You may have heard the term “arch support” bandied about. Perhaps it was advertised as an important quality in those fancy new running shoes you were considering buying, or maybe you’ve seen shoe inserts at the drug store to help hold up your arches. However, most people likely don’t know what “arch support” actually is. Austin podiatrist, Dr. Jeffery LaMour, and our team are committed to educating patients about their feet so they can take better care of their podiatric health. After all, your feet are in many ways the foundation for your well-being, since you walk, run, skip, dance, and skate through life on them. Having a healthy arch is, in fact, an important facet of your foot health. In the following blog, we explain what “arch support” really means and how you can achieve it.
What is the Foot’s Arch?
The arch is exactly what it sounds like—the curved portion. Just like the carefully designed bend in a bridge, your arch is key to the structure of your foot. Livestrong’s “5 Things You Need to Know About Arch Support” explains: “The arch usually starts just below the ball of the foot and the toes and extends to the heel. The width and length varies, but your arches should be about the same size and shape on both feet. Arches can shift and change as the body grows, so the size and curve of the arch may change from childhood to adulthood.”
This is the general definition of the foot’s arch, but if we’re going to get truly technical, Teach Me Anatomy points out that there are actually three arches in the foot: “two longitudinal [running from the toes to the heel]…and one anterior transverse arch,” which connects the two longitudinal near the ball of the foot. These three arches form a triangle. However, since they are all so interconnected and interdependent, many people simply think of this entire triangle of the foot as its arch.
Not all arches are created equal. Arches are much like fingerprints—no two are exactly alike. However, there is a normal range at which your feet can adequately hold your weight and handle the pressure put on them. There are three basic categories of arch: too high, too low, and healthy. Foot Smart explains that you can do a “simple test on yourself” to determine what kind of arch you have (and if yours could be a problem). All you have to do is:
- “Get your feet wet.
- Stand normally on a flat surface where you can see the imprint of your feet, such as a sidewalk or a newspaper.
- Step away from your imprints and look at the wet marks.”
Once you’ve made your footprints, you can tell that “you have a low arch if your imprint shows the entire bottom of your feet….if you have a normal arch, you will see an imprint with the inside curve of your foot missing…[and] you have a high arch if you cannot see anything but your heel and the top of your foot near your toes.”
Of course, for a truly comprehensive understanding of your arches and how they behave, you would need an examination by a podiatrist like Dr. LaMour. We can assess your arches and determine if any treatment or care is necessary.
If You Don’t Support Your Arch
What if you leave your arch unsupported? There are a few symptoms that could result. First off, you’re likely to experience discomfort in your feet. In her Livestrong article, “The Importance of Arch Support,” Lauren Hutchens describes how arches “bear 200,000 to 300,000 lbs. of stress each mile we walk. Arches absorb the brunt of the pressure our bodies thrust upon our feet with each stride.” This is no small job, and repeatedly forcing your foot to bear your weight at an improper angle could definitely take a toll.
If you never develop arches, you suffer from flat feet, which can lead to more severe swelling. Having your arches too high or too low could also cause a condition known as plantar fasciitis, which can be quite painful. Improper arch support could also raise your risk for injury and other foot conditions.
Dr. LaMour and our team could help you enjoy healthy arches with proper treatment. First of all, it is important to find the right footwear. Hutchens explains that you should wear shoes that support your particular arch type: “support low or high arches with well-fitting, appropriate footwear, particularly for athletic activities. People with low arches should look for shoes classified as ‘motion control,’” while “people with high arches should consider ‘cushioning’ shoes.” Both motion control and cushioning designs gently nudge your foot into proper position. For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of great shoe brands and styles for all arch types.
In addition, we can custom make orthotic inserts to help you modify your existing shoes for better arch support. If you’re suffering from flat feet, plantar fasciitis, injury, or any other podiatric condition, our team can help diagnose your condition and provide a customized treatment plan.
Find Out More About What Podiatry Really Means
Dr. LaMour and our team are here to answer your foot health related questions. Contact our Austin podiatry practice today to find out more and schedule your appointment!