What is a High Arch?
The arch of the foot is that area between the ball of the foot (at the base of the toes) and the heel. In normal arches there is a gap between the ground and the foot along the mid-section at the inside part (big toe side) of the foot. This is known as your arch. When this gap is greater than the average space, you are said to have a high arch. The medical name for having high arches is pes cavus.
A lot of people who have a high arch have ankles that roll slightly outward when standing. This gives the appearance of being bow-legged and can cause stress elsewhere in your body due to an altered approach to walking.
What Problems Are Associated With a High Arch?
You may find you have pain in the arch of your foot, heel pain, ball of foot pain, knee pain, or even lower back pain. Feet with high arches typically do not absorb shock properly, which can cause problems in any of these areas. Some people with high arches never develop these problems, but many do.
There is a thick fibrous band that runs through the arch from your heel bone to your forefoot called the plantar fascia. With high arched feet, when you step, it may be strained and you can experience a great deal of pain through the arch and heel. This often happens first thing in the morning when you step down and stretch the plantar fascia. With high arches, the fascia usually tightens up too much, especially overnight.
People with a high arch are more susceptible to ankle sprains and may develop corns and calluses as well. They typically have an increased risk for stress fractures due to poor shock absorption when their feet hit the ground.
How Do I Know If I Have A High Arch?
For a simple test to see if you have a high arch, step on a dry surface with a wet foot. If the line connecting your heel to the ball of foot area is the same width as the rest of the foot, you most likely have flat feet. If the line is half of the area, your arch is in a normal range. If the line is very thin, mostly to the outside of the foot (or the ball of foot area and the heel are not connected at all) you have a high arch.
Check with your doctor, pedorthist, podiatrist or another foot professional for an evaluation if you think you have high arches that are causing pain or problems.
What Can I Do About A High Arch?
If you are having pain in your foot and think it may be due to a high arch, visit your doctor. They may prescribe arch supports (orthotic insoles) to wear in your shoes. For a high arch, your orthotic insoles will be designed to cushion the heel of your foot, help absorb shock, and to distribute your weight more evenly when walking.
If you have a high arch, your choice of footwear is very important. Make sure you look for a shoe with good shock absorbing capabilities. Shoes that don’t jam your toes and that have a stable heel are important. Lace up shoes with lots of room in the instep (the area through the top of your foot under the tongue of a shoe) tend to be best for feet with high arches. A proper pair of running shoes would generally be the best option with all of these qualities.