Arch Support – How Much Do Runners Need?

Natalie Cecconi
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Where is the Arch Located in the Foot?

The arch structure is comprised of the calcaneus bone and three arches — the medial longitudinal arch (on the inside of the foot), the lateral longitudinal arch (on the outside of the foot), and the transverse arch (on the bottom between the inside and outside arches).

These arches of the foot are primarily weight-bearing structures that help support the foot when weight is placed upon it.

The muscles, tendons, and ligaments that connect the bones, tendons, and ligaments underneath the foot connect to these arch structures.

The arch structures also help the foot become rigid to help distribute the weight of the body throughout the foot.

This helps the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments underneath the foot to absorb stress while running, walking, and other physical activities.

The importance of a properly functioning arch structure cannot be overstated and can have far-reaching effects on the foot. The health of the entire foot can be impacted negatively.

Low Arch/Flat Feet

If you fall on the flat side of the arch scale, the underside of your foot lacks enough padding and support. This can become a problem if you’re regularly hiking, jogging or running long distances as you put your feet through the wringer.

Naturally, your arches become tired, stressed and get fatigued faster due to the repeated hammering of your feet against the ground.

As a compensation, your body shifts the weight from the bones to your joints. This results in joint pain which is most commonly experienced in your knees and hips. And in some extreme cases, it can lead to complete joint failure. Click here to find out how to cure flat feet.

Medium Arch

Or Low Arch?

When buying running shoes, the first thing a person looks for is the amount of arch support.

Choosing a shoe solely based on arch support is a big mistake.

While it is true that a prominent arch can cause pain, a shoe with too much arch support can be just as bad. A good fitting shoe should have moderate arch support, whereas flat feet benefit more from low arch support.

The thing about all of this is that most arch supports are temporary. Maybe there is so much plastic packed around your feet that they can’t change position as much, but they’re not doing all the work for you.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who controls your foot position, not the shoes. If the shoes put the arch support so far forward that it compresses your forefoot, you’re not going to be able to use the power of your toes to push off and propel you forward. If the shoes’ arch support takes all of the shock, you’re not going to be able to use the muscles inside your legs and feet to absorb the impact from the ground.

High Arch

Or Low Arch Shoes?

Regardless of the arch type you have, it’s important for runners to have the appropriate level of support.

I know, what does a runner have to do with arch support?

According to a study done by researchers from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Delaware, and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, a higher arch – in runners – leads to significantly more foot and knee injuries.

A perfect arch support for runners would essentially remedy the physical effects that running on hard surfaces have on your feet and joints. For instance, support is not just beneficial for people with flat feet – high arches can also benefit from a proper level of support.

So what kinds of arch support – if any – should runners be using?

Stability and motion control running shoes are recommended for flat feet (low arch). Motion control shoes provide a very high level of support and are designed to alleviate pain caused by movement in the foot. However, runners will find that they have a hard time adjusting to a motion control shoe.

Stability control shoes allow for a lot of movement but still provide enough control for the body. Stability shoes are the appropriate level of support for low arches.

Can My Arches Change?

The science behind what arch support does leave something to be desired. The main theory is that jacking your arches up from the inside with a cushioning process will relax the muscles crossing your forefeet and protect them from impact.

Here’s how it works. When your foot hits the ground with each stride, the foot flattens out and you use a lot of the muscles across the bottom of your foot, mainly the tibialis posterior muscle.

You want your arches to stay strong for all of these miles you cover. Arch support increases elastic recoil because the medial post increases the hardness of the structures inside the foot and reduces pressure in the foot cavity.

Although many experts agree that arch support helps, others say that it doesn’t do much for protecting the feet. We’ve come this far, so let’s delve a little deeper into what we know.

What is arch-support technology?

Why Do We Have Arches in Our Feet?

The arch supports the cushioning and recoil springs necessary for shock absorption and energy return in our feet. It is the arch that allows us to walk, run, and move easily. If we lose the arch, we lose flexibility and movement.

The arch is a natural occurrence that is present in everyone and without it, it would be almost impossible to walk. It disappears when we are barefoot; as we develop the arch it is there but less prominent.

In the early years, the arch is replaced by soft tissue, and it’s the function of the arches in our feet to keep it at an ideal point. Many experts believe that the shape of our arches depends on our genetics, but it’s possible to massage and stretch our feet to keep them healthy.

