I want to try on first.
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Old 05-09-12, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by RTDub View Post
Running yes, but when you take poor walking habits and first address those, the cycling follows. I am not sure the point of your reply.
I think his point is running and walking are weight bearing and cycling is not. Most people that have feet with excessive motion problems like severe pronation and suffer from running can cycle without any problems. That's because they feet are stable on bicycles.
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Old 05-10-12, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
I think his point is running and walking are weight bearing and cycling is not. Most people that have feet with excessive motion problems like severe pronation and suffer from running can cycle without any problems. That's because they feet are stable on bicycles.
I disagree. A bicycle would not work unless you put some weight on your feet. They are different types of weight-bearing exercise, but the fact is that your feet still take a beating. When you are running, not only are your feet taking the beating, but your ankles, knees, hips and you get the picture.

The point of this thread is not to argue semantics, it is to help other cyclists who have foot issues. This is a cycling forum, not a running forum, and walking correctly is where foot comfort starts. It can only help one's cycling comfort.

To add to yesterday's post, I know for a fact my poor walking habits started in Basic Training. Everything had to have a heelbeat, and this involved essentially landing on your heel a and digging it into the ground to make a louder noise. The boots issued were flatter than Kansas, and after years of walking around in those, you don't notice you're doing it wrong any more.

Last edited by RT; 05-10-12 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 05-10-12, 07:04 AM
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RTDub if youre looking for orthotics for flat feet the best ive come across is superfeet green, those things rule.
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Old 05-10-12, 07:07 AM
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I have tried many, but never heard of those. I have found my solution, but glad to have more recommendations in here.

Where can you get Superfeet Green?
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Old 05-10-12, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by RTDub View Post
I have tried many, but never heard of those. I have found my solution, but glad to have more recommendations in here.

Where can you get Superfeet Green?
I got them at my local running store but im sure there are plenty of places you can get them

https://www.superfeet.com/
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Old 05-10-12, 07:07 PM
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Superfeet claim the Green is for med to high arches so how is that supposed to be for flat feet? I tried the Yellow and like them for cycling but I prefer Sole insoles for walking.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by RTDub View Post
Running yes, but when you take poor walking habits and first address those, the cycling follows. I am not sure the point of your reply.
It has to do with flexing. When running, the arch will flex to the point of pronation and knees go inward. I mean flat feet types. When riding, the rider has more control of that flexing and can actually prevent it. You know how you can cup your hand? Try putting the palm of your hand flat onto a table top. That's like a flat feet position. Now take that same hand and cup it so that the palm does not touch the table top.

When riding, a flat foot rider can actually "cup" the arch to prevent it from going flat because the rider's weight is not pressing down. This might take some practice, but it works. That's why I take exception to all those arch supports for riders. Yeah, I take exception to Nate Loyal on this too. Nate, are you reading this yet?

Last edited by Garfield Cat; 05-11-12 at 07:11 AM.
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