What’s your arch type? Every foot is unique, but most tend to fall into one of three categories in regard to the arch: low (or flat), medium (or normal), or high. The shape of your arch can have a significant impact on what kind of shoes will be the best for you, as well as what kind of foot problems or pain you may be especially likely to develop, so it pays to know your style—especially if you’re a runner, hiker, or athlete.
Not sure what kind of arch you have? Try one of these two tests.
The Wet Test
You can often get a pretty good read on what your arches are doing based on what you see when you look at your footprint. To perform the wet test, fill a shallow pan with water and moisten your sole. Then, grab an old paper grocery bag or heavy construction paper (or really anything that will give you a clean, clear print) and take a stand.
Ideally, you should see about half your arch in the print. A filled-in midfoot likely indicates flat feet, while a narrow sliver (or even a complete disconnect) between heels and toes suggests a high arch.
The Wear Test
If you’re a runner or regular walker with an old enough pair of shoes, you may be able to get an idea about your arch shape based on the wear pattern on your shoe tread. Although this technically is a better indicator of your pronation style, pronation and arch shape are frequently correlated.
The ideal wear pattern is distributed relatively evenly across the heel and balls of the feet. Excessive wear on the outer edge of the shoe is typical of those who underpronate (or supinate), which often indicates high arches. Heavier wear on the inside of the shoe and under the big toe is often a sign of overpronation, common among those with flatter feet.