Do I have a Low, High or Normal Arch?
Ok, quick-fire question round, a pop-quiz if you will! Are the following statements True or False?
If I had a pound for every time somebody told me how much they hated their feet, I would be a millionaire. It seems like our feet are one of our most hated body parts‚ even though they put up with so much use every day. I know that some foot health problems such as bunions, corns, callouses, hammer toes, wide feet, narrow feet and just a general dislike of toes seem to be why people don’t like their feet. However, honestly, I very rarely see feet that are as bad as people perceive them to be.
Did you know that nobody has the same feet? Your feet will be different to your mother’s and your daughter’s feet will be different to yours. Yes genes do play a part when it comes to certain foot health issues, like bunions, but one of the most common factors affecting our foot health is our shoes. In Figure 1, you can see 4 different shoe shapes that are commonly used within the footwear industry and you can also see how these shoe shapes affect the shape of the feet inside. Just imagine the damage that could be done to your feet if you had to wear those pointed-toe court shoes all day, every day!
We all have such different feet, there are similar, general foot shapes which most of us will fall into one of these categories but there can be very specific needs to try to accommodate as well as finding shoes that fit. In an ideal world, we would all have shoes made to measure by a bespoke shoe maker – this tailored service would ensure we all had shoes which fitted just right. However, this is not a reality so we have to try and find the best fit possible from a shoe manufacturer instead. This is why we try to stock as many different brands and styles within those brands as possible – so that we can give the best selection to our customers and help them to find the right fit and style of shoe.
A naturally low arch shape does not indicate a weak foot – neither does a naturally high arch indicate a strong one!
When we fit shoes, there are many different factors considered what will the shoes be used for, what style of shoe is the best option, what size and fit will be best, which shoe brand will offer the right conditions for this specific customer, does the customer need a wider shoe shape or a narrower shape, does the customer need prominent arch support or a low arch support, does the customer need soft materials or more firm materials and so on. It isn’t just a case of picking a pair of shoes and that will do, we try to think of each aspect to ensure we find the right shoes for the customer. From Figure 2, you can see why we ask questions and look at your shoes and feet – we are trying to figure out what type of shoes you need and which shoes we have that will be the best option.
Although none of our brands will specifically state they are for low arches or high arches, through training and experience we will find shoes which do have a more prominent arch shaping as well as those that don’t so that we know which pair of shoes to offer to each individual customer. Normally, ECCO shoes have a fairly prominent arch support, but not all styles from ECCO will so just ask and we will help find what you are looking for. Find below a few example of ECCO, Legero and Ara shoes with various arch supports built within the shoes.
From Figure 2, you will see they have a high arch, low arch and normal arch – is there really such a thing as a “normal” foot? Not really. There are certain foot shapes which are more in line with what is determined as a “standard” foot shape but hopefully it makes you feel better to know that there isn’t actually a normal foot!
Some ill-fitting footwear can cause arches to drop and become flatter – flimsy ballerina pumps, soft sheepskin style boots and rubber/plastic clogs are the prime examples that spring to mind and are backed up by The Society of Shoe Fitters training. These common types of footwear offer little or no support to our feet so if you are constantly wearing these types of shoes a lot then please come in and see us to get fitted with a pair of comfy and supportive shoes!
In general terms, fallen arches normally occur later in life so as we age it is important to recognise any possible foot health issues so that you can try to correct them or prevent them from worsening. The flattening of the arches is not a painful process so it may be harder to spot (if something is sore, we tend to want to get it fixed ASAP!) but what it does is lower the shock absorption properties of your feet which in turn can cause discomfort with certain activities, especially running/jumping. Also, because the arch has flattened, the natural movement of the foot is distorted as it tried to maintain normal walking/ balance – you can see shoes distorted by the outward turning of the foot.
If you think your arches have fallen or dropped, it is best to see your Podiatrist as they may need to prescribe specific orthotic insoles to help with this.