The length of our feet is usually the only thing we consider when we buy shoes; some also take into account the width. But, as most athletes know, the type of foot arch you have is also an essential factor when choosing the right kind of footwear. The type of arch you have affects how you balance your weight when standing, walking, running, jumping, or dancing. So getting shoes that are right for your arch type will not only maximize your comfort and stability but also minimize the likelihood of injury and support foot health.
The arch of the foot is the natural upward curve formed by the underside of the foot, between the ball and the heel. The arch helps the foot support the body’s weight and spread it evenly when standing and engaging in physical activities. The type of arch we have is determined by genetics – that is, we inherit it from our father, mother, or even one of our grandparents or distant relatives.
This is characterized by an arch that is low in height and either sits close to the ground or completely flattens/collapses when the person is standing. The footprint looks “complete,” that is, there is barely an inward curve in the center of the inner side of the foot.
When walking or running, the foot usually over-pronates, or rolls inward; this is great for shock absorption but is terrible for the knees and legs. People with a low arch or flat feet are prone to arch pain, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, and other joint problems and muscle stress. They need straight last shoes (which refers to the shape of the sole), to support the arch and limit pronation, prevent discomfort and injuries, and keep proper body alignment.
This is characterized by a defined arch that is about half-filled and which remains curved upward even when standing. The footprint will have a clearly defined curve in the center of the inner side of the foot.
A medium arch is the most biomechanically efficient shape, with the ideal height to absorb impact and evenly distribute weight when walking, running, and during other physical activities. This arch has normal pronation with a normal load. The proper footwear for a normal arch are those with semi-curved or straight lasts and firm and well-cushioned midsoles. Ill-fitting shoes can still cause repetitive stress, which can lead to heel pain and other common foot problems.
This is a well-defined arch that curves higher away from the ground when standing so that all the weight of the body is placed on the heel and front of the foot. The footprint only shows the heel, ball, and toes, with no center, or it may show an extreme inward curve in the center, with mostly empty space between the rear and front of the foot.
A high arch means that the foot has less surface area for shock absorption, and walking, running, and other physical activities that put the body’s entire weight on the feet lead to excessive joint and muscle strain. People with high arches are more at risk for heel pain, ball-of-foot-pain, plantar fasciitis, and other foot conditions. Footwear with extra cushioning for arch support and a curved last can help minimize discomfort and prevent injuries.
Knowing the type of arch you have in order to choose the right kind of footwear also helps improve or restore proper gait and body alignment, as well as improve endurance and performance when engaging in physical activities.