High arches can be a pain – literally. Because the shape of your foot affects the amount of pressure placed on your joints as you walk, you have to make sure you take care of your high arches so you avoid knee and hip problems. But that's not the only thing you'll need to address. There's also supination.
The Basics ---
- In addition to knee and hip problems, people with high arches can have supination, also known as underpronation.
- Supination occurs when the foot doesn't properly roll inward upon landing. This can cause injuries like plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, IT band syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and stress fractures.
- You can prevent supination by making sure your high arches are properly supported. Since most shoes don't offer enough support, you'll want to add arch support insoles that are made for high arches and have a deep heel cup.
- We recommended Tread Labs Ramble, Pace or Dash insoles in high or extra high arch height. If you like a firm but flexible insole, go for Ramble. If you're preference is a firm insoles, choose Pace. If a rigid insole is what you're looking for, you'll love Dash.
What You Need To Know ---
Are High Arches The Same As Supination?
Nope, they're not. High arches are arches that are raised more than the median height while supination, also known as underpronation, is when the foot doesn’t properly roll inward upon landing. Though they're not the same, supination is often caused by high arches.
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.
As shown in this Runner's World video, 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, causing knee pain or Achilles tendinitis. Underpronation is less common than overpronation, with up to 10% of people in the U.S. supinating. Severe supinators 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.
Can You Have Very High Arches And Still Pronate?
Yes. Though people with high arches often underpronate, that is not always the case. People with high arches can pronate and even overpronate.
Why Do You Underpronate?
Underpronators tend to either be heel strikers, have high arches, or have tight claves and Achilles tendons.
- People who underpronate are often heel strikers – their heel hits the ground first. Then, the foot rolls out, and the force of their body weight is unevenly distributed to the outer edge of the foot.
- Underpronation is more common in people with high arches. High arches are often more rigid and less flexible. When your foot hits the ground, your arches don't sufficiently flex to accommodate dynamic movement. The force of the stride then pushes the weight towards the outside of the foot.
- Tight calves and Achilles tendons magnify the movement of supination. The tightness in the back of the heel and up the leg pulls your foot outwards when it lands. If tight calves and Achilles tendons are the cause of your supination, stretching is an easy solution.
How Can I Tell If I Supinate?
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, you probably supinate.
Injuries Associated with Supination
Like any biomechanical irregularity, underpronation can cause specific injuries. Common injuries associated with supination include:
- Plantar fasciitis – it may seem that no matter how you walk or run, the inflammation of the plantar fascia (or plantar fasciitis) that runs along the bottom of the foot is a common injury. For people who supinate, the plantar fascia remains rigid, absorbing too much weight too quickly during the stride.
- Ankle sprains – because the impact of your stride is concentrated on the small outside portion of the foot, you are more likely to roll the ankle outward.
- IT band syndrome – as the weight remains on the outside of your foot, it travels up your legs. This can cause inflammation and pain in other areas, particularly on the outer thigh and knee. The iliotibial band, which runs down the outside of your quadricep, can become tightened and inflamed.
- Achilles tendinitis – your Achilles tendon will try to stabilize your ankle and foot. The excessive outward rolling can cause it to become inflamed.
- Stress fractures – supination is connected to improper shock absorption. Especially for runners, when your bones experience a repetitive application of force that is not properly and evenly absorbed, you can develop small fractures.
Neutral Shoes and Shock Absorption
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:
- Have curved lasts to allow for pronation
- Allow more foot motion
- Have flexible medial (inner) sides
Best Shoes For High Arches And Supination
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.
Which Insoles Are Good For Supination?
Since most shoes do not sufficiently support high arches, you'll need to add supportive insoles to correct the underlying cause of your supination. Your checklist for insoles should include a deep heel cup, an arch that mimics the curves of your feet (drugstore one-size-fits all inserts won't do), and firmness and durability.
- A deep heel cup. Not only will a deep heel cup stabilize your heel, it will also provide extra shock absorption, in addition to the natural shock absorption provided by the fatty pad beneath your heel.
- Mimic the curves of your feet. To get the most out of your insoles, they have to fit properly. One-size-fits all insoles won't do the trick. You need insoles that match your arch height.
- Firm and durable. The arch of your insole should hold up to whatever you put it through. It should be firm, not buckling under pressure, and durable, so that it lasts for the long haul.
Insoles for high arches will prevent your foot from rolling out. They can also help reduce underpronation, particularly if it is caused by biomechanics rather than tight calf muscles. And insoles can prevent injury and develop a more efficient stride, which makes every step easier.
Are High Arches Genetic?
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:
- Natural orthopedic shape/genetic – high arches tend to run in families
- Neuromuscular– such as Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome
- Neurological – often the cause of a high arch in just one foot
Do High Arches Change With Age?
There are a few factors, including age, that can cause fallen arches in people who have very high arches. These include:
- Getting older
- Weight gain
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.
The Bottom Line
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.
Questions? Drop us a line at email@example.com. We're here to help.