One of the main causes of losing our arch is wearing high-heeled shoes. The art of walking in high heels helps to improve posture and coordination, making if a desirable skill to learn for girls, but unfortunately it can be very harmful for your feet.

Even when you don’t wear high-heels, the wrong footwear can prevent you from using your natural arch.

How Can I Tell What Type of Arch I Have?

You can start by having your foot measured in shoes to determine your foot size and then use the chart below to compare the measurement with the characteristics of your foot.

Alternatively, you can use a simple method called the “The Wet Test”:

Take a foot bath or a bowl of warm water and put your foot in it for 10-15 seconds.

Pull out your foot and put your foot on a dry towel.

Look at your foot and check how it absorbed the water of the foot bath. If your foot is flat you will see the complete footprint.

If it is of normal arch, the side of your foot will be slightly bulging out.

If it is of high arch, the middle of the footprint will fall back and you will be able to directly see the inner arch.

The last method you can use is judging by the way you walk:

Look at the sole of your own shoe and check which part of the sole is touching the ground.

If your foot is flat, the entire sole will be in contact with the ground.

If your foot is of normal arch, the inner part of the sole will have the most pressure and you will be rolling on it during the gait cycle.

If you foot is of high arch, the outer part of the sole will be in contact with the ground.

At Home

How much support does arch need for you? If you’re a runner and are required to wear a comfortable footgear, the right shoe defines the right arch support as well.

Feet develop more than 500% more power in motion. Thus, it is important to take care of them. You can prevent or lessen injuries to your feet by using arch support insoles during sports.

Arch support inserts are specific orthotics, designed to correct and stabilize foot misalignment and absorb shocks from running, or from use in other activities. These inserts are purpose built to fit into various types footwear.

What are the benefits of arch support insoles:

Supports the arches and heel of your foot.

Works by enhancing the overall stability of your feet.

Can decrease excess pressure on your feet.

Can reduce foot fatigue by providing more comfort and shock absorption.

Arch support insoles are a big help for people who have flat feet but they can benefit those who wear high heels or flip-flops, too.

Wearing shoes with proper support prevents your foot from overstretching, which can aggravate the ankle joint. This in turn, lowers the risk of injuries such as tendonitis, bunions and calluses.

At a Store

Or Online?

I recently made an important decision. It was my first road-trip to a running specialty store to find the right pair of running shoes.

The running specialty store was just across the street in an area of Indianapolis, Indiana, where every store is an opportunity for some shopping. I had tried on several brands before, in different sizes in the past. This time it was different. I was determined to find the right pair.

I was scheduled for a short run later in the day and wanted my shoes to fit correctly. I found the perfect pair of new shoes and set them aside. I still had a couple of hours before my run and decided to walk to another store, just two more blocks away.

My feet were uncomfortable. I desperately needed new shoes. I was forced to make a decision: get on with my day or shop for shoes.

I walked back over to the running store, explained the situation and found out that they could not locate the shoe I had just purchased. I asked them about their return policy and if I could make a repeat purchase. They allowed me to do just that and without hesitation.

I’m sure that most retailers have a return policy similar to what I experienced at this running store. They could have been very strict on me for returning shoes that I had not even tried on. Instead they were very understanding and allowed me to make another purchase.

At a Doctor

And that’s what arch support is, it’s a “program,” a set of rules to get your feet back on the ground.

When the arch of your foot is off balance, it is the program that provides the foundation. It helps you roam your neighborhood, your city, run your errands, and travel to new countries. It helps you wear uncomfortable shoes when needed, and grip wet, icy, and uneven surfaces.

It is the program that keeps you on top of your feet, ready to play the game of your life.

Your program is a set of customized rules designed to help you run or walk whenever needed. It’s a combination of three elements:

  • The kind of shoes you wear
  • The type of arch support you use
  • How and when you use the arch support

To be in control, you have to have a plan. The selection of shoes and arch support is the only part of that plan that will not improve with the passage of time. You will need shoes that fit well, have a good arch support and have a flat sole for your foot to land on.

What is Arch Support?

Arch support is an essential component of any good pair of athletic shoes. It’s inside the shoe between the bottom of the foot and the ground.

It serves as a buffer to a certain extent between the bones in your feet and the impact of landing on a hard surface. Proper arch support reduces wear and tear on the joints, and it also helps to absorb shock.

The arch support in your shoes is very important. If it is either too hard or too soft, it could cause your feet to be uncomfortable. That can also lead to serious consequences. Arch support varies significantly between the different types of athletic shoes.

