The Arches of the Foot Explained

What are foot arches?

What are the differences?

Why do some shoes feel amazing and some feel extremely uncomfortable?

Feet

There’s no doubt that size plays a big role in finding a comfortable fit, but that is just 1 variable out of the many.

When it comes to fitting shoes, there’s a few things that come into play.

These are:

  • Foot arch
  • Gait
  • The type of shoe
  • Cushioning
  • Stability
  • And more

Today I want to talk about your arch and explain why it’s so important when trying on new shoes.

I hope you enjoy your time while you’re here πŸ™‚

What is a Foot Arch?


A foot arch is the middle of the bottom of your foot.

Arch types can be categorized into 3 main categories.

There are scientific terms for these arch types but I’m going to keep it as simple and basic to understand as possible.

Lets call these arch types

  • Low/Fallen arch
  • Neutral arch
  • High arch

Arches are designed to hold all of the body’s weight and soften high impact landings by providing a spring effect upon impact.

That’s why people with low or fallen arches are limited to some activities and may experience pain when doing certain tasks, because the anatomy of their foot doesn’t allow them that “spring back” action that absorbs all of the weight.

This can be incredibly frustrating and a constant cause of pain.

On the other hand, a high arch can also be frustrating to have. They carry most of their weight on the heels and balls of their feet.

Again, this can be as much of a problem as a low or fallen arch.

High arches don’t have enough weight distribution around the entire foot, causing people to trip or stumble, and even pain.

When Arches Become a Problem


Low/Fallen Arch (20% of the population)

Low and fallen arches are often put into the same category because their symptoms are similar in nature.

Symptoms of low/flat feet include:

  • Feet tire easily
  • Pain in the arch and heel
  • Swollen feet
  • Standing on your toes is difficult
  • Back and leg pain
  • And more

What to do about it

A fallen arch sucks and can limit the things you can do without experiencing pain.

Seeing a doctor is not needed as long as there is no pain or difficulties in your day to day life.

A low arch is much more tolerable and easier to handle than a fallen arch.

But both can be a burden even for everyday activities, so if you are experiencing pain or discomfort, you should see a foot doctor for the right treatment.

Neutral Arch (60% of the population)

Neutral arch is the most common arch and it’s the best arch to have!

A neutral arch means you have a biomechanically efficient foot.

However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t prone to normal foot problems, because you definitely are.

Common foot problems are:

  • Heel pain
  • Ankle pain
  • Athletes foot
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Blisters
  • Calluses
  • Bunions
  • Hammer toes
  • Metatarsalgia
  • And more

What to do about it

These foot problems can happen from different activities, sports, a lack of foot hygiene, andΒ the wrong sized footwear.

Wearing the right sized footwear can prevent these from happening altogether, but I’ll talk more about that later.

High Arch (20% of the population)

Just like fallen arches, high arches can become a problem as well.

Symptoms include:

  • More strain on the balls and heels
  • Less surface area for absorbing shock
  • Knee, hip and foot pain
  • Hammer toes
  • Calluses
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ankle instability (tripping and stumbling easily)

What to do about it

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the foot arch.

If there is no pain or you can efficiently live your life with a high arch, the doctor is not needed and you can continue living your life.

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I mentioned above, I highly recommend seeing a foot doctor so they can examine you and provide you with the proper treatment.

Problems Can Occur With Any Arch

Problems mostly happen with low/fallen and high arch, but can also happen with neutral arch as well, especially if you don’t take care of your feet.

Keep in mind that the older you get, the more likely pain and discomfort will happen.

Foot problems tend to become more of an occurrence when we get older due to wear and tear, loose/thin skin, drier skin, fragile skin, less cushioning, etc.

Don’t just think that if you have a neutral arch that you are invincible to foot problems, because they can happen to ANYBODY.

Self-Diagnosis


You don’t need fancy equipment to know what your arch type is.

It’s actually really easy and you can do it at home.

Simply wet your feet and stand on the pavement or other similar surface.

Low/Flat Feet – You should see a full print on the surface or at least a very close full footprint. This means you have a low or fallen arch.

Neutral – You will see thee forefoot and heel easily visible and the middle of your foot should be half complete. This is a neutral arch with lots of body support and a biomechanically efficient foot.

High arch – When you put your wet foot on a surface, only the forefoot and heels will show. The middle of your foot should not be seen, or very little of it at least.

How to Find the Right Shoe For Your Arch


When it comes to shoes, support is the term used to describe arch support. Not to get mixed with stability as that is something completely different.

Support is arch support and stability is how well the shoe holds your ankles, heel and foot in place.

Neutral arch is the most common arch types, hence why most shoes on the market are created with neutral support.

But then there are 2 other categories that miss out on all the benefits of those shoes because they simply cannot wear them properly.

Low/Fallen Arch

When looking for a shoe for low or fallen arches, make sure there is little-to-no arch support and little flexibility in the midsole.

If the insoles can be removed, that is a bonus as it allows for orthotics.

Converse shoes are good for fallen arches because they have no arch support and plenty of ankle and lateral movement stability.

Converse Shoes

Neutral Arch

Shoes with neutral arch support is the easiest to find because most shoes are designed with the average wearer in mind.

However, other things come into play that determine what type of shoe you need. Some shoes have more traction, more ventilation, more flexibility, etc.

