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Ultimate Guide to Arch Support: Why It’s Crucial for Healthy Feet

Discover the foundation of foot wellness through the power of arch support.

Updated on May 31, 2024

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The Importance of Proper Arch Support

The significance of arch support for our feet cannot be overstated, as these structures play a pivotal role in maintaining overall foot health. The arches serve as natural shock absorbers, distributing the body’s weight evenly and reducing the impact on joints with every step. Beyond mere weight distribution, arch support is essential for ensuring proper foot alignment, which in turn contributes to overall body posture and stability.

When the arches lack the necessary support, individuals may experience a range of foot problems, from discomfort and pain to more serious conditions. Conditions such as flat feet or fallen arches can lead to imbalances, affecting the alignment of the entire body and potentially causing pain not only in the feet but also in the knees, hips, and lower back. Understanding and prioritizing the need for adequate arch support is fundamental to preventing issues and promoting long-term foot and body well-being.

  • Understand the role of arch support in foot health in this helpful guide.

Common Foot Problems Due to Lack of Arch Support

The arches of our feet play a crucial role in supporting our body weight, absorbing shock, and ensuring proper foot alignment. When there’s a lack of adequate arch support, it can lead to various foot problems, some of which can have a cascading effect on the rest of the body. Here’s a closer look at common foot issues arising from insufficient arch support:

  • Plantar Fasciitis
    This condition is characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. Lack of arch support can strain the plantar fascia, leading to heel pain and stiffness, especially upon waking up or after prolonged periods of standing. Because this condition is so common, plantar fasciitis arch support is highly sought after.
    Plantar Fasciitis
  • Shin Splints
    Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints refer to pain along the shin bone. Insufficient arch support can alter the foot’s biomechanics, leading to increased stress on the shin bone, especially during activities like running.
    Shin Splints
  • Bunions and Hammer Toes
    A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe, while hammertoes are deformities where the toe bends or curls downward. Both conditions can be exacerbated by shoes without proper arch supports, which can force the foot into unnatural positions.
    Bunions and Hammer Toes
  • Overpronation or Supination
    Overpronation refers to the excessive inward roll of the foot after landing, while supination is the outward roll of the foot. Both conditions can be aggravated by the lack of arch support, leading to uneven weight distribution and increased strain on certain parts of the foot.
    Overpronation or Supination
  • Metatarsalgia
    This condition is characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Without proper arch support, there’s increased pressure on the metatarsals, leading to pain and discomfort.
    Metatarsalgia
  • Achilles Tendinitis
    The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Lack of arch support can strain this tendon, leading to pain and inflammation in the heel and calf areas.
    Achilles Tendinitis
  • Flat Feet (Pes Planus)
    While some people are born with flat feet, others develop it over time due to weakened arches. Insufficient arch support can exacerbate the condition, leading to foot pain, swelling, and altered gait.
    Flat Feet (Pes Planus)
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Types of Foot Arches

The human foot is a complex structure, and its arch plays a pivotal role in movement, balance, and overall foot health. The arch type can influence how you walk, the kind of shoes you should wear, and the potential foot problems you might encounter. Here’s a closer look at the three primary foot arch types:

  • Normal Arch
    A normal arch, also known as a medium or neutral arch, is the most common type. When you look at a foot with a normal arch from the inner side, you’ll notice a moderate and well-defined curve along the length of the foot. This arch type typically has a balanced distribution of weight across the foot, leading to a biomechanically efficient stride. People with a normal arch often have a broad range of shoe options, but it’s still essential to choose footwear that provides adequate support and cushioning.
    Normal Arch
  • Flat Arch (low arch)
    A flat arch, as the name suggests, sits closer to the ground and doesn’t have a noticeable curve. When you observe the footprint of someone with a flat arch, it often shows the entire sole of the foot. This arch type can lead to overpronation, where the foot rolls inward excessively during walking or running. Overpronation can cause various foot and leg problems, including plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Individuals with flat arches should consider motion-control or stability shoes that offer arch support and help prevent overpronation.
    Flat Arch (low arch)
  • High Arch
    A high arch, also known as a cavus foot, is characterized by a pronounced and elevated arch curve. The footprint of someone with a high arch typically shows a narrow band connecting the heel and the ball of the foot. This arch type can lead to underpronation or supination, where the foot rolls outward. High arches can result in increased stress on the outer edge of the foot and may lead to conditions like metatarsalgia or ankle instability. People with high arches should look for shoes with ample cushioning and a flexible midsole to absorb shock and support the foot.
    High Arch

