Do your Foot Arches make you more or less likely to be injured?

Have you ever wondered how your arch type may affect your everyday life especially in physical activities such as running or playing sports? Well it turns out that without taking precautions, a higher arch or a flat foot may cause you to more likely be injured! People have all different types of arches, and each foot can be affected differently based on the type of arch.

Picture showing what a flat foot, normal foot, and high arched foot and what the footprint looks like
Different arch types and properties of each (ShutterStock)

Arches are important because they provide impact absorption and stability in the push-off phase in walking or running. Usually there are patterns of types of injuries that may occur based on the type of arch a person has. The injuries may be similar for different types of activities, but the location of the injury may vary. Running is one of the most popular activities for Americans to do and it is estimated that about “one-half to two-thirds of runners will sustain an injury”. This is a very high number so it is important to understand some of the biomechanics behind why this may be happening.

An image showing the gait cycle of the leg swinging forward and stepping.
A man walking, showing the stages of the gait cycle (Taken by Kirker et al. 2016)

The dynamics of the foot cannot be studied without talking about the biomechanics of the leg as well. The main period that is studied to understand the biomechanics of the foot is called the gait cycle, which is the period of time for two steps to happen where the foot makes contact with a surface and the limb swings forward as shown in the image. When moving faster or running, the foot pronates (weight more on the inside of the foot) and supinates (weight more on the inside of the foot) differently and the pressure shifts medially.

Arch types affect where the pressure shifts on the foot. In the article by Rodgers, the collected research shows that high arches are more rigid, and there tends to be more pressure concentrated beneath the heel and forefoot. Low arches are usually associated with flexibility, where the pressure is spread out more including the area of the midfoot. The most common methods for determining the pressures in the feet are by having subjects stand on force plates and this was the method used by Rodgers.

An image showing the process of determining what arch type people have and choosing a shoe based on this arch type.

Various studies came to a few conclusions about injuries based on arch type. The types of injuries in people with high arches tend to be bone or lateral ankle injuries based on the biomechanics that most of the pressure on the foot is in the front and back of the foot mainly when running or walking. The injuries that usually occur to people with low arches tend to be related to soft tissues and knee pain because of how the pressure is more evenly distributed through the foot, especially in the middle of the foot. While many of the results conclude that there is a correlation with injury type and arch type, the main conclusion was that people with high or low arches generally have a higher risk of injury than people with normal arches. The most common injuries seen are overuse injuries and pain to the knee. Luckily, there is technology within shoes that is specifically designed to mimic pressures on a regular foot. Choosing the right shoe based on arch type is important to preventing injuries when doing strenuous activities!

Guide to finding the right shoe based on arch type (taken from Thomas 2019)

Featured Image from RawPixel licensed under CC0 1.0.