Arch Height

Arch Height

You will most likely identify with one of these foot arch types. Low, average, and high arches are all normal variations amongst us. However, they all have some advantages and disadvantages which you should be aware of. Being aware of these differences can help you understand any existing complaints and reduce the risk of developing new ones.

Low Arch

A flat foot has no or very little arch height and is usually a flexible foot – this does not apply to a rigid flat foot which should be seen by a specialist podiatrist and/or podiatric surgeon. A flexible flat foot type makes maximum contact with the ground which reduces high pressure areas. It is however, a more flexible and unstable foot.

Above: Static pressure plate recording of a typical flat foot – Visibly large contact area with the ground at the midfoot area with some high pressure areas marked in red.

Common Problems:

  • Difficulty with single leg balance test
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Posterior tibial tendon Dysfunction (PTTD)
  • Medial Knee Pain
  • Bunion / Hallux Abducto Valgus development
  • Functional hallux limitus

Overvue: Less likely to suffer from high impact pressure problems but more likely to develop soft tissue (tendon and ligament) damage from the instability of the foot.

Reduce the risks: See a specialist musculoskeletal podiatrist for a detailed assessment. Stabilising footwear with arch support using orthotics can help control the arch and limit the ranges of motion in the flexible foot which could cause soft tissue damage.

Average Arch

An average arch has a balance between enough foot contact with the ground and foot stability. There is less contact with the ground than a flat foot but more than a high arch foot. The arch area will usually make gentle contact with the ground but able to spring back up.

Above: Static pressure plate recording of a typical average arched foot. Shows increased pressure points compared with a flat foot.

Common Problems:

  • Problems are usually dependent on activity levels
  • General discomfort under the balls of the feet (heads of metatarsals) or heels, especially if the patient partakes in high impact activities such as dancing

Overvue: Generally good foot efficiency but can occasionally experience discomfort from high impact activities.

Reduce the risks: See a specialist musculoskeletal podiatrist for a full assessment. Custom orthotics can help reduce high pressure areas and control the foot.

High Arch

A high arched foot is generally the most rigid out of the three main foot arch height types. The arch area does not make contact with the ground.

Above: Static pressure plate recording of a typical high arched foot. Visibly less surface area making contact with the ground and increased pressure points (dark red) to the heels and forefeet.

Common Problems:

  • Arch aching
  • Callus build up to forefeet and heels
  • Retracted toes
  • Pain in balls of feet (heads of metatarsals).
  • Bursitis

Overvue: Good spring in the feet but susceptible to developing foot pain from high pressure areas.

Reduce the risks: See a specialist musculoskeletal podiatrist for a full assessment. Orthotics can spread the pressure more evenly across the foot and offload high pressure areas.

By Steven Thomas
Specialist Podiatrist
August 2017

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