Identifying Your Arch Type

Understanding your foot arch type is crucial for selecting the right footwear and ensuring optimal foot health. There are several methods to determine the shape and height of your arch, each offering insights into your foot’s unique structure.

  • The Wet Footprint Test
    This is a simple at-home method to identify your arch type. Begin by wetting the sole of your foot and then stepping onto a piece of paper or a dark-colored surface. The imprint left behind will give you a clear indication of your arch structure. A full imprint indicates a low or flat arch, a partial imprint suggests a normal arch, and a very narrow or almost absent middle section indicates a high arch.
    The Wet Footprint Test
  • Observing Wear Patterns on Old Shoes
    Examining the wear pattern on the soles of your old shoes can also provide clues about your arch type. If the most wear is seen on the inside edge, it might indicate overpronation, commonly associated with flat arches. Wear on the outer edge often suggests underpronation or supination, typically seen in people with high arches. A uniform wear pattern across the sole usually indicates a neutral or normal arch.
    Observing Wear Patterns on Old Shoes
  • Professional Assessment by a Podiatrist
    While the above methods offer general insights, consulting a podiatrist provides the most accurate assessment of your arch type. A podiatrist can conduct a thorough examination of your feet, use specialized equipment to measure arch height, and offer personalized recommendations based on your specific needs. This professional assessment is especially beneficial for those experiencing foot discomfort or those with specific foot conditions.
    Professional Assessment by a Podiatrist

Benefits of Arch Support

Proper arch support is more than just a comfort feature in shoes—it plays a pivotal role in foot health and overall well-being. Here are some of the key benefits of having adequate arch support:

  • Improved Weight Distribution
    Arch support helps in evenly distributing body weight across the foot, ensuring that no single part of the foot bears excessive pressure. This reduces the risk of pain and potential injuries.
    Improved Weight Distribution
  • Enhanced Shock Absorption
    The arches of our feet act as natural shock absorbers. With proper foot arch support, this function is enhanced, protecting our feet and the entire skeletal system from the impact of walking, running, or jumping.
    Enhanced Shock Absorption
  • Reduced Foot Fatigue
    Standing or walking for extended periods can lead to foot fatigue. Arch support provides the necessary cushioning, reducing tiredness and discomfort in the feet.
    Reduced Foot Fatigue
  • Prevention of Foot Conditions
    Proper arch support can prevent or alleviate several foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, and bunions. It also reduces the risk of developing corns, calluses, and ulcers.
    Prevention of Foot Conditions
  • Improved Foot Alignment
    Arch support helps maintain the natural alignment of the foot, preventing overpronation or supination. This ensures a more natural and comfortable gait.
    Improved Foot Alignment
  • Better Balance and Stability
    Arch support enhances the foot’s natural balance mechanisms, reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls.
    Better Balance and Stability
  • Optimal Foot Health
    Overall, arch support plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and functionality of the feet, ensuring comfort and reducing the risk of various foot-related issues.
    Optimal Foot Health

Exercises to Strengthen the Arch

The arch of the foot plays a crucial role in supporting body weight, absorbing shock, and aiding in overall foot mechanics. Strengthening the arch can help prevent foot problems, improve athletic performance, and enhance overall foot health. Here are some exercises specifically designed to strengthen the arch of the foot:

