The arches of our feet aren't something we normally think about unless we start to experience pain and complications, but did you know you can actually prevent injury by familiarizing yourself with your specific arch type? Whether your feet are low, medium, or high arched, there are ways to keep yourself safe, comfortable, and free from issues.
Types of Foot Arches
There are three types of arches: low, medium, and high, and each type presents unique challenges.
Low (Flat) Arches
A telltale sign of a low arch (also known as having flat feet) is a very flexible foot that sits low to the ground. These feet have very little arch definition. If you’re flat-footed, you share this characteristic with roughly 20% of the population.
Because low arches are so much more flexible than other feet, they tend to roll inwards and can over-pronate. This can make your feet more likely to develop common issues, including heel pain, arch pain, and even plantar fasciitis. Some flat-footed individuals also deal with heel spurs, bunions, post-tibial tendonitis, and medial knee problems due to the entire foot hitting the ground and the rest of the limb having to take the impact.
Around 60% of the population has a medium arch, making it the most common type. It’s considered "normal" and is ideal foot type. It is moderately flexible and has just a defined enough arch to function well. However, all feet are prone to issues sometimes, and medium-arched feet still tend to experience heel pain and metatarsalgia, usually caused by wearing ill-fitting footwear.
People with high arches will have a rigid foot that sits higher from the ground than low and medium arches. Sometimes called hollow feet, high-arched feet have little flexibility, which can bring undue pressure to both ball and heel. An individual might experience plantar fasciitis, heel pain syndrome, calluses, metatarsalgia, arch strain, or “claw toe.” Most of these occur because less surface area is absorbing the impact when you walk or run, leaving the job to only the rear and forefoot areas.
How to Determine Your Arch Type
When it comes to discovering what type of arch you have, it’s not always as simple as looking in the mirror or at a photo. Podiatrists recommend taking what is known as the “wet test,” and anyone can do it on their own.
In bare feet, wet the bottoms of your feet. Then, firmly press your foot against a heavy piece of paper on the floor. Avoid white paper, as you will want to clearly be able to see the water print left behind. A brown paper grocery store bag is the perfect sort of paper for this activity. After you have stepped down firmly onto the paper, carefully step off and examine your footprint.
If you have a medium arch, you will observe a mild inward curve between the ball and heel of the foot. Flat feet will have a full sole with basically no curve. High arched imprints have very little sole showing. Instead, you will just see a thin line along the outside.
Once you know your arch type, you can choose footwear that will properly support your feet and protect you from injury. Foot injuries don’t just happen to very active individuals. Simple tasks like walking around the house can cause an injury if you are wearing improper footwear or walking barefoot on unsupportive surfaces. Having shoes with the correct midfoot stability can supplement where your arch is lacking and simulate an ideal foot shape.
When to See a Podiatrist
If you have high or low arches and plan to participate in any sort of sport, it is likely a good idea to make an appointment with a podiatrist. They can help you select the most supportive footwear, as well as provide you with tips and tricks to keep your feet healthy and safe. You need to see a podiatrist if you have experienced an injury or any sort of trauma to the foot. Even if you don’t recall a specific incident but are experiencing pain or strain, give an experienced podiatrist a call.
The doctors at InStride Carolina Podiatry are experienced in all different arch types and the injuries and complications that can occur. We can not only help you correct your issue but also keep it from getting worse and potentially prevent reoccurrences in the future. Call us today to make an appointment and take a step toward better foot health.