This is why it’s important to choose shoes that include arch support based on what kind of support your foot requires.

Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls in too far. Underpronation is the opposite of that – your foot rolls in too little. The foot “stretches out” over time, removing natural cushioning in the arch. For that reason, many, many people need arch support in their shoes.

Should Runners Be Worried About Arch Support?

I can’t count how many people I’ve encountered who have sworn that running barefoot or in minimalist shoes has cured all the foot pain they’ve ever experienced.

Let’s consider this argument based on studies and common sense. Running in shoes with little to no cushioning or support increases the impact and shock of each foot strike on the ground.

This can, in turn, cause damage to the nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the feet, ankles, shins, and knees.

So if you are not in shoes and already experiencing these pains, it’s not surprising to then have the same aches and pains in your feet, ankles, shins, and knees.

This leaves people to believe that if you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, the foot pain hurts less or not at all. And the logic by which people reach this conclusion is that because they feel the ground more with bare feet and/or minimalist shoes, and because they don’t feel the pain there, they must be lacing up support and cushioning where they need it.

But notice how this argument makes no sense once you point out the support you have in your shoes. Hence, the logic that support and cushioning where you feel it would fix your foot pain falls apart.

No, You Shouldn’t Be

The average heel lift is about the height of a heel: 2-3 inches. On the other hand, running shoes are flat, and the most common design has an elevation of zero — with the exception of a small bump in the middle. This leaves a significant difference.

Heel lifts are marketed for men and women to wear for elevated height. There’s a market for customers to pay for height, and that’s fine. The problem with this? What happens when height isn’t something you have to pay for. It’s something you already have. Running in high heels leads to pain. But running in heels will lead to increased risk of injury.

The most common injuries are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon is the flexible band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to your heel bone and it is responsible for flexing the foot and moving you forward as you run.

Plantarfasciitis can occur on the underside of your foot and is characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is made of soft tissue that connects your heel bone to the bones in your toes.

Yes, You Should Be

Supporting your arches is very important. If you want to run long distances with less fatigue, then take a look at what arch support products can do to help you.

They don’t just help you run better, they can also help you run longer because wearing proper arch support is going to distribute the pressure evenly over the entire foot.

The bottoms of our feet have 5 different arches. So, it’s important to have some support over all of them. And if you have fallen arches or high arches or flat feet, then it’s especially important to use the best arch support.

Another thing to think about is that you’re going to going to be putting a lot of wear and tear on your feet because you’re running. Shoes and insoles are going to wear out a little bit faster because of all that running.

So one way to extend the life of your running shoes is to use a good set of orthotics. They’re going to reduce blisters or callous or any of those things that can be caused by prolonged running.

How to Know If You Need Arch Support

The same way you know that you need shoes to protect your feet, you can tell fairly quickly if your feet need arch support, whether it’s the natural kind or the insole type.

To figure this out, you’ll need to examine your arches and feet. This means you’ll need to take your shoes off.

Start by placing all your weight on your heels, then go to the balls of your feet, and finally land on your toes.

If you have flat feet, instead of a curves” your foot should look more like a piece of paper that’s bent in the middle.

If you have high arches your foot should look more curved and your toes will be closer to your shin.

If your arch looks flat but you still have pain in your feet when you run, you may just not be using the right support.

Are There Other Options?

If you are a runner, you have likely heard about the importance of arch support for good foot health and how it can help prevent injuries. Running on hard surfaces without proper support weakens the muscles in your feet and ankles. It also causes a lot of impact on your heels and toes.

To help cope with these conditions, your arches and ankles adapt by getting either weaker or more rigid. The consequences of weakened or rigid arches can be: pain in your feet, knees, hips, and back, cramping in your calf muscles, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, fractures, and stress fractures.

You already started your search for the perfect insole for you. But are arch supports the best option for all runners?

The answer to this question is – no, they aren’t.

If you can get away with wearing regular running sneakers, there is no need to spend a lot of money on specialized running shoes that come with built-in arch support.

Wearing the wrong running shoes can lead to even more problems.

They may work for a while, but those insoles will not help you in the long run and might even make your foot health worse.

Final Thoughts

So, today we talked about determining arch support for running shoes, factors to consider when choosing running shoes and types of running shoes out there.

By now, you should be armed with the right information about how to choose your next running shoe.

Be sure to check your arch type and choose the best running shoes that will be best suited for your feet.

As always, enjoy your agile and pain free running ….