If you’ve ever wondered if you have arches, normal arches, or flat feet – and what that could mean in terms of your stride and the affect on your posture – try examining your footprint. Stepping lightly in water or some paint and taking a step onto a sheet of paper placed on the ground can tell you a lot, as long as you know what to look for.
The foot performs a rolling-like motion when we walk: the heel lands first, then the weight shifts toward the toes, flattening the arch briefly before it leaves the ground. Depending on how high the arch, more or less of the sole comes into contact with the ground. Arch height varies from person to person, but generally falls into three categories: high, medium, and low (also known as flat feet).
If your footprint has only a narrow point of contact along the outer edge, you’re one of the approximately 20% of people with a high arch. Also called under-pronation, this indicates that your feet are more rigid and don’t roll inward very much, which means that most of the pressure and weight lands on the rear if your foot, moving along the outside edge, and then into the forefoot. This kind of arch does not absorb shock as well as others, so you may be at a higher risk for conditions such as plantar fasciitis or pain in the front or back of the foot; ankles take more strain as well. When buying shoes, look for well-cushioned soles; consider orthotic inserts that support the arch by providing the surface area contact your high arches lack.
The most common type of foot (60% of people have it) is a medium, or normal, arch. If your footprint has a moderate amount of space filled in – about half of the sole area – this is your type. Your foot structure is efficient at absorbing shock and providing structure, but you should still wear shoes with enough cushioning and support to help prevent injury.
About 20% of people have low arches, or flat feet – you can see this in your footprint if the majority of the sole is filled in. Flat feet have more flexible arches which over-pronate (roll inward), which makes them less supportive; people with low arches are more likely to have pain in the heels or arches, as well as difficulty running because of the added strain to the feet and knees. Supportive shoes are a must: a supportive arch and wide soles can help provide comfort and stability; you may also see a podiatrist to be fitted for custom orthotics.