Whether you need insoles for flat feet depends on whether your flat feet cause pain during exercise or normal activities. People who have flexible flat feet and who experience no pain in their feet, ankles or legs do not require treatment for their condition. Those who have rigid flat feet or flexible flat feet with pain might need insoles for their shoes. A doctor can give a more individualized recommendation.
People typically develop arches in their feet during childhood. Some never do, leading to medical condition called pes planus, or flat feet, in which the arch of the foot is always in contact with the ground. Foot arches might also collapse as part of old age. Flat feet are less commonly caused by a painful condition called tarsal coalition, during which two or more bones in the feet fuse together during childhood.
Many people who have flat feet can form an arch by standing on their toes, meaning that they have flexible flat feet. These people do not need insoles for flat feet unless their condition also causes pain in their lower extremities while walking, running or performing other physical activities. In many cases, over-the-counter insoles can provide adequate arch support. Other people might experience more pain relief when using custom-made foot orthotics as recommended by a doctor. Although insoles and orthotics won't correct the condition, they can relieve the associated problems.
People who have rigid flat feet, or flat feet that are stiff and inflexible, will likely need a more extensive medical evaluation to determine the cause of their flat feet. This type of flat foot condition is often caused by a problem with the bones or tendons in the feet and ankles as detected by an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. If you have rigid flat feet, your doctor might prescribe rest, a shoe insert, a brace or even surgery.
Insoles for flat feet can be flexible or rigid. They are often made of plastic, foam, gel or a number of other supportive and cushioning materials. Over-the-counter products typically are cheaper than custom orthotics, which might cost more than $100 US Dollars.
You might want to use insoles for flat feet even if your foot condition is not causing pain or discomfort. People who have flat feet might experience pronation, a condition in which the ankle bones lean inward. Runners and athletes who have flat feet often use insoles or specially designed shoes to ensure that their arches have enough support and to prevent aches and pains associated with pronation and flat feet.