High arches can be a pain – literally. The shape of your foot affects how much pressure is put on other joints with every step you take. If you're not doing the right things for your high arches, you can find yourself with knee and hip problems. But those are the only issues that affect people with high arches. Another thing to deal with is supination.
Nope, high arches and supination are not the same thing. High arches are arches that are raised more than the median height. Supination, also known as underpronation, is when the foot doesn’t properly roll inward upon landing. Though supination is not the same thing as high arches, it is a condition often caused by them. Not all people with high arches will supinate, but many are at risk.
As part of a normal stride, the foot will roll slightly inward after the heel hits the ground (pronation), cushioning the impact and helping you adapt to uneven surfaces. A normal foot pattern rolls inward at around 15% during your stride.
When you supinate, your foot rolls in under 15%. Most of your body weight lands on the outer edges of each foot. Conversely, overpronation is defined as the inward rolling of the foot over 15%.
Supination can put too much pressure on your Iliotibial (IT) band. Some people who supinate will experience knee pain or Achilles tendinitis. Underpronation is less common than overpronation, with up to 10% of people in the U.S. supinating. Those with severe supination are prone to inversion ankle sprains, heel spurs and stress fractures. Athletes with high arches should be particularly careful in order to avoid these injuries.
Yes. Though people with high arches often underpronate, that is not always the case. People with high arches can pronate and even overpronate.
There are three main characteristics of people who underpronate or supinate.
If you're experiencing these symptoms and the associated pain, there is an easy way to get relief. A quality pair of supination insoles can help. They will give you high arches the support they need to prevent supination as you take a step.
According to Runner’s World, there's an easy, informal test you can do to see if you supinate. Simply take a well-worn pair of sneakers and place them on a flat surface. Look at the shoes from behind. Do they stand straight? Or do they lean to the outer edges? If they lean dramatically to the edges, there is a high chance that you supinate. See a doctor for confirmation.
Like any biomechanical irregularity, underpronation can cause specific injuries. Common injuries associated with supination include:
For people with high arches, shoe shopping can be a real chore. If you underpronate, you need shoes that accommodate your gait. Because body weight is not distributed evenly across the foot, forces of impact remain concentrated on the outside of the shoe.
When you push off, your smaller toes do most of the work. This is both inefficient and lessens your ability to properly absorb the impact of your stride. Most specialists recommend finding neutral shoes with extra cushion or shock absorption qualities.
You should look for shoes that also:
There are many brands and styles that work well for people with high arches. To find the best shoes for high arches and supination, you'll want to try on several pairs before you buy. Here are some shoes you can start with:
New Balance has great running and walking shoes for people with high arches. Many of their styles provide extra cushioning, which is important for shock absorption that high-arched feet typically don’t have on their own. New Balance’s cushion features their "ABZORB" technology, a proprietary blend of rubber and foam materials that is very lightweight and can endure many miles of wear.
Birkenstock is a well-known comfort shoe brand. Their sandals provide arch support with a molded footbed. For many, their signature footbed helps redirect and balance pressure. Make sure to try out the sandals in the store. Birkenstock's firm one-size-fits-all footbed is heaven for some but too uncomfortable for others.
Developed by the founder of Tread Labs, Chaco has been making sandals with robust arch supports for decades. Originally designed for river guides, Chaco now offers many styles for off the river too. The original Z/series of sandals has very good arch support, however some of the more recent models have less-pronounced support. Very durable, Chaco sandals will last for years.
Saucony also makes great running shoes for those with high arches. Like New Balance, they provide amazing comfort and cushioning. Their PWRGRID+ technology claims to provide 20% more cushion without adding bulk or weight. A selection of their shoes are designed for daily use for neutral or supinated feet.
Since most shoes do not sufficiently support high arches, they won't correct the underlying cause of your supination. That's where insoles for underpronation come in.
Once you've found the pair of shoes that works best for you, adding a pair of insoles for high arches will ensure you are supporting your feet properly, which will prevent your foot from rolling out. Insoles can also help reduce underpronation, particularly if it is caused by biomechanics rather than tight calf muscles.
When you're selecting a pair of insoles to prevent supination, look for ones that:
With the proper insoles for supination correction, you can prevent injury and develop a more efficient stride, which makes every step easier.
There are many causes of high arches. Some people are born with high arches as in inherited trait while others develop them later in life. Causes of high arches include:
There are a few factors, including age, that can cause fallen arches in people who have very high arches. These include:
A series of tendons and ligaments that attach leg muscles to the foot create the foot’s arch. When these tendons are injured or otherwise loosened, arches begin to fall.
This change in foot shape can be painful.Feet will tire easily and put even more stress on knees and ankles. To prevent arches from falling, make sure you wear high arch support insoles and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Millions of people in the U.S. have high arches. With proper foot care, the right footwear, and supportive shoe inserts, you can participate in sports and activities pain-free. Listen to your body and be aware of any discomfort or changes so that you can proactively prevent injury.
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Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.
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by Mark Paigen 6 min read