Flat Feet: What’s Your Arch Style?

With over 7 billion unique humans, there are bound to be some variances when it comes to our body structures. A prime example is the foot arch. There are essentially three arch styles—low, moderate, and high—with each variation having a different effect on someone’s gait pattern.

Curious about your arch? Following are some helpful ways to identify your foot arch style:

Identifying Your Arch Style

Looking down at your feet from the top, it might be difficult to identify your arch style. Moderate, flat, and high arches are hard to distinguish from a bird’s eye view, so you will need to take a different approach. There are two common ways to tell if you have low, moderate, or high foot arches:

  • The “wet foot test.” Simply wet the bottom of one of your feet in a shallow pain filled with water and then take a normal step onto a thick piece of paper or a dry pavement. Examine the print left behind.
  1. Low/Flat Arch – If the arch area of your footprint is filled in, it is likely that your foot pronates inward. This pronation of your foot may add stress to your feet and knees causing you pain or discomfort.
  2. Normal/Medium Arch – if your wet foot test shows about half of the arch region filled in, you have the most common foot type.  Some pronation or “rolling in” of your foot is desirable, because this acts as a natural shock absorber when you take a step.
  3. High Arch – if you see just the heel and ball of your foot and little or no contact along the outside edge of the footprint, you have a high arch.
  • Examine your shoes. You can also inspect the bottoms of frequently-worn footwear by paying attention to the wear patterns. If you have low arches, you will usually be able to see excessive wear along the inner edges, particularly in the ball of your foot and heel areas.

Pronation and Flat Feet

Flat FeetOur feet use an inward rolling motion with every step we take. This helps the arch flatten out to aid in distributing the tremendous force loads feet endure when taking a step. The process extends through the entire “ground contact” portion of a step. With neutral foot arch, the roll is approximately fifteen percent. Those with low arches roll in an excessive manner, which we refer to as overpronation or flat feet.

Most cases of flat feet do not cause extreme pain or discomfort, but for those with flat feet that do have pain, the doctors at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida can provide the treatment you need.

Causes and Issues

Most cases of flat feet are caused by inherited foot structures, but other factors may result in this arch abnormality. These can include aging, diabetes, traumatic injury, pregnancy, and rheumatoid arthritis. Regardless of the root cause, low arches (overpronation) can cause pain in feet, ankles, knees, hips, and the lower back.

Tibialis posterior tendonitis is a condition that tends to be rather common for patients with low arches. With this condition, the tendon has become excessively stretched, torn, and/or inflamed, all of which can cause chronic pain or severe disability. Tibialis posterior tendonitis usually presents with pain and swelling along the inner side of the ankle.

Orthotics and Treatment

You will be relieved to learn that most common treatment options for flat feet, are nonsurgical. These include:

  • Orthotic devices and arch supports. We can prescribe and craft custom orthotics (medical devices created especially for a patient’s unique feet) to provide extra arch support and reduce painful symptoms.
  • Low-impact exercises. High-impact activities can fatigue flat feet. To keep this from becoming a problem, we may recommend swapping out some of them (running and jumping) for low-impact varieties (swimming, cycling, and walking) in your workout program.
  • Stretching exercises. Shortened Achilles tendons are often seen in patients who see us for flat feet problems. Keeping the tendon and calf muscles limber can help.
  • Proper footwear. Opting for structurally-supportive shoes can make a big difference in reducing overpronation issues. If you don’t know which shoes work best for your particular arch style, recruit the help of an employee at a shop catering to runners and athletes.

Nonsurgical treatments are often successful for relieving painful symptoms. Surgery may be recommended for rare, severe cases. If this applies to you, we will discuss surgical options with you.

Treatment for Painful Flat Feet in Florida

Most cases of flat feet do not cause problems or require treatment, but we provide effective care when issues are present. Contact Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida for more information by calling 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if calling from Lake County). We can also help you set up a visit at one of our five Florida offices (Orlando, Lake Mary, Kissimmee, Altamonte Springs, and Tavares), or you can request an appointment online today.