  • Toe Tapping
    Sit with your feet flat on the ground. Without lifting your heel, tap your toes against the floor repeatedly. This exercise activates the muscles in the arch. It’s a simple yet effective way to engage the intrinsic foot muscles. Regular practice can lead to improved arch flexibility and resilience.
    Toe Tapping
  • Heel Raises
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your heels, coming onto the balls of your feet. Lower back down and repeat. This not only strengthens the calf muscles and the arch but also enhances ankle stability. Over time, it can also help in improving balance and posture.
    Heel Raises
  • Towel Scrunch
    Place a towel on the floor and sit in a chair with your feet flat over the towel. Using only your toes, try to scrunch the towel towards you. This exercise targets the muscles in the arch and the toes. It’s a great way to improve toe dexterity and can also aid in alleviating some forms of foot pain.
    Towel Scrunch
  • Pencil Pickup
    Sit in a chair and place a pencil in front of your foot. Using your toes, try to pick up the pencil and hold it for a few seconds. Release and repeat. This exercise not only strengthens the arch but also enhances toe flexibility and grip strength, which can be beneficial for athletes and dancers.
    Pencil Pickup
  • Arch Lifts
    Stand with your feet flat on the ground. Without curling your toes, try to lift the arch of your foot while keeping the toes and heel on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Regular practice can lead to a more pronounced and resilient arch, reducing the risk of arch-related injuries.
    Arch Lifts
  • Foot Dome Stretch
    Sit with one leg crossed over the other. With your hand, pull the toes back towards the shin to create a stretch in the arch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other foot. This stretch can alleviate tension in the arch, making it especially beneficial after long periods of standing or walking.
    Foot Dome Stretch
  • Walking or Standing Barefoot
    Walking or standing barefoot, especially on uneven surfaces like sand or grass, can naturally engage and strengthen the muscles of the arch. However, ensure the area is safe and free from sharp objects. This practice can also enhance foot proprioception, making you more aware of your foot’s position in space.
    Walking or Standing Barefoot
  • Balance Exercises
    Standing on one foot or using balance boards can engage the arch muscles and improve foot stability. These exercises challenge the foot’s micro-muscles, leading to improved balance, coordination, and arch strength.
    Balance Exercises

FAQs

  • What is arch support in shoes?

    Arch support is extra cushioning under the arches of your feet to help keep them supported and in the proper position.

  • Why is arch support important?

    Not only do the arches of your feet act as built-in shock absorbers—they also bear the weight of your entire body. Your arches have a big job. Without proper arch support, your feet are more stressed because they have to work harder. This extra stress can lead to pain, injuries, or chronic conditions.

    When you have proper arch support, you’ll have more stability which will help to keep your feet from rolling inward or outward. Additionally, arch support can help improve your posture, positively impacting your body’s alignment.

  • How do I know if I need arch support?

    The short answer is that everyone needs some level of arch support. Do flat feet need arch support? Yes. Normal arches and high arches also need specialized support.

    Here are a few things to observe that may be signs you require better arch support in your shoes: Chronic foot pain, uneven wear on shoes, swelling in the feet or ankles, frequent foot fatigue, or pain in the back, hips, or knees.

  • Can wearing shoes without arch support cause problems?

    Yes, the arches in our feet are vital for supporting body weight, absorbing shock, and maintaining proper foot alignment. Insufficient arch support can result in foot issues—such as plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia—with potential effects on the entire body.

  • Are there exercises to strengthen foot arches?

    Yes, many exercises can help strengthen the arches. Some of the exercises include toe tapping, heel raises, towel scrunch, pencil pickup, arch lifts, stretching exercises, walking barefoot, and balance exercises.

  • How do arch support shoes differ from regular shoes?

    Shoes with arch support have extra padding under your foot’s arch. Many shoes have some level of arch support, but there are also shoes with a flat footbed that aren’t designed to support the arches.

  • How do I choose the right arch support shoes for my needs?

    The type of support your shoes should provide is influenced by the arch of your foot, with various foot arch types having distinct requirements.

