Most people refer to themselves as having a high arch or flat-footed when the explanation is slightly more complex. Each person actually has three smaller arches on each foot that make up the collective arch.
Discover Your Arch-Type
You more than likely have one of these 3 types of arches:
- Normal arch (also classified as a medium arch.)
- Flat arch (as known as a low arch)
- High arch (can also be referred to as a low arch.)
If you want to discover what kind of arch you have, wet your foot and then step on some paper/cardboard. Your footprint will tell you precisely what kind of shoes you should be wearing. Once you get the prints, head on over to this PDF guide to decipher them.
The Science of Your Foot Pain
The arch is a collection of bones, tendons, and ligaments. This part of your foot forms its shape over time, based on your walking patterns/ the weight put on specific foot areas. The arch helps the foot adjust to walking on different surfaces.
And as athletes and service workers know —it's also what can cause a lot of strain and discomfort.
Normal/ Medium Arch
A "normal arch," or one where most of the middle of your footprint shows, indicating that the feet are naturally doing what they should: supporting your body weight.
Tips for the perfect fit:
- You may have a shape that's classified as well-working but still look for shoes offering arch support.
- Proper fit is everything; there are different types of lasts out there; for normal arches, you're looking for straight to semi-curved lasts. Keep in mind when the shoe quite literally doesn't fit, it will cause stress and heal pain.
If you're hard on your feet, look for shoes that offer shock absorption to prevent injury or chronic stress.
Flat/ Low Arch
Okay, so, if you have a low arch, you have incredibly flexible feet, and just like high arches, they'll look great in pointe shoes [if that's your thing.]
Potential problems: plantar fasciitis, post-tibial tendonitis (also known as policeman's heel), heel spurs, knee pain, and bunions.
While this type of foot shape is prone to injuries and over-pronation, suitable footwear can prevent most issues. The best shoes for low arches are those that offer medial rearfoot posting and cushioned arch support. These adjustments keep the foot from rolling inward too much.
There's less surface area on the bottom of your foot touching the ground when you have high arches. Because of the shape of this arch, there's more strain when performing an impactful movement.
Those with high arches may experience chronic heel pain, strains, metatarsalgia (inflammation of the ball of your foot), calluses, claw toes, and plantar fasciitis.
The bottom line— you need support. High arches require not only arch support by metatarsal pads for the front of the foot. Again, cushioning is your best friend.
The arch of your foot supports body weight as you shift your weight, keeping you balanced and quick on your feet. If you find you experience foot cramps or extra achy feet after a long work shift, walking, or running, your shoes may not be supporting your arches.
No arch is inherently bad; learning about your feet and adequately supporting them can tackle most bothersome pain.