If your feet are in pain, you might not be getting the foot arch support you need. No matter what kind of shoes you wear–sandals, high heels, sneakers, boots–your foot arch must be correctly supported. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to deal with discomfort affecting your instep, heel, or the front portion of your foot.
Let’s take a look at some of the main things you should keep in mind when purchasing an orthotic (commonly referred to as an arch support), and which kind of support works best for each kind of foot arch.
What to Know Before Buying an Arch Support
It’s important to determine the exact reason you want an arch support before you make a purchase. If you’re suffering a serious issue with your feet, or if you have a medical problem such as poor circulation, you’ll need to speak with a doctor first.
But if you are in generally good health, think about what you need when it comes to an arch support. There are many types of arch support products available for various types of concerns.
For example, a long-distance runner will need a different kind of arch support than someone using them because they have to stand on their feet all day for work. So, make sure that the product you buy matches your needs.
Bring the shoes you’re buying the supports for, if possible. You want the support to fit the contours of the inside of each shoe. If you are allowed to do so, put the inserts in the shoes and give them a try.
Finding an Arch Support for Your Arch Type
There are basically three kinds of arch types – low arches (flat feet), medium arches, and high arches. Here’s a look at some of the risks that each arch type poses for the health of your feet, and the kinds of arch support that will work the best for each one.
If you have low arches, your foot will probably be more flexible than those with medium or high arches. People with this type of foot arch are prone to over-pronation. This means your foot is rolling too much toward the arch. Over-pronation can lead to issues such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, heel spurs, and even knee problems.1 Look for an arch support that helps keep your feet aligned inside of your shoes. Proper alignment and stability can make a big difference when it comes to avoiding problems.2
If you’re like most people, your arches aren’t too low or too high. While medium arches tend to be the most efficient, that doesn’t mean you’ll be immune to certain foot issues. You might still experience pain in your heel, or in the ball of your foot. People with medium arches need to make sure their arch support is made of materials strong enough to absorb the shock of everyday activities, yet with enough cushioning to maintain comfort.
A person with a high foot arch will typically have a rigid foot, with the arch sitting higher above the ground than usual. If you have this arch type, you may be more susceptible to not only plantar fasciitis but also calluses and other issues.3 The best support for this type of foot arch usually offers a great deal of cushioning to help take pressure off of the front portion of your foot.4
Different Arch Support Types
Again, there are several different kinds of arch support products available. Most of these are over-the-counter, but some supports need to be specially made. These are known as custom orthotics. Here’s a quick look at the different types of supports:
These arch supports are prescribed by a doctor and made specifically for an individual’s needs. Once a podiatrist performs a thorough examination of a patient’s feet, they’ll order the orthotic to be made. Custom orthotics are, in some cases, designed to address a foot issue caused by an injury. They are usually made of hard materials, like graphite, or plastic.
In other instances, custom orthotics are used to provide extra support and/or cushioning. They are sometimes recommended for people suffering from severe calluses or foot ulcers.5
These are for people whose foot problems aren’t as severe. They fit in the arch portion of shoes, sandals, and other kinds of footwear, and are soft, rather than rigid. The support is provided in the form of foam padding.
Cushioned insoles are typically used primarily for comfort. They not only cushion the front of the foot but also the instep and heel. They’re designed mainly for people who stand on their feet all day due to work. These types of insoles help keep feet comfortable and supported.
If you’re a runner, or you participate in sports activities on a regular basis, then you’re probably familiar with sports insoles. These insoles help provide support as well as padding, and they’re strong enough to withstand repeated pounding as your feet hit the ground. Hikers and cyclists often use these kinds of insoles as well to help their feet “breathe.”
Final Thoughts on Foot Arches
The kind of arch support you’ll need will depend on your arch type and other factors. Always talk to your doctor or podiatrist first, to make sure you get the right kind of arch support for the shape of your foot. You’ll find there are a lot of different types of supports that are designed for specific kinds of feet. Take your time, and make sure the support you choose is exactly right for your needs.
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