    For those with a normal arch, shoes should provide balanced arch support and essential heel and forefoot cushioning for walking or running. “Stability” shoes, offering a balance between cushioning and support, are recommended, along with a flexible midsole to complement the biomechanics of a neutral arch.

    Those with flat arches need shoes with increased arch support, which can be built-in or accommodated with orthotic inserts. Motion control is crucial to stabilize the foot and prevent overpronation, and a firm midsole provides added arch support, while a straight or semi-curved shoe design is ideal for the broader shape of flat feet. Shoe inserts for flat feet are also an option if that is the preferred method of adding arch support.

    Individuals with high arches require shoes that prioritize cushioned support, as the foot may not distribute impact effectively. Optimal design includes a curved shape mirroring the natural high-arched foot, a soft midsole for flexibility, and a deep heel cup for added stability and support.

    Shoes with good arch support are beneficial to everyone, and there are a variety of available options. Slip on shoes with arch support provide quick, on-the-go comfort while tennis shoes with arch support may be the perfect everyday, do-it-all sneaker.

  • How often should I replace my arch support shoes?

    Podiatrists recommend replacing shoes after 350-500 miles, which is about 5-6 months of regular wear. Additional variables can affect the longevity of your shoes, so it’s important to inspect them for signs of wear regularly.

  • What are the best arch support shoes?

    Shoe arch support is important, and the best choice for you is based on your individual needs. Look for specialized options if you have flat arches or high arches, but normal arches also benefit from adequate arch support.

  • Can I use custom orthotics with KURU shoes?

    Due to the anatomical shape of the KURUSOLE, a custom shoe insert with a rounded heel fit best inside our shoes. If the underside of the custom orthotic (the part that sits on the footbed) is squared off, then it may not fit into our deep heel cup—which is rounded like your foot.

    That said, many of our customers tell us the KURUSOLE technology offers better support and stability than they expected, and that they don’t need to wear their custom shoes inserts with KURUs.

  • Which KURUs are best if you need arch support?

    Your search for the best shoes with arch support is over! Every KURU shoe—sneakers, sandals, and boots alike—comes with our triple-layer technology, featuring dual-density arch support and our patented heel-hugging KURUSOLE technology.

In our recent study of foot pain across America, we found that 70% of US adults who experience foot pain purchase shoes with their pain in mind.

Explore the latest foot pain trends, common causes of pain, treatment and prevention plans for maintained foot health in our 2024 Foot Pain Trends Report!

Features to Look Out for in Finding the Right Shoes by Arch Type

The arch of your foot is a defining factor in determining the kind of support you require from your shoes. Different foot arch types have unique needs, and understanding these can guide you in selecting the best footwear for both comfort and support.

  • Normal Arch
    For those with a normal arch, or what’s often referred to as a neutral arch, shoes should provide a balanced level of arch support that aligns with the natural contour of a neutral foot. Good cushioning in the heel and forefoot areas is essential to absorb the impact during activities like walking or running. Stability is another key feature to consider, with many brands offering shoes labeled as “stability” shoes, which strike a balance between cushioning and support. Additionally, a flexible midsole is recommended as it allows for natural foot movement, complementing the biomechanics of a neutral arch.
    Normal Arch
  • Flat Arch
    Individuals with a flat arch, or low arch, require shoes with enhanced arch support. Some shoes come with built-in support, while others can accommodate orthotic inserts to provide the necessary arch support for flat feet. Motion control is a critical feature for this arch type, with specific shoes designed to stabilize the foot and prevent overpronation. A firm midsole offers added support to the arch area, and when considering the shape or “last” of the shoe, a straight or semi-curved design is ideal as it caters to the broader shape of a flat foot.
    Flat Arch
  • High Arch
    On the other hand, those with a high arch need shoes that prioritize cushioned support. Due to the nature of high arches, the foot may not distribute impact as effectively, making ample cushioning vital. The shape of the shoe should be curved to mirror the foot’s natural high-arched shape. A soft midsole ensures flexibility and natural movement of the foot. Another feature to consider is a deep heel cup, which can offer added stability and support.
    High Arch

