Though high arches aren’t as heavily discussed or criticised as their flat-footed counterparts, studies have shown that up to 25% of people may have a high arched foot type. When we talk about someone having high arches, we mean that their feet maintain a relatively high and caved-like arch when standing, as opposed to a flatter foot type that tends to roll down and flatten the curve of the arch.
While having high arches does not guarantee any foot pain, it may increase your likelihood of certain problems because of the tendency of this foot type to lack shock-absorbing qualities. This means that ground reaction forces are more readily transferred onto the bones and joints, which can lead to pain at the feet, ankles, heels and knees.
Many people with high arched feet tend to distribute body weight less effectively and evenly through the foot during gait, loading more pressure onto the heels, ball of the foot and the outside of the foot. This may lead to pain in these areas alongside corns, callus and cracked heels. This foot position is also often linked to clawing of the toes, which can carry with its own set of pains and problems.
The stiffer and more rigid nature of high arched feet also means that they less readily adapt to uneven surfaces, which may increase their vulnerability to ankle sprains when walking on uneven ground.
Much like flat feet, having high arches alone isn’t a cause for immediate concern and doesn’t warrant immediate treatment. When a high-arched foot is paired with pain or leg pain or other lower limb problems, this is the time for a podiatrist to assess the connection between the foot type and symptoms, and apply appropriate care to manage the problem and prevent it from recurring in the future.
If your high arches are causing problems like repeated ankle sprains, we have innovative treatments available to help with these problems, like the brace that is proven to prevent ankle sprains.
Having high arches is dictated by the structure and alignment of your bones and joints, so is primarily genetic. Try not to think of a problem as they are neither good nor bad – it’s just the structure of your feet that you are born with, much like the structure of your hands or any other part of your body.
You’ll notice more cave-like arches when standing. You may experience some clawing of your toes. The height at the top of your midfoot may mean that the tops of closed shoes may rub against the top of your foot, making it more difficult for you to find well-fitting footwear.
Avoid shoes that are for flat feet which offer arch support – these may further raise your arch and tip you outwards, increasing your risk of a sprained ankle. Instead, opt for a neutral shoe with good ankle stability and support. If you wear boots for work, opt for the higher-top boots that best support your ankle.
It isn’t easy to make any connection without an assessment and history to see exactly what’s going on. What we can say is that studies have shown that even a slight increase in the arching of the foot may influence the tissues of the whole body, including compensatory changes in the trunk and shoulder.
If the question is whether orthotics can change your foot type to be more neutral, then no – you generally cannot change your foot type without surgery or an underlying problem. What orthotics can do is to help manage the problems associated with high arches. Orthotics can help your feet better adapt to the ground, better absorb shock, improve the stability at your ankles, and generally help you keep comfortable on your feet.