Whether you have flat feet or high arches, good arch support in your shoes can make a huge difference in how your feet feel as the day wears on. It can also affect how your entire body feels. Poor arch support can lead to back pains, posture issues and joint problems. Finding the right arch support for your feet can require some patience, but it's worth the time and effort.
What you need in the way of arch support depends on your feet and your gait. Arch types can be divided into three categories: normal, high and flat. People with normal arches tend to wear their shoes evenly. People with low arches or flat feet wear the inside of their soles more than the outside. People with overly high arches wear the outside of their shoes more than the inside. In technical terms, these wearing tendencies are called pronation. Underpronation, or supination, means you have a high arch. Overpronation means you have a low arch.
Determining Your Arch
The best way to determine what kind of arch you have is to either look at the wear pattern on the bottom of your shoes or to moisten the bottom of your feet and step onto a piece of brown paper. The latter will show you your footprint. A foot with a low arch makes more contact with the ground than a normal foot. A foot with an extremely high arch may have a break in the impression it makes along the outside of the foot.
Picking Your Shoe
For normal arches, choose a shoe with good cushion. Cushion shoes are flexible, absorb shock and offer good support to people with normal pronation. Shoes with some stability, but that are not overly rigid, also work well.
For high arches, also choose a cushion shoe. People with high arches tend to feel the affects of shock more, so the cushion shoes' high shock-absorption will provide the most comfort and support.
For low arches, choose a shoe that is built for stability and motion control. These types of shoes help keep the foot from rolling in and provide ideal support for people with flat feet.
Most well-known shoe brands offer all three types of shoes. Once you know what type of shoe you should look for, try on plenty of options until you find the one that offers the most comfort. Make sure you walk around in the shoes for several minutes before making a final decision.
People with flat feet or low arches may also benefit from custom insoles. Insoles tailored to support the shape of your foot can provide extra arch support and stability and can relieve many of the problems associated with flat feet.