Earlier this week, I shared an email with my list about the amazing success I had treating a patient with just about the flattest feet I've ever seen. Not to pat myself on the back, but it was a pretty great success story. But it also got me thinking: this patient came in to see me for help with foot pain. And still, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who don't even realize their feet are flat, which means they could be staring down the barrel of years of foot pain.
How could you not know your arch type, you may ask? The answer is actually pretty simple: no two people have identically shaped arches. And why is that such an issue? Because, in spite of this reality, many people continue to buy identical shoes. As a result, too many of us will not receive the support we need from our store bought shoes, and will experience discomfort. In order to help your arches fit comfortably in your shoes, you may want to be fitted for custom orthotics. But before you get to that point, it's a good idea to determine which type of arch you're working with. This is what you need to do:
How to Determine the Height of Your Foot's Arch
In order to determine your individual arch height, just follow these five simple steps:
- Get a sheet of paper and put it on the floor.
- Wet your foot.
- Sit down on a chair and place your foot on the paper.
- Repeat process with second foot
- Your footprint will reveal your arch type (almost no indentation on the left edge indicates a flat foot. Almost no footprint in the mid foot is a sign you've got high arches. Anything in between and your arches are neutral!)
Once you know what type of arch you’re dealing with, choosing the right shoes becomes much simpler. If you have:
High arches: choose shoes that have lots of extra cushioning. Stay away from hard-or-thin-soled footwear.
Low arches (flat feet): look for well-supported, firm shoes with lower heels. Since your body will naturally want to rotate forward to the balls of your feet, high heels will be extra difficult.
Neutral arches: you have a carte blanche when it comes to selecting shoes. Just make smart choices and select a comfortable, supportive pair that you can wear for long periods of time or for walking/exercising.
What's Causing My Arch Pain?
Of course, arch pain could be a sign of another problem—plantar fasciitis. An injury that’s the result of torn or inflamed plantar fasciia bands (the connective tissue on the bottom of your foot), plantar fasciitis is usually identified by crippling heel pain, but can also be felt in the arch of your foot. If this is the cause of your arch pain, you might notice that your pain begins intermittently. Unfortunately, however, you'll likely experience more consistent, worsening pain in the following days, weeks, and months. Plus, the pain may not stay put: it's not uncommon for plantar fasciitis to develop in your previously unaffected foot if you don't seek early treatment.
Why am I telling you all this? The answer is simple, really: it can all be connected back to your arch height (at least, it sort of can...) This is what I mean: the most common cause of plantar fasciitis (as well as Achilles tendinitis) is faulty foot mechanics. In other words, people with overly flat feet or high-arched feet are more prone to developing plantar fasciitis (so, if you're having this kind of heel pain, I urge you again to return to our guide to detrmining your arch height.) And, keep in mind that wearing the wrong shoes can contribute to plantar fasciitis, especially if you make poor choices, like wearing un-supportive flip-flops.
And wait, I'm still not done! Pain in your arches could be a sign of a bruise, sprain or fracture. Which is why, unless you see your doctor, it may be very difficult to figure out why your feet are hurting you. And that's where I want you to check in with you podiatrist. Because, if your arch pain is a problem, and our shoe guide isn’t helping, it's a good idea to get scheduled for a visit so we can help get you walking comfortably again!