Form and function are often closely linked, and the feet are no outliers.
The structure of feet plays a very significant role in body movement. If something about that structure is abnormal, it can lead to pain and discomfort not only at “foot level,” but potentially in your legs, knees, hips, or lower back, too. In particular, the type of arch you have can have a profound impact.
Knowing your foot arch type and how it can affect your comfort can leave you better equipped when seeking the help and relief you need.
What Does the Arch of the Foot Do?
It’s not just for looks!
The arch of the foot plays an essential role in the distribution of forces with every step you take. When you imagine your body weight bearing down on your feet with each step, you quickly realize how important this duty is.
As you take a step, the arch flattens, ensuring that pressure is dissipated over a longer timeframe and without too much weight centered on a single area. And as you follow through with that step, the arch curves again, transferring energy during the push off to help you move forward. You can think of the arch a lot like a bow string, flexing and releasing to distribute energy.
What Kinds of Arch Types Are There?
Generally speaking, arches can fall into three broad categories:
This is the most ideal form that the arch can take and what would be most considered “normal.” It is the most biomechanically efficient form, but that does not necessarily mean that it isn’t susceptible to common foot problems like heel pain or forefoot discomfort.
Also known as “flat feet,” the arch rides low to the ground. In many cases, the arch remains flexible, but it can sometimes be rigid. People with low arches tend to be at greater risk for conditions such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, and various other forms of heel pain.
Also known as cavus foot, high arches tend to be a more rigid and less flexible condition than the other two. Instead of the foot having proper surface area for absorbing the impacts of running and walking, much more of the stress is absorbed by the heel and forefoot.
What Arch Type Do I Have?
There are a couple of simple ways to help you determine what type of arch you may have. Neither method is foolproof compared to a professional examination, but they can provide you some clues.
The first way is to examine the wear on your shoes. This can help you see where pressure is being concentrated along your feet, which can provide information on your arch type.
If you see relatively even wear, you likely have moderate arches. If the wear is excessive on the outside edges of the soles, you are more likely to have high arches. And if most of the wear is along the inside edges of the soles, you are more likely to have flat feet.
The second method is known as “the wet test.” You will need a flattened brown paper bag and a shallow pan of water.
While barefoot, wet the bottom of one foot in the water and then step normally onto the bag. Once clear, examine the wet footprint left behind.
If the front and back of your footprint are connected by a strip in the middle that’s about half the width of your foot, your arches are likely moderate. If just about all of that width is filled in, however, then you likely have flat feet. And finally, if there is very little or no connection between the imprint of your forefoot and heel, you likely have high arches.
Treating Problems Caused by Arches
Having flat feet or high arches does not always mean they are causing any problems. If you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort from the condition, then treatment is very rarely required.
But if you are experiencing pain or discomfort that can be traced to your arches, then steps should be taken to address the issue. And remember that pain in the legs and lower back may also be attributable to arch problems, too!
We will perform a full evaluation of your condition, which may include watching how your feet move as you walk (especially if they may overpronate, or roll inward too far) and asking you about when your pain tends to arise or is at its worst.
Once we have a complete picture of the situation, we can then recommend a treatment plan moving forward. This may include, but isn’t limited to:
- Custom orthotics to provide specific cushioning and support to the arch.
- Changes to more supportive footwear, if needed.
- Specific stretches or exercises to condition and strengthen vulnerable areas.
- Advanced treatments such as laser therapy to stimulate pain relief and recovery.
Surgery is very rarely necessary to address foot arch conditions such as these, and are only ever considered if more conservative treatments do not yield results.
If an arch abnormality is causing foot pain or impairing your mobility, Premier Podiatry Group is ready to help. Our professional staff has the expertise, skill, and tools necessary to address issues that stem from both high and low arches, so let’s create a treatment plan that puts your pain behind you.
Call our offices in Ebensburg or Johnstown to schedule an appointment, or contact us online if you prefer to reach us electronically.
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