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When it comes to buying a new pair of shoes, you already know a lot of the important things to consider, such as your shoe size, whether you’re looking for an athletic shoe or something for a fancy occasion, and if the shoe’s design fits your general style and taste.
But there’s one other factor to consider that you might not know about, which can affect both your comfort and your overall foot health: foot arch types.
The foot arch is the curved part in the middle of your foot, maintained by a band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia.
If you stretch this tissue band too much, you can cause pain and strain in your arch and heel – which, if untreated, can eventually lead to a painful condition called heel spurs.
Everyone has arched feet, but not everyone has the same kind of arch, and you need a shoe that best fits your kind of arch.
To learn more about foot arch types and how to find a shoe that best fits your foot, read on!
Foot Arch Types
The low foot arch, also known as a “flat arch,” is the most flexible kind of arch, which flattens and rolls inward more than other types of arches.
This type sits low to the ground and has very little definition, which is why most people describe it as being “flat-footed.”
Low arches can lead to common foot problems such as heel pain, arch pain, bunions, and plantar fasciitis, but don’t be alarmed – about 20 percent of people have low arches, so you’re in good company, and the right footwear can help you prevent injuries as well as maintain a healthy foot!
The high foot arch is a more rigid foot, with an arch that sits higher from the ground and is very well defined.This kind of arch creates more pressure on the forefoot and rearfoot and less on the arch itself.
If you have a high arched foot, you may experience arch strain, calluses, or metatarsalgia, because your foot has less surface area invested in absorbing the impact of walking and running.
Again, about 20 percent of the world’s population has high arches as well, so you are in good company.
A shoe that helps fill in your arch cavity with cushioning will disperse the pressure of walking and running, keeping your feet healthy and pain-free!
Normal Feet Arch
The remaining 60 percent of people have a more medium foot arch, which is why this arch is known as a “normal feet arch.”
This arch is moderately flexible, and defined more than the low arch but less than the high arch. If you have a normal arch, you can still experience heel pain or ball-of-foot discomfort.
A shoe with a medium level of arch support and shock absorption is perfect for this kind of foot!
How to Test Your Foot Arch
Are you unsure what kind of foot arch you have?
You can have your feet scanned at a medical facility, but if you want an option that you can simply and conveniently do on your own at home for free, try the wet test.
- First, pour some water into a shallow pan. The pan should be big enough to fit one of your feet, and the water deep enough for all parts of the bottom of your foot to get wet – but try to avoid submerging your entire foot!
- Next, set a flattened brown paper bag or a piece of cardboard on the floor near the pan. This will be your testing mat.
- Carefully step one foot into the water. Once wet, remove your foot from the pan of water and then step onto the paper bag or piece of cardboard. For a more accurate imprint, don’t just lightly touch your foot to the testing mat – put all your weight into it!
- Then, repeat the process with your other foot. You might want to take a photo of the imprints for future reference before the water dries up and takes the image away with it.
- Finally, examine the imprints for what kind of arch they reveal. If the middle portion of your footprint is about halfway filled in and has a noticeable curve along the arch, then you have a “normal,” medium arch. If all you see in your footprint is your heel, your toes, and the ball of your foot, and there isn’t much of a watermark in between, then you have high arched feet. If your footprint looks like a complete foot, completely filled in without much of an inward curve in the center, then you have low arched “flat feet.”
You can also tell if you have high arches by if you tend to experience pain in the heel and ball of your foot after running or playing sports.
If you tend to tire easily when standing or have swelling on the undersides of your feet, you may have low arches.
Doing the wet test and learning your foot arch type before you experience any of these symptoms can help you choose shoes that will best support your unique feet, and keep you healthy and injury-free!
Here’s a video showing an example of the wet test used to determine foot arch types.
What foot arch do you have? How do you cope?