There are several reasons for chronic foot pain, and your natural foot arch is one of the main culprits.
The way our feet are shaped has a huge impact on our gait and the mechanics of how we move from place to place. The way our feet arch is often referred to as arch height, and there are three major types: low arches (flat foot), normal arches, and high arches.
Understanding our arch height is key to long-term foot health. If your foot is supported correctly through custom arch support insoles or even shoes designed for that purpose, you can ensure that your foot posture doesn’t contribute to painful conditions like plantar fasciitis, corns, and iliotibial band pain.
Let’s explore some of the different ways that our arches affect our gait, and how you can support your unique arch shape to ensure the long-term health and comfort of your feet.
Determining Your Arch Height
The easiest way to determine the height of your arches is to do a quick and easy ‘wet test’.
Simply wet the bottom of your feet, then step carefully on to a piece of material like cardboard or dark paper. Step off, and examine the imprint your wet foot made on the material.
If your footprint is almost entirely visible, you likely have very low arches. Feet that are arched higher will show very little footprint between the ball of the foot and the heel. Many people with high or low arches are born that way. However, lifestyle factors like weight and health can gradually change the shape of normal feet over time.
How Arch Support Shoes and Insoles Offer Relief
People with low arches or flat feet are vulnerable to overpronation, and swelling along the inside of their ankles due to the instability of their gait. The collapse of the arch can also lead to tearing in the adjacent tendons and muscles, which builds up over time into a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
People with high arches often experience joint and muscle strain because of the tightness of their arches. They may also find themselves frequently sore since their higher arches don’t provide as much shock absorption as a normally arched foot.
Finding proper support for both high and low arches is critical. Without support, gait and pronation issues could get worse with time. Lack of proper support puts pressure and strain on sensitive joints, muscles, and tendons. This can cause a variety of issues including Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, and hip problems.
How Can You Tell Which Type of Arch Support You Need?
Although the three main categories of arch height are a great place to start, the reality is that every foot is shaped differently. The best way to ensure you get effective treatment is by investing in arch support insoles or orthotics that are made to fit your exact measurements.
Arch support insoles should conform to the exact curve of your foot and should feel both comfortable and supportive. They should also stabilize your heel with a deep heel cup, which prevents excess movement and helps control overpronation.
Choose Custom Orthotics for the Best Arch Support
Over-the-counter arch support orthotic devices may be a tempting purchase, but since they aren’t fitted to your measurements, they’ll likely be of limited use.
Testing kits, which are available from companies like Orthotics Direct, are made using a foam or digital model to create a detailed impression of each foot. Then, custom orthotics are built to support the unique shape of your feet.
Once you receive your custom orthotics in the mail, you can start wearing them right away! This means you can feel the benefits that custom arch support can offer your feet, and also feel comfortable (literally and figuratively) knowing you’re getting the support you need when going about your daily life.