Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why Your Foot Arch Type Matters

When it comes to foot care, there are a handful of routine practices which can help keep your feet in fighting shape. Daily cleaning, drying, and moisturizing can help remove impurities from the bottom of your feet as well as exfoliate off dead and dry skin cells and keep them hydrated.

Regular stretching exercises for your feet can also bolster the strength of the many muscles and tendons in them to help prevent injury. One of the best things you can do for your feet, however, is to know your arch type and how to properly support it when you are physically active (i.e. when working out, playing sports, etc). Why is knowing your arch type so important?

•    Helps you choose the type of running shoe/sneaker for exercising in
•    Gives you an idea of what type of insoles you might need for better arch support
•    Can help you address pain points of high arches or flat feet

The Wet Test
Are you asking yourself, “How do I know what type of arch I have”? One of the easiest ways to gauge your arch type is with a wet test. Find a paper shopping bag or another piece of heavy paper and set it on the floor. Fill a shallow pan with a layer of water, and then one by one, step in the water and then out onto the heavy paper. Bear all your weight on that leg momentarily, and then cleanly step off.

If you see an average-looking half-moon (crescent) footprint, then you have the most common arch (medium) which sufficiently supports your body weight and causes you to pronate normally when walking and running. Pronation is simply the slight natural inward rolling of the ankle when your foot makes impact with the ground. As you strike with your heel, the ankle rolls slightly inward, and weight is distributed to the forefoot.

If you see a footprint almost entirely filled in, on the other hand, with no significant arch space, this indicates you have a low arch, also referred to as flat feet. The potential dangers of a low arch derive from the fact that overpronation, or an exaggerated inward rolling of the foot when walking and running, actually stresses the feet and knees.

And if you leave but a sliver of a crescent-moon footprint on the paper, this indicates your arch is higher than normal, likely resulting from an under-pronation (or outward rolling known as supination) of the foot when walking or running. Similar to flat feet, high arches can increase the risk for injury by unnecessarily straining the foot and leg muscles, and ankle and knee joints.

Common Foot Problems for Low and High Arches
Low and high arches reflect problems with pronation so understanding the cascading effects on the feet and knees is critical. As foot tendons like the plantar fascia and lower leg muscles like the Achilles tendon compensate for the extra load, they can become strained and lead to:

Plantar fasciitis - the plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue which supports your arch and runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes. When it has to stretch more and more to bear the weight of over or under-pronation, it can become inflamed and even incur microscopic tears. This can result in burning and stinging pain in the bottom of your heel and up through your arch.

Achilles tendonitis - in the same way, when the tendon running down the back of your calf which connects to you heel starts to feel the tug and pull from under or over-pronation, it can become inflamed as well. More serious tears and ruptures of the tendon may occur from even greater overuse and poor body mechanics.

Heel spurs - heel spurs develop when calcium deposits build up on the bottom of the heel bone. Often associated with damage to the plantar fascia, heel spurs also manifest when the membrane wrapped around the heel bone routinely becomes torn. Low arches are more susceptible to heel spurs.

Metatarsalgia - the ball of the foot where the metatarsal bones connect the foot to the toes can become inflamed from constant pounding, this injury is also known as stone bruise and results commonly from high arches that place undue stress on the ball and heel of the foot. Additional markers of high arched feet include hammertoes, claw toes, and calluses on the ball, heel, or side of the foot.

The good news is that low and high arches don’t have to be permanent detriments to your pronation or foot and leg health. With proper footwear and useful orthotics (like arch supports or plantar fasciitis insoles), you can equip your feet with the strength and flexibility they need to properly support your weight at any time.

This is a guest blog entry.

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