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Know your Arch type

It is important to know your arch type in order to identify and buy shoes that will best support your bodyweight to relieve foot pain and prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis.

 

WHAT DIFFERENT TYPES OF FOOT ARCHES ARE THERE?

Flat feet: Pronation is a term used to describe the inward leaning motion of the foot and ankle bones towards the arch. The amount of pronation correlates with arch height. The more a person pronates, the flatter the arch will be.

Normal arch: The normal arch has the middle part of the arch slightly raised from the ground when weight bearing.  A good test is to try and slip a piece of paper below the arch.  If you can place the paper in between your foot and the floor you have a normal arch.  

High arch: High arches are a genetically inherited condition where your arch is much higher or raised than normal.  When weight bearing there is significantly more space in between the floor and the arch.

 

HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR ARCH TYPE?

The easiest way to determine your arch type is to do a "home water test".  Simply pour water into a shallow pan.  Insert your foot into the pan to wet the soles of your feet.  Step onto a piece of paper and look down.  

Flat (Low) arch: If you see the arch mostly filled in then your foot is most likely collapsing inward when you run.

Normal arch:  If you see about half of your arch region then you have the most common foot type.  A normal arch supports your bodyweight and pronates normal.

High arch: If your arch has little to no arch than you have a high arch.  Your foot is not absorbing much shock when you run.

 

HOW DOES EACH IMPACT YOUR GAIT?

Flat feet: The amount of pronation correlates with arch height. The more a person pronates, the flatter the arch will be. Many people who over-pronate do not experience any pain or discomfort. When flat feet become symptomatic, a thorough foot evaluation is recommended. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis or Adult Acquired Flatfoot is another term used to describe the Painful progressive flatfoot. This occurs when the posterior tibial tendon gets inflamed or injured. The posterior tibial tendon helps to hold the arch in proper position and when this tendon in damaged, a painful lowering or collapse of the arch develops. Chronic rigid flat foot and functional limb length discrepancies can occur if left untreated. Severely rigid flat feet can also lead to posterior tibial tendonitis due to the constant strain of the tendon.

Prolonged periods of time allows our foot to collapse affecting our gait and posture, which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body.   Our feet naturally pronate during the gait cycle, however when we have flat feet we pronate for a longer period of time which then alters the biomechanics and distribution of pressure and weight across the foot. This imbalance may increase the progression of underlying foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes and lead to painful conditions associated with excessive pronation such as arch/ heel pain, shin splints/ posterior tibial tendonitis, and achilles tendonitis.  This imbalance can then translate upward affecting other parts of the body such as our knees and back.

Normal arch: The normal arch allows weight and pressure to be evenly distributed across the foot to minimize faulty biomechanics that may affect not only the feet, but also the ankles, knees, and back.

High arch: High arches don't necessarily cause pain, though your foot can feel more fatigued and sore when you have them.  People with high arches have an increased amount of weight placed on the ball and heel of the foot when walking or standing. This can result in pain and difficulty with posture and balance. People with high arches also have a greater tendency to suffer from ankle sprains as feet supinate and roll inward.  Having a high arch can also lead to lateral (outside) knee pain as the inward rolling of the feet cause the knees to turn outward.

 

 

DOES EACH IMPACT YOU WHEN YOU WORK OUT?

Flat feet: Working out just exacerbates what was mentioned above in terms of the negative impact excessive pronation has on the foot.  The damage happens faster and harder.

High arch: Having high arches means that less of your foot actually touches the ground when walking or running, providing less shock absorption when the foot strikes the ground. Therefore, people with high arches can be more prone to overuse injuries when playing sports or exercising.  Highly arched feet can also make it difficult to fit into regular shoes. Trying to wear shoes without enough room or support to accommodate a high arch can be painful because more stress is placed on the metatarsals ultimately leading to pain in the ball of the feet known as metatarsalgia as well as plantar fasciitis.

 

WHAT TYPE OF SHOES/SUPPORT SHOULD EACH TYPE LOOK FOR?

Flat feet: Those with flat feet should look for the following support:

High arch: Those with high arches should look for the following support:

 

WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR FOOT ARCH?

Your arch can collapse over time due to activities, weight gain, and ligamentous laxity as the foot loses collagen with age and after pregnancy.  

 



Author
Dr. Miguel Cunha Dr. Miguel Cunha, founder of Gotham Footcare and a leading podiatrist in Manhattan, is a highly trained and skilled foot and ankle surgeon with experience treating a wide array of foot and ankle conditions from minor problems to complex reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Cunha takes pride in having a genuine interest in each and every one of his patients while providing them the utmost compassion and exceptional care.

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