Caring for Your Shoes for Arch Support

Maintaining and caring for your shoes, especially those designed for arch support, is crucial to ensure they remain effective and prolong their lifespan. Proper care can also help in preserving the shoe’s structural integrity, ensuring continuous support for your feet. Here are some guidelines to help you take care of your arch support shoes:

  • Regular cleaning. Remove dirt and debris after each use. For leather shoes, use a soft brush or cloth. For athletic shoes, a mixture of mild soap and water can be effective. Always air dry and avoid direct heat sources, which can warp the shoe’s shape.
  • Rotate your shoes. If possible, avoid wearing the same pair every day. Rotating between different pairs allows each set to air out, reducing moisture and odor buildup.
  • Protect from the elements. Use water repellent sprays for shoes that aren’t naturally waterproof. This will protect them from water damage and potential staining.
  • Store properly. Store shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Using a shoe rack or individual bags can prevent them from getting squashed or misshapen.
  • Monitor wear and tear. Regularly inspect the soles and insoles for signs of wear. Worn-out shoes can lose their supportive properties and may not provide adequate arch support.

Choosing Shoes for Your Arch Type

Selecting the right shoes based on your arch type is essential for optimal foot health, comfort, and performance. Here are some guidelines to consider when making your choice:

  • Understand Your Arch Type
    Before shopping, determine whether you have a normal, flat, or high arch. This can be done through various methods, including the wet footprint test or consulting a podiatrist.
    Understand Your Arch Type
  • Prioritize Support and Comfort
    Ensure the shoes offer the right amount of support for your specific arch type. This might mean added cushioning for high arches or motion control features for flat arches.
    Prioritize Support and Comfort
  • Consider Activity Level
    Choose shoes designed for the activities you engage in most often. Running shoes, for instance, offer different support than casual or dress shoes.
    Consider Activity Level
  • Replace Shoes Regularly
    Over time, even the best shoes lose their supportive properties. Monitor the wear and replace them as needed to ensure continuous support.
    Replace Shoes Regularly
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Heel the Difference™ of KURUSOLE

Every step you take starts with your heels—and it can get painful, fast. In fact, 77% of Americans experience foot pain, with heel pain at the top of the list.*

That’s why at KURU, we believe health starts with heel. Our patented KURUSOLE technology dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels. This heels-first focus paves the way for holistic foot pain relief and whole-body wellness, so you can live a life you love.

Every pair comes built with three layers of pain-fighting technology:

  • 1

    KURUSOLE

  • 2

    KURUCLOUD

  • 3

    ULTIMATE INSOLE

  • How KURU brings relief

    KURUSOLE

    Welcome to the world’s first dynamic heel-hugging technology. Our patented KURUSOLE dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels to help alleviate foot pain conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

Our Secret

Animated GIF showing KURUSOLE tech in KURU shoes vs. typical flat interiors for plantar fasciitis pain.
Why Others Love KURU

Why Others Love KURU

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ratings.

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Game changer! I love this pair of shoes, the arch is the best feature, it supports my flat feet. Light weight, stylish, and vey comfortable.

Cess G

Great Shoes. I have to wear orthodics with all other shoes but not with the ATOM. These shoes felt great with excellent arch support. I love these shoes!

MerlinJ

Comfortable arch support for all day wear. I’m very happy with these slippers although I think I may need to exchange them for a half a size bigger. Note that the back of the shoe has a lower entry point than the sides. With the shoe being a little bit too small it rubs harder than I think it should.

Kathy S

Shoes Great Out of the Box. I was having some lower heel pain – this shoe adds the bottom and arch support I need to bring my feet back to 100% – much thanks!

Murray

Very Comfortable and Supportive. I’m dealing with plantar fasciitis and needed extra heel and arch support to ease back into walking. They were comfortable right out of the box and while I still have to be careful about not overdoing it, I’ve been able to run errands and take short walks without aggravating my foot. Highly recommend.

Shari C

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