Arch Height 101 - How To Tell If You Have High Arches, Flat Feet Or Somewhere In Between

by Mark Paigen

16 Comments

Determining your arch height is important for ensuring your overall foot health, especially when it comes to choosing the right footwear and insoles. Luckily, there is an easy way figure out if you have high arches or flat feet. It's called the “wet test.”

The "wet test" involves standing on a piece of cardboard with wet feet and letting the water from your feet seep into it. You can then see if you have a high arch based on the shape of your foot that appears on the cardboard.

Follow these simple steps to complete the "wet test" to see if you have high arches:

  1. Place a piece of corrugated cardboard on the floor next to your shower mat.
  2. From the shower, step your left foot onto the mat, then take a step onto the cardboard with your right foot.
  3. Repeat, stepping out with the right foot first.
  4. Observe the shape of the footprint and use it in the table below. Always default to the foot with the lower arch.
Footprint Description
Low Arches Low Arch Foot Low arches are more challenging to fit. Using the test below, determine the flexibility of your feet. More flexibility = higher arched insoles.
Medium Arches Medium Arch height foot The most common arch height, about 40% of our customers are most happy with medium height insoles.
High Arches High Arch Height foot A close 2nd to medium in sales, high arch heights indicate a healthy arch. 
Extra High Arches Extra High arch height foot Few have arches this high. Many people with extra-high arches have less flexible feet and benefit from arch support that spreads weight over a larger area.

There are two important factors when it comes to your arch height:

  1. Weighted Arch Height - Using the wet test, the shape of your footprint will give a good indication of your weighted arch height.
  2. Foot Flexibility - This is important for people with low arches. If your wet test shows low arches and your feet are rigid, our low arch height will be most comfortable. If your wet test shows low arches and you have highly flexible feet, you will probably find a medium (or in rare instances) a high arch height best. 

High Arches: What You Need To Know

Some people are born with high arches, while some develop them over time. If you're born with high arches, they probably run in your family. If you develop them later in life, you'll want to see your doctor as it could be a symptom of a neurological disorder.

Foot pain as a result of high arches can occur because of extra stress on your metatarsals, resulting in your weight shifting to the ball of your foot. Other problems that people with high arches tend to have include corns and calluses, arch stiffness and inflexibility, and tight lower calf muscles.

With high arches, underpronation or supination is common. This can put too much pressure on the joints and muscles of the foot, ankle and leg causing issues like Iliotibial band pain, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis.

What Are The Best Insoles For High Arches?

For people with high arches, the best insoles will offer full support that relieve excessive pressure on the ball and heel of the foot. Insoles must fit will and be durable so that they keep their shape during use and over time.

When your selecting insoles for high or extra high arches, look for:

  • A pronounced heel cup - insoles should cup your heel effectively so for best results, look for a deeper heel cup
  • Rear foot support - the rear third of the arch is the most important for pronation control, therefore it should be properly supported (this will do wonders for comfort!)
  • Arch extension - the support should feel like a broad ramp, smooth and uniform all the way from the front to the back of the arch
  • Firm and dynamic support - you should be able to press the arch down, but not easily

Tread Labs offers four distinct arch heights, including high and extra high, for all of our insoles so that people with high arches can get the right level of support. Our Million Mile Guarantee means the molded arch supports are unconditionally guaranteed. Forever.

Flat Feet? How To Tell If You Have Fallen Arches

If your wet test shows low arches, you'll need to determine the flexibility of your feet. This is easy to do.

  1. Sit with one leg over the opposite knee. Look at the area of your foot where your arch should be. If your foot looks more arched than your wet test, you have flexible feet. This means your low arches are brought on by weight-bearing. A medium arch insole from Tread Labs should be your first choice. If your non-weight bearing arch is quite high may want to order a medium and a high and try both.
  2. Stand on tip toes. Have a friend look at the area of your foot where your arch should be. Like the example above, if your arches show themselves, your feet are flexible.
  3. If your arches do not present in the sitting or standing test, you have rigid, low arches and should choose Tread Labs low arch insoles.

