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Understanding the Anatomy of Your Feet: Do You Have High Arches, Flat Feet, or Something in Between?

Understanding the Anatomy of Your Feet: Do You Have High Arches, Flat Feet, or Something in Between?

Understanding the Anatomy of Your Feet: Do You Have High Arches, Flat Feet, or Something in Between?

Chances are unless you've suffered from foot pain, you're not intimately familiar with the anatomy of your feet. That's a shame — the arches of your feet play a crucial role in supporting your entire body as you walk or run. Each foot type has its unique characteristics, and whether you have high arches, flat feet, or the ideal medium arch determines what kinds of foot trouble you're likely to run into.

Getting to know your feet better allows you to choose your shoes — especially running or athletic shoes, which you'll depend on during especially vigorous activities that put a lot of pressure on your feet — more intentionally. Increased comfort may be your only immediate benefit when you know how to pick the right shoes. But in the long run, understanding the anatomy of your feet may even save you from more serious medical problems that could interfere with your athletic activities.


How Can You Find Out Whether You Have High Arches, Flat Feet, or Medium Arches?

Luckily, you can take a couple of easy steps to find out more about your feet. The first one, which we'll call the "shower/cardboard test," basically requires you to get your feet wet and then to step on something that allows you to get a good look at your footprint — like a piece of cardboard. Step carefully but naturally, and behold the results:

  • Folks with flat arches will have footprints that show almost the entirety of their feet, as nearly all of the foot will touch the surface. In some cases, you'll even see that your big toe shows up as being connected to the rest of your foot.

  • If you’ve got the healthiest medium arches, you'll be able to see most, but not all, of your footprint. An easy descriptor? Your right footprint will look a little like the state of Florida.

  • High arches leave smaller footprints since a lot of your foot will be off the ground. Your left print might, for instance, vaguely resemble a lower-case letter "r" — a sightly thicker blob at the heel, a tiny connecting bit, and then the ball of your foot will be visible.

In addition, you can sit down naturally and ask someone else to tell you whether your foot is flat, your arch sits a long way above the ground, or somewhere in between.


Why Should You Care about Your Arches?

High arches put the ball of your foot under some severe stress. You're more vulnerable to calluses, tight and painful calf muscles, and even stiffness, pain, and loss of range of motion as you age. If you've got high arches, you'll want running shoes or insoles that support your arch and your heel to prevent these potential complications.

On the other hand, flat feet cause your feet to roll inward as you walk, called pronation. Your feet are less "springy," so when you jump, they bear a lot of weight, and over time, that can again cause stiffness and pain, as well as plantar fasciitis. In this case, you’ll benefit from shoes with a supportive arch and motion control to keep your feet on the right track.

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