Walking and running requires stability for forward motion, while basketball or tennis need stability and traction.

Just because a shoe says “neutral support”, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to fit you comfortably.

High Arch

On the other hand, a high arch requires the complete opposite to fallen arches.

High arch feet need flexibility and lots and lots of cushioning to compensate for their lack of shock absorption.

Look for shoes with a thick but flexible sole, ankle stability, and a wide toe box for your toes to spread out naturally.

Basketball shoes with a wide toe box work well as they provide the extra stability, toe room and flexibility.

Plus they’re designed to absorb high impact landings which is what your feet naturally lack.

All Shoes are Different


All shoes are different and everyone is different.

Some people can wear anything and everything and have no problems.

While others struggle for up to 20 years to find a comfortable shoe.

But when they do, it is an absolute game changer and the best feeling in the world.

A good way to finally fit in shoes comfortably is to use your own inserts.

This means having to buy shoes with removable insoles (which is not hard as most shoes have removable insoles anyway).

Inserts can be found on many different online stores or even year nearest drugstore.

The right insert can eliminate foot pain, knee pain, hip pain, leg pain, and more.

I’m not saying it is the end all be all, but there’s no doubt that people have struggled for years until they wear their own customized insert.

And it may work for you too.

In Conclusion


Well that concludes this article all about foot arches.

I know it can be confusing wondering what your arch type is and why some shoes cannot fit you comfortably.

But I hope you found everything you were looking for.

I appreciate you reading it to the end and I would like to know if you enjoyed this article or if you have anything to add.

Please leave all your comments and concerns below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

-Brandon

Shoe Mastery

12 thoughts on “The Arches of the Foot Explained”

  1. Growing up, I’ve had friends who fall on either side of the spectrum. Personally, I fall in the category of those with neutral arch and that perhaps, accounts for the reason I am efficient in sporting activities. 

    In my high school days, I had a close friend who had a low arch (he was completely flat footed) but was also very good in sports. 

    Prior to reading this, I never shopped for shoes with a specific arch in mind, but that’ll change going forward. 

    Reply
    • Yep, a neutral arch will give you a competitive advantage.

      Like you I am fortunate enough to have one.

      I can’t even imagine the pain, suffering and frustrating some people have to go through just to do normal things that some of us take for granted.

      Reply
  2. I found this article of great interest. There was a time when I had a job that required standing up most of the time. I began to develop pain in my feet. After seeing my doctor, he recommended that I get an insert to support the arches of my feet. When I did that it felt so comfortable and was instrumental in my pain going away.

    It was a mystery to me how to figure out the natural arch of my feet. Your wet feet on flat concrete was brilliant. I think I will try that out. 

    Overall I learned a great deal about the importance of providing the right kind of support for the arch of ones feet. Thanks for writing it.

    Edwin

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, and I’m glad you like my tips about using the concrete and wet feet. It is such an easy way to learn what arch you have.

      Cheers for the comment, and I hope you have a great day.

      Reply
  3. Wow great info here on foot arches. This is an area of the shoe that can easily be overlooked and underestimated. I appreciate the thorough explanation about the differences between low and high arches and it’s good to see that over half the population has a neutral arch. Still, though a significant portion of the population may encounter pain. It’s good to know that Converse shoes are good for low arches and this makes sense considering the shoe’s design. I know some people who will benefit from your article, so I will pass it along to them. Well done!

    Reply
    • Hey Pentrental.

      I also like Converse and think they are amazing for low arch feet.

      Surprisingly they are the top selling basketball shoe of all time, so people are definitely taking advantage of their benefits.

      Thanks a lot for your kind words, I appreciate it a lot πŸ™‚

      Reply
  4. My husband has low/flat feet. It is very difficult for him to buy shoes. Due to his flat feet, he is not able to get a pair of shoe that is comfortable for him.

    Thank you for the information. I think he should try the Converse shoe that has no arch support.

    Reply
  5. I did not know Foot Arches have so many effects on our body especially on the toes, feet, and even the knee and hip area. Based on your explanation, I believe I have a natural arch. 

    My wife has a high arch and I will share with her what she needs as recommended. Currently, she is inserting additional cushion into her shoes. Is this advisable?

    Thank you. Marc.

    Reply
    • It depends what you mean by cushion.

      If you’re talking about orthotic inserts, that is completely fine. 

      They are actually really good and a game changer for some people.

      Reply
  6. Hi Brandon, unfortunately I have a foot arch that I don’t like, a low one. I would have liked to see myself being a sprinter or good jumper. When we were growing up I used to see my friends with neutral and high foot arches jumping high fences and running faster than I. I would be worried because I couldn’t. But I later came to realize without being told by anyone that the reason for that was the difference between our foot arches. But today your article has just confirmed that. Even now there’s these running shoes I love so much, but they are uncomfortable on my foot and I already knew even before I read this article that the cause of discomfort is my foot arch type.

    Thanks a lot for your article, well appreciated.

    Reply
    • Damn, that sucks Jeffrey.

      You shouldn’t have let your low arch kill your dreams because there are things to fix it like physiotherapy, good shoes, etc.

      There are many great shoes out there for low arch feet, and I hope you find a good one soon.

      Let me know if you need any help and I’ll be happy to send you in the right direction.

      Reply

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