Hiking with Fallen Arches/Flat Feet

Young readers beware. Regardless of how fit you are the older you get the more things tend to simply stop working properly! Occasionally I’ve written here about health related issues and I’m glad I had. My piece on back pain ended up in me being recommended the most useful book on the subject I’ve come across. I was able to share the book with others and I know from feedback it has helped others as well.

So, to feet. I’ve always had problems with fallen arches especially with my left foot. This has simply meant that walking on this foot can be quite painful. The problem has got worse and on the recent TGO coast-to-coast walk it became so painful that I decided it was time for action. I was surprised to find a solution that was simple and reasonably cheap!

Flat feet run in my family. My father was not allowed in the army because of his and he happily spent the war as a young man terrorising the good cities of Birmingham, making sure they had the lights blacked out and so on — a kind of Brummie Sgt Hodges for those of you who know their Dad’s Army. This has always made me laugh not least because my own flat feet have never stopped me walking long distances for weeks on end. 

Over the last five years or so the problem has definitely got worse. During the evening the pain in my heel was quite severe and even next morning you’d see me hobbling about uncomfortably. I’m one of those people that puts off dealing with things like this; I just put up with it all. And besides, these non critical health things seem to cost a fortune to sort out.

Back home I realised that it was time to do something. I was wondering about a trip to the doctor and then decided to put hiking and flat feet into Google. Yes, I know this is the obvious thing to do but it was quite revelatory to me.

I quickly realised that this was a very common problem. Heel pain is a common problem with fallen arches but so also is back pain, knee pain and so on. However, there were many people testifying that simple insoles had made a massive difference. There are quite a lot of brands out there but the one mentioned the most was Doctor Foot and so I ordered a pair of Doctor Foot’s Sport Insoles.

These insoles look rather like Superfeet but are built up to give extra support where it counts. You slip them inside of your footwear to replace the native insole. The Doctor Foot insoles come with some interesting instructions. Use for only 2 hours a day for the first three days or so, step it up to 5 hours and only go ‘full time’ after a full week’s use.

The instructions seemed to make sense. Immediately I could see that the insoles made a big difference. Fallen Arches see the feet sloping inwards and you can easily see the impact this has on the wear of your soles. I was quickly conscious that I was walking different and especially was using a proper heel motion on my left foot. After a couple of hours though my feet and other muscles became tired, I guess because they were being used differently. One thing made me wonder about Superfeet. I never really got on with these but then I was putting them in my boots (back then) and then walking all day. I wonder if this breaking in regime would have made them more comfortable?

A couple of weeks on and I am very impressed so much so that I now have insoles for my regular shoes (in which instance I only need to use one for the left foot). Most of the time I wear my Terrocs (so long as work allows) and these insoles are now a permanent feature.

I waited to comment on these here until I had used them on proper walks. First time out I used them on a twenty mile walk in Shropshire. I felt better for using them although to be honest I could still feel the strain on my feet. The last mile and a half of this walk is along tarmac and it was here that the magic was really felt. Usually this last bit of walk would be very painful but here I was walking much more comfortably. At the Station I had a long wait. When I stood up from the seat I expected a stab of pain but none came!

I’ve since used them on a weekend backpacking trip. I was only carrying a light load — base weight about 4 kilograms — but the insoles worked just as well.

If this in a problem you are having increased problems with then I’d recommend trying these inserts before having to seek more specialist advice. They may just do the job. There are a lot different brands available but Doctor Foot seem to have the biggest following and are often recommended by foot care websites.

I’ll keep on eye on how durable these insoles are and report back. The insoles for ordinary shoes seem to work even more effectively — these simply slip on top of the shoe insole. I also bought a couple of gel filled inserts — you’ll find these on searching. These do not have the corrective build of the insoles. I then wondered whether the idea was for you to simply place these on top of the insoles for extra protection but I can’t get them to both fit into my shoes. While I can see how these might be worth carrying on a trek to cope wit particular heel problems for me, at least, they are nowhere near as effective.

If you have suffered with allen arches and flat feet it would be nice to hear about your experiences.


  1. This strikes a note. I have to thank Cotswold camping for spotting I had the beginnings of falling arches and they suggested a visit to a podiritrist (spelling!) They gave me excercises, one of which was rolling a tin of beans under the foot whilst watching TV. I also had a pair of insoles provided for free. matters have improved.

    There was no big sell by Cotswold, but I will buy there next time and have boots which have been measured correctly.

  2. Painful heels and rolling tins of beans about are also connected with plantar fasciitis, and I suppose you could have some of this going on as well. It’s inflammation of the tendon running from the heel under the foot, and the cure for that seems to be stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and upper and lower calf muscle.

  3. Alan Callow says:

    Some good points here Andy. Like you I suffer from fallen arches. After many years of wondering why my knees and ankles where sore and often swollen even after quite short trips my GP told me to visit a podiatrist. Being too tight fisted I tried commercially available insoles (Scholl and Dr Feet) and these helped for a while but eventually I transferred the pain up from Ankles to knees and eventually back! So off to the podiatrist and some custom made insoles. These cost £250 but havebeen excellent – no foot problems at all on this year’s TGO BUT unless worn daily a recurrence of my problems doesn’t take long to manifest.

    Having oversize feet (UK13) in the 1st place makes insoles an additional problem in finding boots / shoes to fit. Innov8 are a no no but I had excellent results with Altberg Tetheras.

    One thing for everyone to bear in mind – don’t take too long to seek help. Off the shelf insoles may work if you catch the problem early and are relatively cheap though they will need to be changed more ofthen than custom built insoles. Furthermore you shouldn’t feel bad about flat feet – they are more often inherited than a due to old age.

  4. Good advice Bob -Tshepo
    Good advice Bob

Write in the box and the login details will suddenly appear!