What Are The Best Insoles For Flat Feet?

Many people with flat feet don't experience any difficulties, but some suffer from pain in the heel or arch (plantar fasciitis), swelling along the inside of the ankles, and knee and hip problems.

The best insoles for flat feet will support your arch and stabilize your heel, preventing overpronation. Typically, the best insoles for flat feet will offer a low, but supportive arch. Finding one that matches the contours of your foot is key. 

While soft, cushioned insoles might seem like the best choice, what your feet really need is structural support. All of Tread Labs semi-custom insoles come in four arch heights to accommodate arch heights from low to extra high. 

Medium Arches: Which Arch Support Is Right For You

If your arch is neither high nor low, you have the most common arch type - medium or moderate. But just because you have the most prevalent arch height, it doesn't mean you don't need insoles that offer arch support.

Actually, your feet still require proper support to prevent overpronation, especially if you maintain an active life. Runners, walkers, and cyclists in particular need additional arch support.

Like those with low and high arches, people with medium arch height should look for an insole that offers firm support that is contoured to their arch.

How should my new insoles feel?

If you have worn insoles before, you have some idea of what to expect. You may find that Tread Labs offers a higher level of support.

If you have never worn supportive insoles in your shoes, break them in slowly over a few days. This is how your new insoles should feel:

  • Comfortable - Your foot should feel consistent contact through all parts of your arch. There should be no uncomfortable pressure points or hot spots.
  • Supportive - Initially, a supportive orthotic may feel aggressive. After a few days, it should feel like it has always been there, supporting your every step.
  • Functional - Unlike soft, foam insoles, Tread Labs insoles support the bones of your feet, aligning your ankles, knees and hips for a more efficient stride and improved biomechanics.

Learning how to tell if you have flat feet, high arches, or somewhere in between can be a great step toward improving any foot pain you may be experiencing. Once you determine your arch height, you can find the right solutions to help relieve pain, correct foot issues and improve your comfort.

Learn more about solutions for every arch height:

FIND YOUR FIT

Mark Paigen
Mark Paigen


16 Responses

Dan- Tread Labs
Dan- Tread Labs

March 19, 2019

Hi Fernando,
Using an orthotic that can stabilize the foot can be an effective measure to treat sinus tarsai syndrome. An arch supporting insole can do just that.
We do offer an insole that can work with a variety of footwear, including soccer cleats.
You may also want to give yourself a longer break from the sport to give your body time to heal.
Please feel free to reach out to us if we can point you in the right direction as far as which insole may be right for you.
Thanks,
Tread Labs

Fernando
Fernando

March 19, 2019

I ’ve been having trouble with sinus tarsai syndrome. Eveey time I recover , I reinjure in abouy a month. I play 4/5 soccer games a week, and have flat feet (overbpronation). What do you recommend.
I have try custom and also custom + wedge and didnt help.

Dan-Tread Labs
Dan-Tread Labs

September 07, 2018

Hi Monica,
Tread Labs offers three styles of insoles to fit a wide variety of footwear styles;

The Stride is perfect for footwear with removable footbeds such as work boots, hiking boots, running shoes and walking shoes, this insole offers the thickest cushion of the three styles and is probably the best choice for someone on their feet all day;

The Stride Thin is designed for close fitting shoes with thin, removable insoles such as casual shoes and minimal runners;

The Stride Short is ideal for shoes without removable inserts such as boat shoes, dress shoes and Chuck Taylors;

Please give us a call at 781-435-0662 if we can assist in any way.

Monica
Monica

September 07, 2018

A couple of months I purchased some insoles from my podiatrist’s office. I’ve put them in my shoes that I wear daily and noticed my feet slide and do not feel supported at all and I still feel a lot of pain when wearing them. I’ve found it extremely difficult in placing those same insoles into different pairs of shoes because it raises my feet too high to fit properly in the shoe. I have a medium arch based on wet test and am considering purchasing the size 9-10.5. I normally wear a 9.5 wide. Can you offer any suggestions on how to choose the proper shoe to fit the insoles? I work in an office enviorment and usually wear some sort of dressy flat shoe.

Dan-Tread Labs
Dan-Tread Labs

August 15, 2018

Hi JW,
I tend to take a bit of a conservative approach to arch height, and would recommend trying the High arch supports. The Extra High can feel pretty aggressive. We do offer free shipping and free returns/exchanges for our domestic customers, so if the High didn’t feel quite supportive enough we could always make an exchange for the higher supports.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
Thanks,
Dan

Dan- Tread Labs
Dan- Tread Labs

August 15, 2018

Hi Tracy,
Our Medium arch supports are probably the closest to a Chaco sandal, though there are a few differences in design giving it a slightly different fit and feel. By supporting the arch and correcting your foot’s alignment you can prevent and relieve bunion discomfort.
Please give us a call at 781-435-0662 or send us an email if we can assist in any way.
Thanks,
Dan

JW
JW

August 15, 2018

I know from previous talus nuetral castings/orthotics I know my correction should be a very high arch (highest last place that casted me had seen) with a extra deep heel cup. My feet are flatter than flat standing, my talus rolls right over the calcaneus. That said I have been out of correction for around 4 yrs. I live in Chaco Sandles as they are the only thing my feet don’t hurt in. I want to start getting back into other shoes so I need to go back to correction. Should I go back straight into extra highs if I were to try your product?

Tracy
Tracy

August 13, 2018

Thank you for designing the original Chacos. I have a pair Chacos with I believe is the traditional Chaco footbed. I can hike in them all day. So I am hoping your insoles will work for my walking shoes. I have a flat foot wth mild to moderate bunions and a pressure pad callous at the 2nd metatarsal. With my Chaco I feel no pressure on the callous. My foot is flexible . Which arch size do you suggest? Thank you in advance for your recommendation
Tracy

Dan-Tread Labs
Dan-Tread Labs

July 25, 2018

Hi Renee,
I would recommend the 7-8.5. The top covers tend to run a touch large. This size will also offer a more precise fit than the larger 9-10.5.
Please let us know if we can assist in any way.
Thanks,
Dan
Tread Labs

Renee
Renee

July 25, 2018

I’m an 8.5, and my left foot sometimes causes me to buy shoes in a 9; it’s slightly bigger than my right foot. I’m wondering which size to buy.

Dan-Tread Labs
Dan-Tread Labs

July 11, 2018

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for your question.
We do not sell mixed pairs. But, if after measuring your arches, you find that there is a slight difference in arch height between the two feet, going with the lower of the two heights can typically provide enough support to provide a fit and feel that works for both feet.
Please give us a call at 781-435-0662 if I can assist in any way.
Thanks again,
Dan

Sarah
Sarah

July 11, 2018

Should I buy two pair and waste the second set if my feet are different arches? Or are you able to sell me a custom pair?

Dan, Tread Labs
Dan, Tread Labs

May 03, 2018

Hi Socrates,
For flat feet we tend to recommend a LOW arch support. Using a higher level of support can sometimes cause discomfort and pressure points along the arch.
The tests above are a great way to help determine which arch support will work for you.
If you’d like to give us a call at 781-435-0662 we can also help you determine which insole is right for you.
Thanks,
Dan

Socrates Ibanez
Socrates Ibanez

April 25, 2018

Hello, I am trying to figure what arch height I need. I have really flat feet with no arch. Currently using Superfeet arch support. I have two knee surgeries and just want to make sure I have the best arch support for my feet. Thank you.

Dan, Tread Labs
Dan, Tread Labs

April 16, 2018

Hi Andrew,
I would recommend trying the High arch supports. If after using the High arches you find that more arch support would be beneficial to you we can always make an exchange for the Extra High.
Please let me know if I can assist in any way.
Thanks,
Dan

Andrew
Andrew

April 15, 2018

I did the wet-test and the narrowest part of my arch didn’t even leave a mark on the ground. I tried again and it looked like I have a high arch. Any recommendations?

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